Some singers and artists just have a classic feel to their work. Cody ChesnuTT (with two capital Ts at the end of the last name) has the potential to be one of those artists that will be making incredible music for decades.
This classic quality of his music is due to a mixture of his voice, lyrics, style, approach, and various themes. Some say he is a mixture of Lenny Kravitz, D’Angelo, Common, and Outkast. When it comes down to it, Cody ChesnuTT is truly unique.
Most people heard his incredible voice, intense and sharp lyrics, and soulful guitar work on ‘The Seed (2.0)’ with The Roots (from their ‘Phrenology’ album). The song is already a classic track. Cody also made some noise with his tongue-in-cheek song ‘Look Good In Leather’ that has both an egotistical sentiment but a fun and macked-out vibe. Cody also made an appearance in a video for The Strokes as ‘Scarf Man’. The hype was growing.
Cody hooked up with the indie label Ready Set Go and released the double CD ‘The Headphone Masterpiece’. Recorded in his home, the sound quality is very lo-fi: It almost sounds like the album is confused. Some of it consists of deep, classic guitar-driven soul tracks about relationships, life, and family. Other tracks have that lo-fi quality (similar to old Ween songs) and have very short and silly lyrics and outbursts. While it is not a hip-hop album, there is a very strong hip-hop feel to the approach of some of the songs and interludes. Either way, Cody ChesnuTT is extremely charismatic and has released a very entertaining and absorbing double album.
The best songs on the album are the ones that have that classic soul feel. ‘The Make Up’ is a truly incredible track reminiscent of something off the ‘Let’s Get It On’ album by Marvin Gaye. The slow burning drums groove along with some organs and guitar work. In a passionate somewhat falsetto voice, Cody sings:
You and me
Been taken over
We’re out of control
We don’t know what to do
But if you want a piece
Piece of my puzzle
Give me some time and I’ll color with you…
You may see a little clearer if you give my sex a chance’
It’s brave, sexy, sultry, soulful, and perfect. The track is simply flawless. The original version of ‘The Seed’ is here too. Although Black Thought’s vocals are not on the album, Cody’s performance still makes this an excellent track. Still, it is nowhere near as good as version 2.0 because of ?uestlove’s powerful drumming and the better production and sound quality.
‘Look Good In Leather’ is a very funny: You either get the joke or you don’t. The rock guitar glides along with some excellent drum work too. Cody sings:
I can make any woman mine
because I look good in leather
I can rock a body-suit good, it blows her mind
because I know how to fuck her better
Better than you
Got ya wishing you could be just like me
The song is simply awesome with more ego and intelligence than a majority of the ego-driven hip-hop songs out there these days. Hedonism never sounded so funky fresh. ‘Can We Teach Each Other’ is a poignant and romantic track with some amazing soulful singing by Cody but some weak electronic rim-shot drum beats. Regardless of the beat, the song works extremely well. Cody’s performance is incredibly moving due to his lyrics and the passion in his voice. ‘A lot of lovers know how to fight but a lot of lovers don’t know how to truly love.’ Marvin Gaye should be very proud.
‘Boylife In America’ is another slow and groovy track that has some severe honesty and strong attitude. Cody sings about how he is a ‘momma’s boy’ and that he’s still living in her house without any intention of leaving. The honesty of the hook is both refreshing and funny:
All I want is pussy
Give me some religion
A brand new Cadillac and a winning Lotto ticket…
How can you not love his honesty? ‘My Women, My Guitars’ is another brutally honest track. This time, the acoustic guitar swirls along and Cody’s deep voice lets us into his mind showing us the similarities to his relationship between him and his guitars and him and women, with a harmonica creeping in and accentuating the bluesy feel:
I get up off of my ass
I get up out of my bed again today
I got a dick full of blood and a wide open heart to lean on…
Man, something is killing me
My women, my guitars
I’ve been living hard
My breakdown is on the way
I know my breakdown is on the way…
‘No One Will’ has a slow-burning romantic quality. The organ and drums work perfectly as Cody’s whispering voice has a sensuality and passion. ‘Serve This Royalty’ is an odd track that is almost 6 minutes long. The organ has a church-like quality while the saxophone which adds both a sexy and funky feel to the track (reminiscent of Outkast’s ‘SpottieOttieDopaliscious’). Lyrically, the track is odd. ‘We can crown kings in Adidas’, Cody sings. He addresses America’s love for jewelry and fashion but he goes much further than that. Cody sings, ‘Get high bitches! Get high niggas!’ and has other wild lines like ‘Thank you Jesus for my momma/Thank you bitches for my money.’ As bizarre as the track is, it works.
‘When I Find Time’ has a sing-a-long quality with a touch of Grateful Dead. ‘Smoke And Love’ is an interesting track about the love of smoking weed and the love of lovemaking. Other very well done tracks are ‘Out Of Nowhere’, ‘Enough Of Nothing’, ‘The Most Beautiful Shame’, and ‘Michelle’. They have themes of growing up, the beauty of love, the sadness of love, and much more. ‘6 Seconds’ closes the album perfectly. With remarks about heaven and his frustration along with the intensity of life and decisions, Cody is introspective and poignant. The song is beautiful in every single way.
While a majority of the album has a classic feel, some tracks either do not fit or are weakened due to the lo-fi recording. The album starts off with an incredible track ‘Magic In A Mortal Minute’ that is only 38 seconds long. Why isn’t this longer? Then, we are given ‘With Me In Mind’ that features Sonja Marie’s spoken word vocals. The song is almost 4 minutes of weak electronic Casio-like drum beats with some guitar in the background. A double album with 36 tracks is bound to have some filler and this is a perfect example of one of those tracks. While Marie’s poetry is decent, her voice never changes and the passion is not felt (especially compared to Cody’s extremely passionate vocals).
The real Cody songs do not start until the third track ‘Upstarts In A Blowout’, a true rock-and-roll track with a cool guitar riff and some pounding drums. Reminiscent of Lenny Kravitz, the music truly rocks but the lo-fi recording brings the track down a bit. ‘The World Is Coming To My Party’ has a thick, hypnotic electronic bass line that drills into the listener’s psyche. While it is interesting and somewhat fun, it was not needed and does not compare to the other classic tracks.
There are many tiny tracks on the album, which range from 30 seconds to 90 seconds long. While some of them leave you wanting more, others should have been even shorter. Then opening track ‘Magic In A Mortal Minute’ along with ‘The Most Beautiful Shame’ and ‘Enough Of Nothing’ are serious and beautiful songs that have some excellent guitar work, emotional vocals, and thoughtful lyrics. Then, there are completely different interlude tracks that are funny but break up the romantic feel of the album. ‘Bitch I’m Broke, ‘Brother With An Ego’, ‘War Between The Sexes’ and ‘Batman Vs. Blackman’ are all short tracks which have Cody singing brash lyrics about his penis or referring to women as bitches. While the pimp attitude does come across well and the humor is there, they are funny the first time but do not have that replay value like the true songs on the LP.
‘War Between The Sexes’ has Cody playing both parts of an arguing man and woman. He yells ‘Fuck you bitch!’ and then, ‘Fuck you broke ass nigga!’. The flow of the album is broken when something like this follows a sweet and romantic love song. One major problem of the album is how it goes from sweet and romantic to angry and silly in a matter of minutes. Since it is a double CD, one CD should have been all of the smooth, romantic classic soul tracks so lovers can listen to it and not have to hit the skip button. Then, the second CD could have more of the wilder tracks. Well, listeners are not always making love…
Some have criticized Cody ChesnuTT for his misogyny. While his soul music does have a hip-hop feel, most hip-hop songs are far worse. The macked-out vibe of the some of the songs like ‘Look Good In Leather’ and the brutal honesty of ‘The Seed’ along with themes of adultery on ‘Michelle’ all show Cody as an introspective and flawed human being. Thank God we have an honest musician who is not afraid to be himself. He may explore the theme of cheating on his woman a couple of times but in these songs, he expresses his sorrow and heartbreak. The little interludes are truly there for the purpose of humor.
‘The Headphone Masterpiece’ may not be masterpiece in the sense of classic albums but it is a masterpiece in the sense that I doubt many could do better in their bedroom-recording studio. There are some great headphone effects in the music and music lovers have to respect the Cody’s energy, enthusiasm, ability, and ambition.
While the lo-fi recording quality and some of the loud and brash interludes bring the album down a bit, there are so many amazing songs on this album that it must be appreciated. Let us hope that Cody ChesnuTT blesses us with some better production and better recording quality on his next album. ChesnuTT has the potential to create classic album after classic album. If he collaborates with other artists like he did with The Roots, Cody ChesnuTT will be blowing people’s minds for a long time.
The Headphone Masterpiece (2003)
Genre: Soul, Hip Hop, Rock, Lo-Fi
Record Label: Ready Set Go!/One Little Indian