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Citizen Cope - Citizen Cope Print E-mail
Tuesday, 29 January 2002
ImageDreamworks Records
Performance 7
Sound 7
released 2002

Citizen Cope is dance music with an angry hip-hop attitude and strong songwriting skills. This dimly lit disc plays like the soundtrack to a gritty ‘70s TV cop show where happy endings are never to be expected.

At one point, Cope (in actuality, the one-man-band of Clarence Greenwood) notes philosophically: "If there’s love…I just want to have somethin’ to do with it." This is a statement of guarded optimism, at best. He hopes love exists, and he just wants to be on the waiting list in case it ever materializes in his lifetime.
Cope’s sound hangs together with electronica-lite beats and jazzy guitar and keyboard touches from mostly studio cats and one special guest, bassist Meshell Ndegecello.

The disenfranchised are spoken for through the song "Comin’ Back," where one "down on his luck" man may have lost all his earthly possessions, but still has his soul. However, for this obviously confused character, a saved soul is just not enough to pacify him, as this song goes on to describe his plot get revenge on those who put him down in the dumps.

In some places, Greenwood’s lyrics verge on the mystical, as "Hands of the Saints" moves to an almost indecipherable lyrical plot. It’s a scene straight from the mean streets where the heavenly suddenly intersects with the dark and dirty secular world for a brief moment in time. Perhaps it’s just a fever dream as a means of escape from the everyday cold reality of street life. "Hands of the Saints" may not make linear sense for the logically minded, but its Booker T.-like Hammond organ accompaniment adds a little musical sweetness to an otherwise bitter pill of a recording.

Greenwood may originally be from Memphis, but his voice is of the cosmopolitan sort, rather than the kind of blues/soul instrument one might expect from that region. He raps more than he sings, but it’s not the kind of bold bragging we’ve come to expect from the hip-hop community. When he tells his tales about the underside of life, it’s with a tangible sense of world-weariness and sadness, not personal pride.

Citizen Cope is an appropriate group name for this kind of music, since Greenwood and company sound like they’re treading water, rather than doing swimmingly well.

Although this music may not have originated from the sunny side of the street, it nevertheless paints an accurate picture of life’s darker alleys.

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