Many people who know of Cody ChesnuTT first came to know him from his appearance on The Roots “The Seed 2.0” featured on their 2002 Phrenology album. The original “The Seed” was a track on Cody’s 2002 home recorded debut double cd The Headphone Masterpiece, a critical acclaimed album that displayed SEVERAL sides of ChesnuTT’s style and personality. After getting praise as an artist to watch, working with The Roots and his presence on the Dave Chappelle’s Block Party in 2006, it was thought that his next body of work would set music world ablaze. In my opinion his spotlight never got as bright as I thought it could have and after touring for a year after Block Party’s release the spotlight went dim when ChesnuTT choose to focus on family.
ChesnuTT released a short EP in 2010 that hinting at what was to come, and two years ago he returned to the studio with a dynamic ten-piece band releasing Landing on a Hundred, a soulful album that showed just how much ChesnuTT had matured. The opening track “Til I Met Thee” has a Motown feel and ChesnuTT’s vocal styling reminds me a lot of Marvin Gaye. Cody himself said he recognizes the Motown influences saying “. . . I didn’t think about until I started listening back to the song and I was like, ‘Wow, this has got early Jackson 5 elements to it.’ The way those rhythms would cut through a song like I Want You Back.” It sets the mood for the entire cd showcasing his personal growth through lyrics, heartfelt mellow but slightly raspy vocals, and an amazing band. The opening track is not the only song that evokes the sound Marvin Gaye. Tracks like “Love is More Than a Wedding Day,” which has every element of an old Motown you can think of, to “Don’t Follow Me” which hints at a later Marvin sound with leaning more towards a “Cleo’s Apartment” sound.
Til I Met Thee
Don’t Follow Me
Cleo’s Apartment (Marvin Gaye)
Moments of this album, like “That’s Still Mama”, feel like he’s channeling Curtis Mayfield. Not vocally necessarily, but perhaps it’s the way he composes his horns and percussion, but the similarity is there. Then there is his best impressions of Stevie Wonder on songs mimicking his growls and octave dives in “Under the Spell of a Handout” and “Scroll Call” which has a groove reminiscent of Wonder’s “Higher Ground”. I have to stop and take note how hard his bass player Jeffrey Gaines goes, not just on this track but on ALL the tracks. I need to look into more of his work because he kills the bass parts in these songs.
Higher Ground Live (Stevie Wonder)
That’s Still Mama
But as much as he seems to replicates the greats, he does know how to shine as Cody. One of my favorite tunes on the album, “Don’t Wanna Go the Other Way”, he manages to be himself while allowing you to see who has influenced him. “What Kinda of Cool (will We Think of Next)” is exclusively Cody. It sounds like Cody from Headphone Masterpiece just with a grown up perspective. You can tell he appreciates his soulful predecessors, but has no need to impersonate them. Personally I think these are the songs that shine best. He belts out his vocals with a Marvin passion over a Stevie-esque groove but owns the song. “Chips Down (In No Landfill)” is solely Cody with movements and social commentary like a Stevie Wonder song, but presented in a way that could only be executed by Cody.
Don’t Wanna Go the Other Way
I was over a year late getting to this album and only came across it when looking for different Cody ChesnuTT song while making a rdio playlist. I’ve been telling people about it every since. Then recently both my brother and the 3 Guys On podcast ask of his whereabouts and I figured I should let everyone know just how great this album is. If you like soul music, this is a must have.
Listen to the entire album: