Song of the Day: Citizen Cope – Off The Ground

photo by Alex Crick

photo by Alex Crick

Every Monday through Friday, we deliver a different song as part our Song of the Day podcast subscription. This podcast features exclusive KEXP in-studio performances, unreleased songs, and recordings from independent artists that our DJs think you should hear. Each and every Friday we offer songs by local artists. Today’s selection, featured on the Afternoon Show with Kevin Cole, is “Off The Ground” by Citizen Cope from his 2010 full-length album, The Rainwater LP, on on RainWater Recordings.

Citizen Cope – Off The Ground (MP3)

Citizen Cope is the stage name for Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter Clarence Greenwood. Originally hailing from Washington D.C., Greenwood got his start running the turntables as part of the alternative hip-hop outfit Basehead. As Basehead’s lyrical themes began their rise toward the heavens, Greenwood flew the coop to begin what would become a successful but often frustrating solo career. Hype surrounding his self-released demo tape garnered Greenwood an almost immediate deal to record his debut with Capital Records. An all-inclusive fusion of rock, blues and reggae beats, Greenwoods raspy voice seemed poised to overtake the hearts and minds of ceramics majors everywhere. Unfortunately for him hype fades fast in the eyes of behemoth record companies and the album Shotguns, never saw the light of day. Canned from Capital, Greenwood moved onto mini-major Dreamworks where he successfully released his first record, Citizen Cope (2002), to very positive reviews. Greenwood’s native rag, The Washington Post swooned, calling him “the most soulful export since Marvin Gaye.”

Well, after Citizen Cope’s release, Greenwood claimed the album was “mishandled” and bought his way out of his second contract in six years, using the advance from his next label (Arista/RCA) to foot the bill. As it turns out, the man now known simply as “Cope” might’ve been right. His next record, The Clarence Greenwood Recordings, sold almost 300, 000 copies worldwide. The release of his third album, 2006’s Every Waking Moment, found Cope’s genre-melding star steadily on the rise. In the years that followed, Cope’s worldly brand of shape-shifting-urban-pop would find great success both on the road and in the mainstream media. With songs floating around the boob in the form of Pontiac commercials and appearances on everything from One Tree Hill and Entourage, Cope’s following finally grew to the point of being able to put out his own music, on his own label, finally on his own terms.

“Off The Ground,” from The Rainwater LP (on Cope’s own label, RainWater Recordings) features an eclectic mix of additional talents from bassist Preston Crump (OutKast, Organized Noize, Raphael Saadiq), keyboardist James Poyser (D’Angelo, The Roots, Jill Scott, John Legend), percussionist Bashiri Johnson (Whitney Houston, Donald Fagen, Madonna), and Michael “Funky Ned” Neal drummer Paul “Buggy” Edwards. This barrage of players, with Cope at the helm, brings new layers to a sound that never slows in its quest for something revolutionary. Give it a listen; you might find something you like.

Unfortunately, you just missed Citizen Cope play two sold-out shows at the Showbox at the Market (or maybe you didn’t!). He only has a few shows in the southeast pending, but check his MySpace page and website for updates. For now, here’s the official video for “I Couldn’t Explain Why,” also from The Rainwater LP:

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