When SPEC announced that Sonic Youth and Cat Power were headlining this year's Spring Fling, students across campus felt dejected. Most had never heard of either of those bands, or, if they had, they realized that none of the bands were conducive to the usual drunken dancing. Since then, students have continued to yearn for Cornell's Snoop Dogg and Brown's Talib Kweli. However, the soulful, funk-driven Citizen Cope should provide some sort of relief from the rough, experimental Sonic Youth and heart-wrenching Cat Power. In regards to playing Spring Fling, singer/songwriter Clarence Greenwood (a.k.a. Citizen Cope) said, "That's going to be exciting, man. Definitely. Like, they [Sonic Youth] have made legendary records, and I know that they have been responsible for like discovering a lot of great bands."
On the cover of Citizen Cope's latest release, The Clarence Greenwood Recordings, Greenwood's face is pushed off to the side. Slightly unkempt and sporting a five o'clock shadow, Greenwood looks as if he is searching for something. Paralleling the cover, throughout this album, Greenwood seems to be pushing for some sort of greater meaning. Through small vignettes of his life, the listener ends the album with a true sense of who Clarence Greenwood is and his approach to life.
Recordings opens with a hypnotic beat, next a charming piano enters the picture and then his fluid, reggae-like voice. In this lounge of an album, one breathes in the smoke-heavy air and lets loose inside the smooth grooves. While most critics liken him to funky Jack Johnson, Greenwood lists John Lennon, Bob Marley, Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye as his main inspirations.
Though Greenwood hails from Memphis, his urban sensibility has led him to respond to a variety of issues ranging from social problems to lost love.
"I think some music is just unique in a way in that they just write about love songs or they just write about political or just write about heartbreak" says Greenwood. "I think life should mirror art, and art should mirror life of all different aspects."
For Greenwood, who is a self-taught musician, much of his music develops effortlessly. He works with his first instinct and continues to cultivate it into an actual work project. "It's just kind of a meditating process where I pick up a guitar and strum something and come up with some melodies," he said. "Work like that and then kind of hear the rest of the song."
After listening to any of Citizen Cope's work, it seems difficult to digest the fact that Greenwood got his start as a DJ for the hip-hop group Basehead. Many of these beats serve as undertones for Recordings, but the album is certainly a far-cry from the typical understanding of hip hop.
Though Greenwood produces and writes all his music, students can expect to see a full band at Spring Fling. "I just play guitar. I've got an organ player and a piano, a bass and drums. We just go up there and do our thing."
The future of Citizen Cope looks promising considering how Rolling Stone picked him as one of the 10 bands to watch and the WB's recent inclusion of his song, "Sideways" in their show One Tree Hill.
Though Citizen Cope's music often explores difficult issues, his bluesy mixture of rhythms is a breath of fresh air in today's influx of post-punk, hard-edged mainstream musicians.