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Cody Chestnutt—The Headphone Masterpiece

July 1, 1993

Cody Chestnutt—The Headphone Masterpiece

By Molly Fleming, Staff Writer

A few weeks ago, an album of the unclassifiable persuasion was kicked down to me by a friend. He had picked it up in Chicago, and a good story goes along with how he ended up with Cody Chestnutt’s The Headphone Masterpiece, but that’s not important for public consumption. Either way, this two-disc album is more than impressive, and it would be recommended to all fans of new music to go to any local media retailer (Borders, Media Play, and etc.) and order it—now.

Written, arranged, composed, performed and engineered by Chestnutt, The Headphone Masterpiece is just that: a masterpiece. The album contains 36 tracks of songs ranging from pure hip-hop to indie rock accented by R & B, but the unclassifiable style is probably the future of rock ‘n’ roll. “Magic in a Mortal Moment,” (track 1) is a touching 10 second melody that introduces the listener to one side of Cody Chestnutt. The tune is gentle, the words are sweet and the tone is intellectually romantic. After that, Masterpiece launches into hard-kicking verbal cuts with irony as a seemingly prevalent theme. Chestnutt seems to be ever-so-slightly mocking mainstream hip-hop with his song, “B!%&#, I’m Broke,” a piece expressing the artist’s lack of patience for demanding girls. The song’s tone doesn’t compare much to the rest of the album, and makes a surprising contrast to the more thought-provoking and stimulating tracks. It’s a little obscene, but clever and amusing nonetheless. “Serve This Royalty” makes reference to various brand names and gang symbols (I think), and shows the similarity between the two. The lyrics in the more serious tunes are vague verging on cryptic, yet the attitudes and feelings cut through clearly thanks to Chestnutt’s excellent delivery. My only complaint is the campy sounding sax solo that should be in the background music for Magnum P.I. “Smoke and Love” is fairly self-explanatory and sounds a little too Ben Harper for some tastes, but the arrangement is singularly tasty. As a quick note, The Headphone Masterpiece does have the “Parental Advisory explicit content” sticker on the bottom left-hand corner, so parents, be advised.

Besides the high lyrical quality, Chestnutt also has an interesting melodic voice. Although dry and thin at times, he makes up for it with perfect pitch but a limited vocal range. It’s all good, though, and his comfort and confidence with his voice is what makes him sound so good.

Hailing from Studio City, Calif., Chestnutt can be heard on The Roots’s new album, Phrenology. That might be about as close as Rockford gets to this performer, unless he hits up Chicago sometime soon. To find out more about Chestnutt, go to www.codychestnutt.com. Order it, listen to it, and, if it isn’t pleasing to you, then give it to someone who would appreciate it.

Note: Access to the Cody Chestnutt Web site has been denied to me the last few times I tried to connect. Apparently the site is in the middle of being polished and updated, so readers might want to wait a few weeks before attempting to view the page.

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