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      Citizen Cope in Port Chester

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      December 26, 2019

      Thursday   8:00 PM

      149 Westchester Ave
      Port Chester, New York 10573

      Citizen Cope

      Ask him how he knew it was time to record a new studio album and Clarence Greenwood, the trailblazing artist and producer better known as Citizen Cope, has a simple answer: It was time. Cope has built an entire career on trusting his gut and following his muse, and if his new album, Heroin & Helicopters, is any indication, his instincts are sharper now than ever before. As technically innovative as it is emotionally resonant, the record arrives at a uniquely challenging moment in modern American culture, when profound political polarization and social divisions seem to grow deeper by the day. Rather than dwell on our differences, though, Cope tunes in to what unites us here, drawing on everything from Chuck Brown and The Beatles to Randy Newman and Bill Withers, aiming his unique brand of urbanfolk inwards to reflect on the personal journeys we all undertake to embrace ourselves despite our flaws. I think were all on a mission to find some inner peace, he reflects. Were all going towards this collective consciousness, and even though its dark right now, I believe were going to reach that place together. Peace and harmony and understanding, thats how you combat the darkness, and thats what this record is all about. While Heroin & Helicopters feels particularly timely, the records themes have been fixtures of Copes music since the release of his selftitled debut in 2002. That album was the culmination of years of pursuing his passion. Cope got his musical start in DC before moving to Brooklyn, where he wrote songs while supporting himself on the streets, buying and selling concert and sporting tickets with a cast of characters outside arenas and stadiums. His music spread from fantofan via word of mouth, and over the course of time his songs have become the soundtrack of his fans lives. The success of Copes music has always been a slow burn, rather than a flash in the pan. His single Let The Drummer Kick eventually went Platinum without any support from commercial radio. The Washington Post has hailed him as DCs finest export since Marvin Gaye, while Rolling Stone raved that his uncommon chords and harmonies combine delicate dissonance with unexpected flashes of beauty. In 2004, Cope followed up his selftitled debut with The Clarence Greenwood Recordings, an album Vibe praised as flawless throughout, gushing that Cope makes music that feeds your soulthis is one of those CDs you hear at a friends house and rush out to buy. The collection was largely ignored by mainstream media and never charted, yet the grassroots swell of support kept sales rolling year after year, to the tune of 700,000 copies, and opened the doors to film and television syncs with tracks appearing in Entourage, Sons of Anarchy, Alpha Dog, and more. Songs from the record would go on to be covered by everyone from Carlos Santana and Sheryl Crow to Richie Havens and Rhymefest, and in the years that followed, Cope has headlined all 50 states and shared stages with superstars like Eric Clapton. He cracked the Billboard 200 for the first time with 2006s Every Waking Moment, and then launched his own label to release 2010s The Rainwater LP and 2012s One Lovely Day, his highest charting album to date. As Copes career grew, his style of urbanfolk never settled into any particular genre in an industry fixated on arbitrary distinctions like radio formats. I can understand why it didnt go into the cookiecutter. The music and my life were influenced by growing up in very distinct but different American cultures. Born in Memphis, spending summer months with his great aunt and uncle in a small west Texas town, while being primarily raised in Washington, DC, Cope grew up equally influenced by the production techniques of George Martin, Dr. Dre and Willie Mitchell while listening to everything from Willie Nelson, to John Lennon, Bob Marley, Outkast and A Tribe Called Quest. Artistic boundaries meant nothing. The 2011 birth of his daughter proved to be an ideal moment to step away from it all and reevaluate what mattered most, both as a songwriter and a man. It was really important for me to be there with my daughter as she grew up, says Cope. I took these past several years off of recording mostly just to spend time with her. People say its not rocket science making records, but there really is a science to making a piece of art thats going to touch people emotionally and have an impact on their lives, and if youre not feeling it, you cant fake it. Copes time away from music was also a moment to deal with reflecting and addressing the turmoil he faced surrounding the death of his estranged biological father, who had been physically abusive before abandoning his responsibilities decades earlier. He was sick and I was able to have a sit down with him before he died, Cope told Lance Armstrong in a poignant conversation for The Forward Podcast. I had a lot of fear surrounding my father, and when I saw him, I realized I wasnt scared of him as a person. He was just a flawed individual and I saw him in a whole different light. I didnt want to go through life having this anger or hatred, and I dont even know what forgiveness is in that realm, but maybe its a little bit of forgiving yourself and giving love to yourself. That kind of selfreflection is at the heart of Heroin & Helicopters, which actually draws its title from a warning Santana shared with Cope one night backstage at The Fillmore. Stay away from the two Hs, Heroin and Helicopters he said, because they all too often prove fatal for musicians and celebrities. The message resonated with Cope, who saw parallels with a broader culture fixated on shortcuts over selfimprovement, on mass production over quality, on greed over empathy. Were living in an addicted society, says Cope, and not just addicted to drugs or alcohol or substances. Were addicted to conflict and fame and social media. Were addicted to getting what we want without working for it, without paying the price. Heroin & Helicopters opens with Duck Confit, a slowburning and arresting spokenword meditation that finds Cope looking in as much as he looks out, channeling the uneasy feeling that comes with recognizing your own role in perpetuating the very same social constructs you wish to change. Where crimes of humanity are concealed and condoned / By self preservation and biblical prophecy...Where you know deep down inside / That somethings not right / Like a man killing the mother of his son / Cleaning his shotgun he says over a simmering organ punctuated with 808 kicks. The track plays out like an overheard prayer, spiritual in its intimacy, and it sets the stage beautifully for a record unafraid to push boundaries and ask uncomfortable questions, questions that transcend any political party or movement and cut to the heart of what it means to be human. People try to politicize my music sometimes, but I dont write political records, Cope says definitively. My music has always been built around consciousness. The first single Justice challenges our very notion of the concept, wondering if weve ever even seen what true righteousness looks like in this world. The River castigates and identifies a system built to devalue our lives Theyll take you down to the river / Leave you down by the river / Theyll shoot you down by the river / Leave you to drown by the river. The heavy drum and pianoladen swing of Sally Walks is clothed in the story of a lover whos swallowed whole by addiction, but its not clear if Sally is the lover or the substance itself. Though it would be easy to despair in the face of it all, Heroin & Helicopters insists on defiance, on standing up to power and resisting the force of the invisible hands that seem to guide our every move. Yella could almost be a country song, with Cope singing over acoustic guitar and a drum shuffle played by Abe Laboreal, Jr. With lyrics touching on the migration of people from small towns to big cities, Cope uses the analogy of a little league baseball player striking out, ultimately realizing that strength and redemption are gained through struggle, loss and failure. And the baseball rolls slowly off the pitchers mound / As I stood in the batters box once they struck me out / I showed a sign a weakness and I swung my bat / And the fire that once burned yella turned to ash Government / counterfeit / dollar bill / you worship it, Cope sings on War, an infectious track produced by XZ, who worked closely with him in the studio. The song is a perfect distillation of Copes brand of wordplay and lyricism, where war not only represents a battlefield, but also alludes to an individuals selfinflicted inner turmoil, moving between the mandated laws of religion and society, and how we reconcile choices within the human psyche. Essentially, Im trying to connect an emotion and lyrics and wrap them up in heavy drums, he explains. The music isnt hip hop, it isnt reggae, it isnt pop, and it isnt rock and roll. It doesnt necessarily have a home, genrewise, but it lives in all of those places, it pays respect to all those places. Respect is ultimately what it all comes down to for Cope: respect for the art, respect for each other, respect for ourselves, respect for our instincts. At the end of the day, we all want the same things, and no matter how much the culture conditions us to believe that peace and happiness can be bought and sold, theres no price tag because they come from within. Change, growth, and satisfaction require patience, work, and love. Seven years in the making, Heroin & Helicopters is proof of that.

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