Citizen Cope Biography

Review The Artist (17)

Citizen Cope-photo
Like a cool breeze blowing through the soundscapes of contemporary musical composition, the material composed by Citizen Cope for his RCA debut The Clarence Greenwood Recordings marks a new high point for this compelling and evocative songwriter.

“When you’re writing a song, you take in everything – the people you’ve met, what you’ve experienced” says Cope, whose real name is Clarence Greenwood. “You take in everything and it makes a story.” Recalling classic American forms ranging from dust-bowl fiction to the gritty urban poetry of the hip-hop generation, Cope displays a unique gift for narrative -- exploring universal themes through the eyes of himself and a memorable cast of characters.

These characters that populate The Clarence Greenwood Recordings are raging rebels with real dilemmas and serious passions. Cope’s songs are overflowing with poets, dreamers and crazy schemers living their lives in an insane universe. Cope says, “Besides other music, the material on The Clarence Greenwood Recordings is also influenced by folk tales and films. There are many different dimensions to these songs, and I feel a real spiritual connection to the people I write about.”

Cope’s writing is the complement to a magnetic live persona that has won him acclaim both as a songwriter who could mesmerize a “pin-drop” audience in a coffeehouse setting, and as a bandleader who could enthrall hundreds at large venues.

The sublime “Nite Becomes Day,” opens the album, introducing the listener to Cope’s personal brand of pop poetics. In his lyrics, Cope writes with urgency about human emotions and desires. “It’s the same thing that makes the moonlight meet up with the sunlight/Can’t fight it, can’t buy it/Love…I’m say it again,” Cope sings in a mellow voice that reveals his Memphis roots and urban sensibility.

From the sublime to the surreal, the masterful “Pablo Picasso” has the crazed appeal of a R. Crumb underground comix. Documenting the misadventures of a deranged dude who falls in love with a dame painted in a wall mural, Cope sings about the delusional man with compassion. “I try to put myself into the reality of the character, no matter how crazy he is,” Cope explains.

“It might sound corny, but for me music should be able to transcend all boundaries,” Cope says, “Society has a way of trying to set limits, but there are no limits in music. I don’t believe in style over substance, for me it’s all about the song. I like bringing together guys from different musical genres, be it go-go, hip-hop or rock, and just follow where the music takes us.”

The best example of Cope’s approach to enriching his music can be heard on the minimally lavish first single “Bullet and a Target.” According to Cope, “I began writing this song with no real theme in mind, but I did want to express all the craziness we go through in this country. Drug addiction, a bad education system…all of these things are damaging to our psyche. I guess you could say, I was on the left side of my brain when I did that track.”

Following in the melancholy balladeer tradition of Bill Withers and Randy Newman, the gorgeous track “Sideways” is perhaps Cope’s most enchanting song. The song has only one hypnotic verse, yet Cope sings it with a different emotional charge each time.

Citizen Cope is a multi-talented sonic auteur that, in addition to providing lead vocals and production, plays a variety of instruments including guitar, keyboard and drum machines. “When I decided to begin work on this project, I was between record companies,” Cope explains. “It was in my heart to create music that would just cut away the excess and get to my inner-self.” Refusing to be pigeonholed, Citizen Cope has created a unique recording borne of his diverse background.

Booking time at New York City’s famed Electric Lady Studios (aka the house that Hendrix built) and Central East Studios in Washington, D.C. (his former stomping grounds), Cope assembled a crew of stellar musicians to create this eclectic collection of post-millennial pop. From the bombastic drums played by Paul Buggy Edwards on the first single “Bullet and a Target,” to the stirring guitar of Carlos Santana (“Son’s Gonna Rise”), the soulful piano of James Poyser (“Nite Becomes Day”)and the beautiful bass of Me’shell Ndegeocello (“Sideways”), this disc is a mixture of sweet and rough, tender and tough.

A self-taught musician who grew-up grooving to Sly Stone, Willie Nelson, Al Green and whatever else he could sneak from his big sister’s vinyl stash, Cope explains, “I grew-up in an environment where there wasn’t much to do, so I had to use my imagination to think of creative stuff. When I finally made a spiritual connection with the guitar, I just started plucking one string at a time until I could play.”

Relocating to Washington, D.C for high school, Cope became a member of the arty hip-hop crew Basehead. Led by Michael Ivey, the group’s experimentation is often considered to have paved the way for the kitchen-sink aesthetic heard in Outkast, The Neptunes and Timbaland. “Of course, at the time the music I was making with samplers and drum machines was much more hip-hop based,” Cope explains. “Then one day I realized that if I wanted to play my grandmother a song in her living-room, I couldn’t. That was when I decided to make guitar my primarily instrument.”

Receiving early encouragement from D.C. go-go legend Chuck Brown, Cope later moved to New York and recorded a self-titled disc for Dreamworks Records in 2001. “On my first record, I threw in a lot of overdubbed sounds that just wasn’t needed,” Cope recalls. “This time, anything that didn’t enhance the material or make the songs better, I just stripped away.”

With The Clarence Greenwood Recordings, Citizen Cope has created an intimate, vibrant and enduring record – a startlingly mature and compelling document of a promising new voice.

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Beautiful words and beautiful voice | Reviewer: Susie Robinson | 5/9/14

I am 55 years old. Citizen Cope has become my music that I relax to. The stories are real and the music is so addicting. I got to see him live in Kansas City at Harrahs in the Voodoo Lounge. Amazing!!! He is probably my most favorite artist right now, I grew up with two music teachers (my parents). They had a danceband and played unbelievable jazz. I feel alot of different things with this music. I absolutely fricking love it. He is such a talented man with so much love.

My Introduction to Citizen Cope... | Reviewer: BeThatOne | 11/1/13

I saw a documentary on cable about Katrina. Called 'Trouble the Water', in that documentary Citizen Cope has a song called 'Hurricane Waters'. I kept play that part of the documentary over and over again. In that part of the documentary when the song starts is a little cute boy with hazel eyes, sad eyes, I just wanted help that little boy so bad. The song touched my heart also. I have a app on my cellphone called SoundHoung. It hears the song and tells you the title and who the song is by. I really like Citizen Cope, the words to the songs has true meanings and hits you way down deep. I also like Alice Smith...her songs and words have true feelings, that also affect me the same way as mentioned above. I wish they would perform here in Sacramento, California! May God bless them and keep them together as one. And may he love his wife as he would love himself in the right frame of mind. Not with the left side of his brain, with the whole mind and with the whole soul.

Can't get enough of him | Reviewer: Coco | 9/3/12

Just saw his live performance at the Stone Pony in Asbury Park, NJ on August 16th, my birthday. These tickets were the best gift I have EVER been given. While driving 450 miles each way between NYC and Pittsburgh once a month, his CDs make the 7 hours a blur. He is as unique a voice as Frank Sinatra and as creative an artist as Miles Davis. One of a kind. Never to be matched. Hope in this wasteland of contemporary music. We should be inspired by, and grateful to him every waking moment of our lives.

THE BEST TUNES & LYRICS | Reviewer: reggie | 7/9/11

This dude and his band can play!! I grew up listening to 70's music and these tunes and his lyrics take me back. I am so happy to hear actual music again. I wish him/the band all the best in the world and to stay grounded.

AMAZING GRACE | Reviewer: Holly Footman | 3/17/11

His words, his voice & his passion are so overwhelming yet tender to the ear. I just recently seen him @ the City Winnery in NYC. A small venue. The show was up close and personal. He holds the listener in his hands and in his heart as he reveals himself. The good the bad and the ugly ring true as if he was talking just to you.

Love it | Reviewer: Nikkie | 1/31/11

I am a 26yr young female and man I just love this dudes music! I heard him off a hip song but a young rapper out here in houston,tx by the name of jdawg. The song is called pen on fire on his behind tint volume 2 album, yall check it out! But, my dad has recently got a sentence of 10 yrs and that track just hit my heart. I trie and tried to find the lyrics so I can get the hook together but couldnt find it and finally I went on youtube to see the jdawg video and I looked on the comments and I seen someome put that the beat and hook is from citizen cope. So I looked them up and I love it!

"the only problem with reality is the lack of background music" | Reviewer: Nicole Rae | 11/26/10

If you ask anyone I know, it's most often that I have one of Cope's records playing. I was introduced to his music back when I was 18 in a parking lot sittin in a friend's pick-up. He told me that I might like this song which turned out to be "Son's gonna Rise" The sound was like nothing I've heard before. I was really taken back. His music eases the soul while telling incredible stories with such a vast variety of characters. "Bullet and a Target" is another favorite & had seen me, & I'm sure many others, through some rough times. There's a healing aspect to his sound. & I like that he has a way of incorporating a bluesy feel with a touch of one of a kind style that you can't quite define in words.

song writer/guitarist homage | Reviewer: Anonymous | 11/20/10

If anyone ever put together music to define what the future of american music should's been done by C.Many props to the man who could earnestly pull together so many influenences and be so genuine and laid back about it.I think we need a new definition for a style of music that has been created by cope, if you can't feel this music you can't see the future! Maurice avatar Denver

The BEST concert I've ever heard in my life! | Reviewer: Love from Michigan! | 8/16/10

We just saw Citizen Cope for the first time here in Michigan, man oh man! He moves you to your soul. SImply speechless, we're going to see him again next month in Chicago. Wow, his every song moves you to dance, sing, and want more everyday! 'These feelings won't go away'...:) simply awesome! Thank you CC keep playing please! He was so humble and just pure sound that moves you! Thank you!

New favorite... | Reviewer: Corey W. | 4/15/10

i got lost in words, from the song "Healing Hands". The words mean something different for everyone. They ment the world to me. I found a band that is to my liking. Citizen Cope. Keep it going guys. 420!

True Poet | Reviewer: Peechies | 3/10/10

I absolutely love the song 'Holdin On'. It's LOVE in the HIGHEST euphoric state. Excited, confused, sick, and addictive! Citizen Cope, Anthony Hamilton, D'Angelo, and Musiq are ALL true poetic singers!
Creativity is lacking in the music industry, and gimmicks are often exchanged for commodity. Citizen Cope respresents REAL MUSIC!

Bliss | Reviewer: Mary Beth | 3/4/10

If I could crawl inside Cope's voice I would. He offers me an escape and I feel a connection to his music that gives me solice in an otherwise chaotic existence. Thank you, the show was pure bliss.

compliments from an older generation | Reviewer: Anonymous | 2/5/10

I'm a 50 year old woman with 3 kids in college. They introduced me to Citizen Cope this week. I just love that I can't put a finger on the style. Great sound. Lyrics are very thought provoking. Thank you! Carry on!

Cope - Bonnaroo 09 | Reviewer: Justin Moore | 7/14/09

I just recently seen Citizen Cope at Bonnaroo and I have told everyone that he was the best show at Bonnaroo. He didnt sing the songs like he did on his record but still kept an amazing flow. He also had a guest singer who was very soul full. LISTEN TO CITIZEN COPE!

Amazed... | Reviewer: Madison | 1/7/09

From the very fisrt time I ever heard Citizen Cope I fell in love with this music. A lot of the lyrics hit home for me, and I love the flow to the songs. It's amazing how someone you've never met can produce something so significant in your life. Try it!

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