It was the early 2000’s and I was fresh off my six year stint as a DJ. I had a pretty deep collection and an ear pressed firmly to the ground. At the time, I had started my second business- Hillside Quickie’s Vegan Sandwich Shop, and was known for blasting great music in my shop during lunch rushes.
I remember hearing about some new rap/rock dude named Cody something or other, and then all of a sudden all my friends kept mentioning this guy named Cody ChesnuTT and his album “Headphone Masterpiece,” a double CD that supposed to be “A-Ma-zing!” It’s important to put this in context – this was post Napster crash and pre Myspace world, and people were still on Friendster and I regularly shopped at Tower Records (can you even remember that?).
So to hear about a record that had not been released by a major label was slightly crazy. By the time I met him and copped his CD, Mr. ChesnuTT’s status had reached god-like proportions on the indie-circuit. He simply flipped the bird to the record companies and made an album in his bedroom on a 4 track tape recorder. He pressed his own CDs, printed a cover and released it via CDbaby.
It went viral. (Or whatever the analog equivalent was back then.) Everyone took notice, he was elevated to rock god status seemingly over night–a hero of the people, the artist artist the next Jimi Hendrix!
So why have you never heard of him or been to the Cody ChesnuTT museum? The story changes depending on who’s telling it. First it was told that the fame was much too much, and he simply went crazy. When I met him the second time, he was wearing A long robe with flip flops and socks. Though that doesn’t make him crazy, it sure doesn’t help fight the rumors. He also would give you that “crazy artist stare” when you looked at him. so perhaps there was truth to that.
Other sources say he was turning down tours with Ben Harper and the Chili Peppers because he had given up music entirely. One thing that was true for sure was that he and his wife had been desperately trying to have a baby. We know this because he even sings about naming their fictional baby “Rock & Roll” in his song “The Seed.” Yep, the one that the Roots retooled for their album “Phrenology,” calling it “The Seed (2.0).”
Whatever happened to Cody remains a mystery but myself and my friends, we had tasted something. His songs were simultaneously youthful and old school. It was rock & roll if you were raised by an uncle who was a pimp, and in the golden age of hip hop, a new rock sound with hip hop-ish lyrics.
Cuts like “Look Good in Leather”, “Serve the Royalty”, “Upstarts and a Blowout” and “B**ch I’m Broke” still get heavy playlist rotation, and are sung word for word. The fans loved him, frat boys loved him, girls loved him, I loved him and we all wanted more of this lo-fi rock rap fusion.
But Cody went underground while the music and technology industry were like two crazy viruses in a disaster movie–binding, mutating and evolving at a breakneck speed. Cody had no music “page,” no “web presence”, so keeping us abreast of his new activity was nil . He spiraled once again into folklore. People talked about random shows where he looked and sounded like a post miss education Lauren Hill, i.e. babbling 8-15 minute songs/sermons devoid of any hook/chorus structure, and of course not playing the songs that made him famous and made people want to go see him in the first place. (I hate when they do that)
Ever since then, my music nerd friends will occasionally send me a link to a new artist who is reminiscent of Mr. ChesnuTT, which I always look at with the side-eye, and after a while I lost my enthusiasm. While there have been some notables on my radar, such as Keziah Jones, or Van Hunt, I personally don’t think anyone comes close to that energy Cody tapped into on his Masterpiece.
Presently Cody has a web presence and is slated to release a new full length LP called “Landing on a Hundred,” or so says facebook. He has a few leaked tracks on his Facebook page as well, and I gotta say, he looks pretty sane.
In related news I hear Andre 3000 is playing Jimi Hendrix in an upcoming biopic, so it will be interesting to see how that effects his next solo album. Until then I’m still chasing that analog feeling. **sings out* “I look good in Pleather….