Citizen Cope: Citizen Cope

Citizen Cope: Citizen Cope

When he was programming tracks and manning the turntables for Michael Ivey's D.C.-based hip-hop stoner-outreach outfits Basehead and B.Y.O.B., Clarence "Citizen Cope" Greenwood conformed to Ivey's laid-back, picking-on-the-porch mode of rapping. As a solo act, on his major-label debut, Citizen Cope offers a more alert amalgam of folk, soul, and worldbeat that's in the same orbit as Beck and The New Radicals. He could even be pegged as beholden to Uncle Kracker's hit "Follow Me," except that most of the songs on Citizen Cope were in the can long before Kid Rock's sideman became a VH1 regular. Capitol Records dropped Citizen Cope in 1997, before his completed album could be released, and a revised version has been sitting with Dreamworks for about a year and a half, waiting for a marketing window. In spite of the delay, the album sounds fairly fresh. After the portentous "Intro" and the funky, mellow-yet-menacing rap of "Contact"—both listenable but unremarkable—Greenwood connects for the first time with the bracing, ethereal "If There's Love." The mid-tempo ballad has been sweetened with a distant, angelic choir and synthesized strings, but the springy contemporary arrangement can't disguise a sophisticated melody and a classic pop construction. "If There's Love" would still be a winner if it had been performed a cappella, though it might require a more expressive vocalist, one without Greenwood's heavy-lidded affectations. Mostly, Citizen Cope stays at a simmer, and all the record's genre-hopping ultimately bounces back to understated, toe-tapping rhythms and good-time hooks, in the service of character sketches involving lowlifes and lovers. But even though about two-thirds of the record offers merely serviceable lo-fi hip-hop, when Greenwood comes around to songs as fully realized and frankly startling as the violent cabaret number "Salvation" and the Tom Waits-y gospel clapper "Theresa," the rest of the material gets elevated through proximity alone.

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