The May death of Chuck Brown, a fixture in D.C. but known to the world as the Godfather of Go-Go, had a wide-reaching impact on many fans including Citizen Cope, who of course got his start as a hip-hop DJ in Washington.
Cope's song "One Lovely Day," the title track of his latest album, was almost not recorded after Brown's death. Cope told Rolling Stone that he had wanted Brown to sing it. It's likely fair to consider Cope's recording of the song as a tribute to Brown, who was well-known for his devotion to D.C. and its fans despite calls for him to seek higher musical ground.
"Writing is part of my life, just an instinct in my life," said Cope, whose given name is Clarence Greenwood, of what kept him moving ahead musically after cutting ties with major labels. "The major labels only service radio acts, so there's no reason for me to be caught up in it. It's all good, though, because the music always comes out right [when the artist controls it], vibrant and alive."
That's certainly true of the songs on "One Lovely Day." Although some critics might gripe that the songs are lighter and more mellow than Cope's signature style, most disagree. In fact, the songs on "One Lovely Day" are a fresh mix of formats that create the mellow sonic landscape that Cope has painted during the past few years.
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And few could argue that although "One Lovely Day" has plenty of acoustic sound, it's throbbing with the blue-eyed soul that has always been Cope's calling card. Those that listen closely to the songs will surely hear a little rock, a little reggae and, arguably, even a bit of pop accent. That's the sound that all comes back to vintage Citizen Cope.
It's likely fair to say that the music defines what Cope considers his personal mission, which is to look beyond petty concerns about material possessions and one-upmanship toward a higher meaning in life. Sure, his songs have serious messages, but they're not downbeat. That's why he looks toward the positive in life -- music and recording.
"Music is supposed to be fun," he said. "And that is pretty much how I take the recording process."