There are not too many musicians, especially in contemporary RnB, like Cody ChesnuTT. The Atlanta-bred, Tallahassee-based singer-songwriter has flirted with both stardom and DIY ethics in a way that places him very much outside of the institutional structures of many musical peers (well, at least, those who could even think to call themselves peers). For this reason, among others, his performance tomorrow night at World Cafe Live is a welcome introduction into his very peculiar and groundbreaking psyche.
After missteps with Hollywood Records in the early 2000s, ChesnuTT retreated from the specter of pop success and recorded his 2002 debut over two years while holed up in his bedroom. The Headphone Masterpiece, a double-disc album, essentially functions as a sort of career manifesto. His lo-fi approach and disregard for RnB convention, played out over a comically-long release filled with short and patchily irreverent songs like “Look Good in Leather” and “Bitch, I’m Broke”, is the sort of artistic move more associated with rock artists like Guided by Voices or Pavement.
His subversion, especially in a genre better known for epic gestures and high production quality, would be rewarded when The Roots picked him up for a remake of his song “The Seed”. The ensuring song, 2003’s “The Seed 2.0”, would go on to become one of the group’s biggest hits; even with this push, ChesnuTT eschewed fame and quietly released two albums before, 10 years later, emerging on Kickstarter and asking fans to contribute to 2012’s full-band Landing on a Hundred. In the interim, the legacy of Masterpiece continues to loom large over his eccentric and intricately brilliant releases.
If his live videos are any indication, tonight’s show at World Cafe Live promises a classic soul spectacle turned on its head, with ChesnuTT’s troubador-like storytelling and performance art theatrics taking center stage and illuminating why he’s always worth watching.
Cody ChesnuTT performs on the World Cafe Live stage tonight at 8 PM with opener Joy Ike. Click here for tickets and information