Cross-genre guitarist Citizen Cope will perform at the Vilar Performing Arts Center on Sunday, August 6 at 8:00 PM. Dug deep in the rich soil of American music, Cope’s music blends hip-hop, with folk, soul and blues and harkens to the likes of Bill Withers, Neil Young, John Lee Hooker, Van Morrison, Willie Nelson or Al Green. General admission tickets are $55 at the VPAC box office (970-845-8497; www.vilarpac.org). The VPAC is located under the ice rink in Beaver Creek Village (68 Avondale Lane, Beaver Creek, Colorado).
Born Clarence Greenwood, Citizen Cope was a child of the seventies, and his life journey is as singular as his art. He is the radically mashed-up product of Greenville, Mississippi, Memphis, Tennessee, Vernon, Texas, Austin, Texas, Washington, DC, and Brooklyn, New York. These locations are felt in his songs—southern rural, big sky lonely, concrete urban, and painfully romantic.
In the Austin of the eighties, he took sound classes and found himself fooling with a primitive four-track setup. Turntables intrigued him. He heard hip-hop as inspired invention. For years, he got lost in his self-designed lab, cooking up beats and motifs that only later would be shaped into songs.
In the midst of the squalor, grandeur, and hypocrisy of the nation’s capitol, Cope set up camp. Vocalist Michel Ivey recruited him as a mad scientist who feverishly concocted samples for the artsy-edgy configuration known as Basehead. As the group hit the road, Cope stayed in the background, moving dials and pushing buttons. Inside his head, he heard stories that still had not assumed full form.
On record his vision is first expressed in “Citizen Cope,” the debut album from 2002. The artist is still finding his footing and, although his trademark poetry is firmly in place, this is the only record where the production isn’t entirely his own. The aural environment is more elaborate, the sound not yet reduced down to the common denominator that we come to know as Cope. The theme, though, is clear—it’s “Contact,” the cry for a connection to a world that is at once bewildering, necessary, and fraudulent. The issues are serious.
“You’ve got them crooked politicians,” he writes, “eating up the treasury and taking our cash to spend on the prisons while the youth they fast.” The groove is insistent. “Let the Drummer Kick” is the name of the song that says, “You’ve got to bust through…mass confusion, solution, conclusion, inspiration is what pulls you through.” Busting through, pulling through, getting through to “Salvation,” a story in which Judas shows up in DC and takes aim at the singer’s soul.
This will be the first time Citizen Cope will perform at the VPAC and he will be joined by his full band.