Learning to Cope

If you’ve never heard of singer/songwriter Clarence Greenwood, a.k.a. Citizen Cope, shame on you. Recently named one of Rolling Stone magazine’s “Top Ten Artists to Watch,” he has gained popularity among fans of all genres with the release of his second album, The Clarence Greenwood Recordings.

His bluesy funk-rock combines a tinge of tripped out hip-hop that gives listeners a sense that they’ve just heard something new and unique. Citing Bob Marley, Stevie Wonder and The Beatles as his greatest musical influences, Cope talked with The Hatchet just prior to boarding a plane headed for New York with his band.

“(I try to) make (my) records … something that people can listen to from start to finish, be inspired, and touched (by),” Cope said. “(I) hope the listener is able to identify with the music.”

It is certainly safe to say that Cope was effective. People looking for something outside mainstream cookie-cutter pop have been instantly hooked after hearing him for the first time. And although his first single, “Bullet and a Target,” is currently being played on the radio and MTV, many of Cope’s fans first heard of him through other means.

“I think that any time you have people that hear (of my music) just word of mouth it means something,” he said. “It’s not like they just heard it on the radio or saw the image on MTV. People usually identify with the soul of the artist more so than anything, the subconscious thing that’s going on in music.”

The D.C. native used to be part of an early ’90s hip-hop group named Basehead. “I don’t think there’s ever been a hip-hop scene in D.C.,” he said. “It’s always been more of a go-go thing. It’s tough to get out of D.C. as an artist.”

Yet somehow he was able to switch gears, pick up a guitar and get a record deal. “I’ve been doing this for a while, and I’ve taken a lot of bumps,” he said. “I’ve had a lot of failure, so it’s just been one step at a time that (all of this has) been happening, not like it’s all just overnight. I mean, it’s good to make a record that’s artistically credible and that people also feel a payoff when they listen to it.”

Citizen Cope’s music is compatible with practically every human emotion. Songs about relationships, violence, good times and bad are similarly compatible with multiple situations, which results in a diverse and interesting live performance.

“Now (that) I’m coming out with my full band and everything, (it’s) cool being able to do our own headlining shows,” he said. “The D.C. show is going to be pretty crazy.”

Citizen Cope will play Saturday at The Black Cat, 1811 14th St. N.W. Show is $12 and begins at 9:30 p.m.

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