Every aspect of Cody ChesnuTT’s 2002, 36-song debut – its four-track production, White Album-inspired spontaneity and cheeky lyrics about his dick – introduced the songwriter as a brash, arrogant virtuoso. But just as The Headphone Masterpiece gained notice, ChesnuTT disappeared. Why?
Turns out, he no longer stood by his Masterpiece. (“Even when I was performing [that album], my relationship with God was getting better and I began to feel the conflict…The mindset of the songs didn’t line up with the mind that I’m supposed to have,” he said to Believer.) So in Landing on a Hundred, a far leaner sophomore effort that took a decade to create, ChesnuTT leads a 10-piece band in search of soulful, studio-polished redemption. He often apologizes for his past behavior; in “Don’t Follow Me,” his titular pleas are like echoes bouncing off cave walls.
ChesnuTT’s also surveying a world that he once blissfully ignored. In the leisurely “Love is More Than a Wedding Day,” he dismisses the base materialism many people confuse as symbols of love – package honeymoons, summer cruises. On the scathing “Under the Spell of the Handout,” he sings “I’m hungry for freedom, but I don’t know how to eat that meal/ because I’m under the spell of the handout.” He expects more of others, just as he now expects more of himself.
As he wrote Landing, ChesnuTT studied songs by blues and gospel-trained singers – Billie Holiday and Sam Cooke. Its standout moment, though, is when ChesnuTT introduces his African-ancestry anthem “I’ve Been Life” with a single, transcendent, wordless “Ooooh.” He sounds strikingly like the Marvin Gaye of “Inner City Blues.” But more importantly, he sounds humbled.