15th-17th July 2011 Joensuu, Finland

Cody ChesnuTT (USA)

The best-kept secret of black music

Cody ChesnuTT must be the best-kept secret of 2000s soul and hiphop. Simply a genius as a singer and a songwriter, he could have easily conquered the world by now, what with a voice like that of Marvin Gaye, charisma like that of James Brown and a sense of style like that of the coolest hipster stars of today. Instead, he has decided to all but hide his light under a bushel, which gives a reason to believe that he is preparing a giant bomb that's going to explode any minute now.

Cody ChesnuTT's genius was almost revealed to a wider audience as early as in 2002, when The Roots recorded a song by him on their album Phrenology. That song, The Seed (2.0), became a massive hit, and its über-stylish music video redefined and re-established the concept of cool. ChesnuTT himself sang and played the guitar on the song and on the video. The original version of The Seed had been released earlier the same year on his debut album The Headphone Masterpiece, a double issue that consisted of more than thirty four-track songs and snippets that varied from spirit-filled soul to dirty lo-fi hip hop. It was not an easy record in the commercial sense, but artistically it was a wonderful collection of apparently carelessly written diamonds in the rough, making the listener laugh with amazement because of the sheer excellence of the tunes.

After The Headphone Masterpiece, the world was holding its breath for Cody ChesnuTT's new album – but it never appeared. He was spotted in public every now and then, like in Dave Chapelle's Bloc Party documentary, but he didn't seem to be writing any songs. In 2007, he hinted to a soon-to-be-released live album, but it never saw the light of the day. Then, finally, towards the end of 2010, a six-song EP Black Skin No Value appeared, and ChesnuTT promised that the long-awaited second album would be released the following year. When is that following year going to be is probably a mystery even to ChesnuTT himself.

At Rento Stage, Cody ChesnuTT's assets include a generous handful of new songs and a divine voice. Even if you haven't heard of the man before, the show is not to be missed, as it is a sort of crystallisation of everything that has ever happened in black music up to this point. Cody ChesnuTT's songs are full of cottonfield blues, the sweaty soul of the South and the hiphop of the ghettos of New York, all marinated with irresistible charisma and a steely attitude. Otis Reading and Marvin Gaye do not play shows any longer, but Cody ChesnuTT does, and he does it in Joensuu, Finland. Now this is it, man!

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Cody ChesnuTT
Rokumentti Rock Film Festival Kerubi Joensuu Pop Musicians' Association