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Arts & Culture

Citizen Cope Swings For The Fences And Scores On 'Justice'

The last time we heard from Citizen Cope, a.k.a. Clarence Greenwood, was on his 2012 album, One Lovely Day. After six years, the wait is over and Cope is returning with his first new album of studio recordings, Heroin and Helicopters, out on March 1, 2019.

Today, XPN premieres "Justice," from Cope's forthcoming Heroin and Helicopters. He recorded "Justice" in the same D.C. studio (Central Recordings) where he cut his previous hits, "Bullet And A Target" and "Son's Gonna Rise." On "Justice," Cope assembled a tight, totally in the pocket rhythm section of bassist Michael "Funky Ned" Neal (Rare Essence), Paul "Buggy" Edwards and percussionist Bashiri Johnson. Additional contributors on the album include drummer Abe Laboriel Jr., piano and keyboardist James Poyser of The Roots and others.

"Justice" is a classic Cope song. It swaggers with a head-nodding groove and contains a yearning and soulful message of optimism and positivity.

"I have never really experienced what justice is," Greenwood writes in his bio. "Our definition is more like revenge or payback. But I have seen love create miracles and overcome hate."

Born in Memphis, Cope came out of the Washington, D.C. music scene and released his self-titled debut album in 2002. With musical vibes that draw on hip-hop, soul and the singer-songwriter in his blood, his breakthrough album was his third release, 2004's The Clarence Greenwood Recordings, which featured "Bullet And A Target" and two songs featuring Carlos Santana, "Sideways," and "Son's Gonna Rise."

Cope's relationship with Santana dates back to 2002 when Santana recorded "Sideways," on his Shaman album. He gave Citizen Cope the idea for the album title; Santana was at a Citizen Cope show at San Francisco's Fillmore when he told Citizen Cope to "stay away from the two H's: Heroin and helicopters," saying both had fatal results for people in music. Cope took Santana's comments and broadened them out as a metaphor for addiction and instant gratification.

On the song, Cope sings, "There's so much trouble in the world / Surrounded by miracles / There's so much hatred undeserved / But it will not work."

The hallmarks of Cope's songs are his impressive ability to pair deep-felt grooves and a memorable melody with wondrous lyrical simplicity that goes straight to the point and to the heart. On "Justice," he swings for the fences and scores.

Heroin and Helicopters is out March 1.

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