Thursday, March 23, 2006

Cody Chesnutt - Look Good in Leather (2002)

** (of four)

You may remember Cody Chesnutt from the Roots single "The Seed" ("I push my seed in her bush for life"). Or, like me, maybe you saw him open for Erykah Badu a few years back and were struck by how similar his look was to Mos Def and '70s "Hustle" singer Van McCoy. And how similar his voice was to Terence Trent D'Arby. And how similar some of his rambling between-song sermon speeches were to the slow moments at a Prince concert.

Yet for all the similarities, Cody Chesnutt has an original appeal - an amalgam of retro-rock, classic soul, '80s pop and newer hip-hop sensibilities. "Look Good in Leather" is a rhythm guitar driven pop track that is completely obnoxious on first listen and then lodges in your head and grows. After awhile, you realize how damn stupid the song is and how much you suddenly can't stop singing along to it.

Chesnutt's album, The Headphone Masterpiece, was recorded in his basement on damn near no budget. The album title practically gives away the fact that Cody was too poor to afford speakers to play his shit on. Likewise, I think the Donray Von video for "Leather" was taped on a camcorder and edited on a top-loading VCR. Chesnutt plays this song for a racially diverse crowd in a suburban parking lot somewhere. The sign for the 7-Eleven looms in the background. And no doubt Cody bummed a buck thirty-nine from the audience to get himself a Bacon Cheeseburger Big Bite when the shoot was over.

The entire affair is half-assed beyond belief, and Lord knows why Donray Von decided to cut in footage of a motorcycle gang rolling through the alley behind the Burger King. But just like the song itself, you can tell the anonymous people in this video are just here to have a good time. Budget and talent are entirely incidental.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not sure how to respond to your comments on Cody ChesnuTT and my directorial debut "Look Good in Leather". Cody recorded the album in his bedroom and he did have speakers but at night he could only work using headphones. I had to get some sleep in order to build my empire during the day. Four Stars in "Rolling Stone", CNN said the album was a "blockbuster". So, I think those Headphones did us some good..

The video was one of the most INEXPENSIVE videos ever played on MTV playa. So I think we deserve some credit for doing so much with so little, 7-Eleven sign and all.

Blessing to the indie, digital is our friend.

36 Track double disk debut album from an indie label that's sold over 150k copies internationally without a major.

The future is ours.

Donray Von

7:18 PM  

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