Cody ChesnuTT arrived in 2002 with The Headphone Masterpiece, an eccentric and sprawling debut. He appeared to be the kind of artist who could release a bounty of scattershot but occasionally excellent material on an annual basis. As years without a proper follow-up elapsed -- past a handful of collaborations, compilation appearances, and a 2010 EP -- his enigmatic aura only swelled. It's reduced with Landing on a Hundred, a relatively straightforward second album. There are no vulgar, offhanded, eager-to-provoke moments like "Bitch I'm Broke" or "War Between the Sexes." There aren't any unvarnished edges, either, though it's all organic -- by no means is it slick. Each one of the 12 songs is fully developed, recorded in studios with a large supporting cast, including string and horn sections. The material is classicist, drawing much from socially conscious soul of the late '60s and early '70s, especially 1969-1973 Marvin Gaye. Now in his early forties, ChesnuTT's outlook is less inward. "'Til I Met Thee" opens the album by acknowledging fatherhood as salvation. Like much of what follows, it's stylish, almost extravagant soul with a dash of funk from scratchy rhythm guitar lines. Many bases are covered: Africa is honored and uplifted, a young man who disrespects his mother is chastised, romance and personal connections are placed over wealth and technology, self-reliance is promoted, temptations are combated, and global economic inequities are scrutinized. "Don't Follow Me," a bleak and heartbreaking ballad in which he offers advice to his son -- i.e., "Don't make the same mistakes I've made" -- hits hardest with slamming drums, mournful trumpet, and a great amount of reverb. That he follows with a new version of the EP track "Everybody's Brother," where he addresses the drugging, gambling, and womanizing he has left behind, makes it all the more powerful. ChesnuTT delivers everything with colorful, wise-yet-probing conviction. Compared to the debut, this is a deeper body of songs. Entertainment and enrichment are provided unsparingly.
Landing on a Hundred Review
by Andy Kellman