With the release of his critically praised 2002 debut, The Headphone Masterpiece, singer/songwriter Cody ChesnuTT was universally hailed as a modern-day soul troubadour with many critics comparing his early work to the likes of Marvin Gaye, Curtis Mayfield and Stevie Wonder, thanks in part for frank and socially conscious rumination on modern Black life. Interestingly, ChesnuTT’s rise to critical and commercial acclaim came about as part of a particularly conscious neo-soul movement that included Erykah Badu, Jill Scott, The Roots and others, proving that artists can release work that’s important, relevant and necessary — and be fairly commercially successful. But after a meteoric rise that included a collaboration with The Roots, ChesnuTT abruptly disappeared from public view for the better part of a decade. And in that decade period, ChesnuTT went through a period of deep, personal reflection and observation and raised a family — and those experiences informed and influenced his 2012 sophomore effort Landing on a Hundred, an effort linked contemporary Black music to the classic, singer/songwriter soul of Marvin Gaye, Bill Withers, Stevie Wonder, Curtis Mayfield and others while pointing out that the hopes, frustrations, loves, and struggles that those legendary artists spoke about then have remained unchanging.
After touring to support Landing on a Hundred, ChesnuTT had been pretty busy, contributing to the soundtracks for the Oscar Award-winning major motion pictures 12 Years A Slave and Idris Elba Presents Mi Mandela, as well as working on the material that will comprise his forthcoming, third, full-length effort My Love Divine Degree, slated for a February 2017 release. Produced by Anthony “The Twilight Tone” Khan, a BMI Award, Grammy-nominated producer, songwriter and DJ, who has worked with Kanye West, Common, John Legend and Pusha T., the album will reportedly further cement ChesnuTT’s reputation for writing frank and earnest observations of modern Black life, while pushing the boundaries of what contemporary R&B and soul can sound like. Interestingly, the album’s second and latest single “I Stay Ready” is according to ChesnuTT is a call to arms for positivity in the face of adversity. As the singer/songwriter explains in press notes “In a time of global economic uncertainty, it is an uplifting charge to use one’s natural talents and gifts of creativity to forge ahead positively into purpose and economic well being.
The feeling of this track is rooted in one of the most beautiful guitar riffs I’ve ever been given…a gem that found me around 4AM. Accompanied by the exciting drum breaks programmed by legendary Chicago DJ Anthony ‘The Twilight Tone’ Kahn, the energy and sentiment of the song for me, is a pure shot of life.”
Sonically speaking, the song finds ChesnuTT’s silky smooth vocals paired with big, 808-like breakbeats, layers of buzzing synths, sinuous bursts of guitar and distorted vocal samples in a swaggering and cocksure song that may arguably be one of the most upbeat, “we can do this” songs he’s released to date.