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First Play: Cody ChesnuTT, My Love Divine Degree

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Del Cowie

Cody ChesnuTT's arresting voice may be best known as the driving force behind 2002's "The Seed 2.0," one of the best songs in the incredibly extensive catalogue of Philadelphia hip-hop band and Tonight Show denizens the Roots. However, the song was based on one of ChesnuTT's own songs.

The original version of "The Seed" was on multi-instrumentalist ChesnuTT's 2002 solo album, The Headphone Masterpiece, notable for its lo-fi production aesthetic and genre-straddling brew of soul, funk and rock. And that same elusive, adventurous style marks the Atlanta native's musical approach on his brand new release, My Love Divine Degree.

His first album since 2012's Landing on a Hundred, My Love Divine Degree retains the organic, unvarnished feel associated with ChesnuTT's music, conveying an undeniable honesty.

“This body of work is medicine for me. Once again, this is my soul trusting the powerful gift of music to be a positive vehicle for sharing the continual process of personal transformation," said ChesnuTT in a statement.

My Love Divine Degree was co-produced by legendary Chicago DJ Anthony "Twilite Tone" Khan, known for his association with Common's early career and more recently his work with Kanye West and Gorillaz. There's an inherent austerity to the musical arrangements on My Love Divine Degree, whether guitar- or synth-driven, focusing on melody and introspective songwriting, discarding superfluous elements.

ChesnuTT teams with fellow soul maverick Raphael Saadiq on the achingly relevant "Bullets in the Street and Blood." ChesnuTT stresses diasporic connections on the strident, Afrobeat-tinged "Africa the Future" and hopscotches musically on the rhythm suite of "She Ran Away."

On songs like the squelchy, keyboard-fuelled single "Image of Love" and the new wave pop-referencing mantra "I Stay Ready," ChesnuTT charts a path of resistance in the face of negative forces in the world. For ChesnuTT, this approach is inextricably tied to self-expression and survival.

“In a time of global economic uncertainty," ChesnuTT says. "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."