Copywrite: The Life and Times of Peter Nelson [Review]

My initial exposure to Copywrite was not a good one. The first bars I ever heard him spit were two diss tracks towards Asher Roth. While those songs showed that he has a dexterity for rhyming, I just couldn’t hop on board with someone who instigates a beef for the sole reason that they are both white, and one has more shine than the other (deservedly or not). To me, there are so many talented rappers out there that there is no reason to spend time listening to someone who’s personality you aren’t feeling. Despite the fact that I am not an Asher Roth fan in the least bit, the bitterness and jealousy exhibited in those two youtube tracks allowed me to easily erase Copywrite completely from my radar for around two years. Yet over the past month or so, I started seeing his name pop up again, and instead of in reference to some lame ass beef, it was to promote an album that featured some of my favorite MC’s and Producers. The Life and Times of Peter Nelson features Sean Price, Crooked I, Planet Asia, Dilated Peoples, and MF Grimm among others, and is produced by the likes of RJD2, !llmind, Kyhrysis, and DJ Rhettmatic. With a line up like that standing beside an MC, it’s hard not to be interested. Additionally having so many respected artists work with him made me think that my limited exposure to Copywrite didn’t do justice to what he has to offer. There had to be something they saw/heard in him that I didn’t, and after listening to the new album, the appeal now makes a lot more sense.

As the title suggests, The Life and Times of Peter Nelson, is an extremely personal record that pairs top notch lyricism with deep introspection about life, friends, families, relationships, substance abuse, and a slew of other topics. It seems like in approaching this album Copywrite knew that he had a reputation for being an asshole, and he was going to use this opportunity to explain to his audience the shit that he’s been through that has made him that way. He’s not apologetic, but tracks like “Forever and a Day” ft. Middle Distance Runner and produced by RJD2, “Three Story Building” ft. Dilated Peoples and MF Grimm and produced by Twiz The Beat Pro, and “Mother May I” produced by !llmind paint a vivid picture of the difficult and struggle filled upbringing of a white, lower-middle class child, raised by a single mother. Yet the best insight on what makes Copywrite the man he is today has to be “Confessional”, produced by Rob Stern, which also happens to be my favorite track on the album. The melancholy horns and flute in the instrumental set the perfect tone for Copy’s subject matter, in which he addresses the recent death of both parents, the illness of his grandparents, his own struggles with drug and alcohol abuse, and the fact that his personality has lead him into countless confrontations, many of which being physical. It’s one of the most unabashed and open verbal performances I’ve heard this year, matched with the perfect balance of lyricism that stays away from being cryptic so that the stories and points can be heard and understood in their entirety. Yet it must be said that while I enjoyed the candidness of much of Copywrite’s subject matter, there is a ton of the self loathing on this album that has almost become stereotypical of white rappers. The nonstop talk of suicide and wishing he was dead gets redundant. If that’s how he really feels, obviously I fully support him rapping about it rather than actually killing himself, but as a listener the statements about wanting to die get boring and lose their gravity after having to hear about it again and again for nearly an hour and a half.

Confessional (Produced by Rob Stern)

As I said in the introduction, I was surprised to see the producers that Copywrite arranged to have work on this album, and was excited to see what they had to contribute. For one I haven’t heard new hip-hop instrumentals from RJD2 in what seems like forever. Yet I have to say that while all the well known producers gave solid efforts (no classics though), I strongly feel like they were overshadowed by relatively unknown beat smiths. On “Mega Mega” ft. The MHz (Camu Tao, Tage Future, RJD2 and Jakki), Surock crafts one hell of a banger that sounds more like what people love about RJD2 than either of the beats that RJ offers to the project. It’s probably my favorite instrumental on the entire album. Additionally, Joe Benny provides some real motivational vibes on “Smile”, Kount Fif crafted a true head nodder in “Alive” ft. Motion Man, and like I said earlier, Rob Stern’s beat for “Confessional” is damn near perfect. Yet possibly most impressive is the consistency of Twiz The Beat Pro. He’s the only producer on the album with more than two beats, and while “Wish You Were Here” and “Crooked Cop” ft. Crooked I might be a little generic (not too bad though), “Future Throwback” ft. Jet Jaguar and “Three Story Building” ft. Dilated Peoples and MF Grimm knock something serious. While on most albums the only worth while songs come from the big name producers that the artist probably blew their entire budget on, it’s refreshing to hear beat smiths who I am completely unfamiliar with present music that can stand alongside and even outshine that of classic veterans.

Mega Mega ft. Camo Tao, Tage Future, RJD2 and Jakki (aka MHz) (Produced by Surock)

Three Story Building ft. Dilated Peoples and MF Grimm (Produced by Twiz The Beat Pro)

At the same time I can’t say I loved every beat on The Life and Times of Peter Nelson. Despite pretty ill bars from Copywrite, “Shotgun”, which is produced by Dank Charnley, has an instrumental and chorus that should have never made the album. Weirdly enough though, Copywrite has chose it as one of the two videos he has made so far to support the project. “Rob The Club”, produced by Camu Tao, and “Don’t Kill Me” produced by The Intalec both seem like beats that would have been hot in the early millennium, but at this point provide nothing new to the listener’s auditory experience. And finally, I know a lot of readers might disagree with me, but I just am not into Dub Step at all. Therefore I wasn’t really feeling the genre blending “Seratonin”, produced by Josh Gabriel, either.

All in all, The Life and Times of Peter Nelson is a great introduction into who Copywrite is and what you can expect from him and his music in the future, matched with production of a commendably high quality. It deals with a lot of dark subject matter, because it sounds like he has been going through a lot of hard times, and not just recently, but throughout his life. Yet beyond just the the topics that Copy raps about, for the hip-hop purists his well calculated rhyme schemes and patterns will be a selling point as well. It sounds like he doesn’t just want to get shit off his chest, he wants his name considered with the greats. While I’m not sure that will happen (as he said himself, it’s always been an unfairly hard road for white rappers), it’s my opinion that if he focuses a little more on quality control, is able to move beyond just the depressing content, and is able to maintain strong relationships with his talented friends, he could be a name we continue to talk about in the years to come.

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