Chocolate Genius Inc
There are 8 million stories in the Naked City–two wrongs don’t make a right (but it does take two to make a thing go right), and by the latest estimations, most rappers have at least 99 problems . . .
There are crazy numbers for Chocolate Genius Inc–aka Marc Anthony Thompson–as well. Among them: 1 Obie (sound design for A Huey P Newton Story, 1997), 1 Gold album (his version of “Julia” on the I Am Sam soundtrack), 2 songs written for Lizz Wright’s new album, the 6,000 screaming New York City public school teachers he serenaded at a union pep rally, and a pair of critically heralded and much admired CDs of his own. The first of those CDs was Black Music (1998), the second was Godmusic (2001); in keeping with the numbers theme, it would then stand to reason that there’s a third CD. There is. Black Yankee Rock.
Produced by the superlative Craig Street (Producer on recordings by k.d.lang, Norah Jones, Cassandra Wilson and Me’Shell NdegeOcello, as well as co-producer for Black Music), Black Yankee Rock features Van Dyke Parks, Marc Ribot, Roy Nathanson, Stephanie McKay, Abe Laboriel Jr., Oren Bloedow, Toshi Reagon, and Me’Shell NdegeOcello. Black Yankee Rock is a Chocolate Genius record that Marc Anthony Thompson describes as the third and final installment of “a narrative that looks at family, faith and future in a way that is as personal as it is universal.”
Along with being the third album, Black Yankee Rock is the first for Chocolate Genius Inc on Commotion Records–this album serves as the premiere offering for Commotion’s Artist Series. The Artist Series aims to selectively focus on new music from innovative artists–hence the choice of Chocolate Genius Inc.
At various junctures in his artistry, Marc Anthony Thompson has been called eclectic, theatrical, soulful, emotional, witty, mournful, celebratory, hopeful, raw, humanistic, romantic, passionate, intelligent, introspective, irreverent and hypnotic. Rolling Stone noted, “As a songwriter, Thompson pledges allegiance to his own moody doctrine, managing intimate confession and ironic distance all at once.” Blender declared that, “Thompson draws on the past without sounding slavishly retro. Chocolate Genius lives up to his billing,” while Amazon opined, “Thompson deftly fuses country, soul, trip hop, rock and jazz with witty, world weary lyrics that, while loose, are rooted in solid song craft.”
Work on Chocolate Genius Inc’s Black Yankee Rock began sometime in 2004. In between albums, Marc earns his keep scoring films, appearing on soundtracks (e.g. Oscar nominee American Splendor, Twin Falls, Idaho, Saving Face, Riker’s High, Brother to Brother, CBS’s Crossing Jordan and Urbania) and working as a collaborator and guest artist with fellow visionaries like The Roots; Philip Glass; Stuart Matthewman; Medeski, Martin and Wood; Sweetback; and Cibo Matto. While up to some of the above after the release of Godmusic, Marc Anthony Thompson got a call from Craig Street urging him to make another Chocolate Genius Inc recording. “Craig told me that he had 2 projects lined up back to back with a small window in-between,” Thompson explains; “We were going to come in that window and leave through the back door.”
It was during the early stages of the sessions that eventually became Black Yankee Rock that Chocolate Genius Inc encountered Tracy McKnight (she and music industry veteran Walter Yetnikoff are the co-founders of Commotion Records). At the time of their meeting, McKnight was music supervisor on the HBO film Everyday People that Marc had acted in and scored. At the film’s Sundance premiere, McKnight asked Marc when the next Chocolate Genius Inc record was coming out. He was squatting temporarily in that province known as “between labels,” and so when asked about his future, the answer was: he had no idea when his record might come out, and less of an idea about from where.
In the world-works-in-mysterious-ways department, Chocolate Genius Inc became the first artist signed to Commotion Records in late 2004, or, as he explains it, “Voila! A few Yetnikoffs later the window opened a little bit more.” Walter Yetnikoff states, regarding Chocolate Genius Inc, “To us a great artist is one who is original, distinctive, and has outstanding musical chops. Chocolate Genius is all that and a great entertainer to boot.”
Black Yankee Rock is an album of unquestionable beauty comprised of heartfelt, passionate songs. Chief among them is the insistent opener “The Beginning Of Always.” Equally lovely is the deliciously quirky “Chasing Strange,” the poignant and deceptively anthemic “Forever Everyone,” and “Same Time Tomorrow” (an ode to marital bliss that boasts accordion from the legendary Van Dyke Parks). This Chocolate Genius Inc album further confirms Marc Anthony Thompson’s reputation as one of the most accomplished and adventuresome singer/songwriters around, making the case that his is a voice that ought to be heard.
Asked to illuminate the intention of Chocolate Genius Inc’s Black Yankee Rock, Marc dips into his bag of metaphors: “Black Yankee Rock has always been synonymous with Shangri La, Xanadu, Utopia, Atlantis, Bakersfield and Hoboken or even Fort Greene, Brooklyn (20 years ago) all rolled up in one. It’s a destination–more than a sound or a statement. Where hair extensions are halos. Heaven without a Golden Gate. Everybody gets in. All the ashtrays are clean. The wine won’t hurt you because the Grapes have no Wrath.”
In other words? Black Yankee Rock is the third CD from Chocolate Genius Inc, and the first essential album for fall 2005.