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Published: 2004/11/30
by Andy Tennille

Used with Cody Dickinson

A walk through the used record bins of some of the country’s finest music stores with musicians, both famous and infamous.

Cody Dickinson is a skinny, six foot, buck seventy-five-pound-drippin-wet white kid from rural Mississippi with a Lloyd Christmas haircut who looks nothing like the next CEO of a big-time rap label. He sports no bling or bullet wounds; travels with no entourage. The only thing that Cody and P. Diddy may have in common is their ever-present cell phones, always buzzing.

"So they’re going to be there tonight?" Cody asks as he raises the phone’s antenna while we walk down the street. Suddenly, he smiles wildly and begins frantically pointing at the phone against his ear. "Yeah, ok…how many tickets do I need to leave them? And passes…yeah, I’ll leave it all out front. Yeah, man, this is great. Thanks."

Dickinson closes the phone and raises his arms to the sky. Executives from IODA, a San Francisco-based digital music distribution organization, will be coming out that night to talk about distributing the music he wants to produce through his newest brainchild a gangsta rap label out of Memphis, Tennessee.

"Atlanta blew up a few years back, and the same with New Orleans with the Cash Money Millionaires, you know," he says as we wander into Amoeba Music. "They had their go. Memphis is so close to just blowing up, man. There are some really talented people down there, and I think I might be able to help make it happen."

Dickinson’s a safe bet to make good on his promise. The son of legendary producer Jim Dickinson, Cody and his older brother, Luther, have lived and breathed music for as long as they both can remember.

"I started on guitar at a real young age, ever since I can remember really," he says. "I played it on my lap cause my fingers weren’t big enough to go around the neck. Around the age of nine and Luther was 13 or 14 years old, he was progressing a lot faster than I was. He was reading music magazines and really turning into who he is today. So I just decided one day that maybe I would play drums and accompany him. Every kid wants to play the drums at some point. I think the first song we played together was Honky Tonk Women’ or some other Stones shit. I was in the fifth grade and had just gotten my first full drum set."

While Luther may arguably be the more naturally gifted musician of the two Dickinson boys, Cody’s musical talents and interests are more diverse, a young John Paul Jones to his older brother’s Jimmy Page. Besides being a solid drummer, Dickinson can also play guitar, organ, piano and electric washboard and dabbles in constructed music and sampling. For the AllStars’ last album, Polaris, he also arranged and composed string and horn sections and served as co-producer along with his brother. This past fall after wrapping up recording the band’s upcoming studio album, Electric Blue Watermelon, Dickinson made a pilgrimage down to Houston to meet Rock and Duke, two local producers at the heart of the chopped-and-screwed rap scene.

"Chopped and screwed is this mixing technique that came out of Houston," he explains. "DJ Screw was kind of the father of the scene down there in Houston. Basically what they do is have a turntable setup, but for CDs. They take two CDs with the same song on them and synch them up. Then they’ll delay one a quarter of a note off, so that it creates this strange echo thing. And then they’ll speed it back up and re-synch it, and then slow it back down again. It’s some of the most psychedelic shit I’ve ever heard, man. When I heard it, I thought how cool it would be if we could get some AllStars’ music chopped and screwed, you know. I knew if our fans could hear it, they would love it, man. And nobody in the whole scene is doing this shit. We could start a whole new genre of music. We could blow it up."

Dickinson flew down to Houston with a few songs fresh from the AllStars’ recording sessions and spent a few days making friends and watching the producers work.

"Rock came by and picked me up at my hotel room and took me to meet Duke at his studio, The Lab," Cody says. "I just so happened to have a CD with me with a song we just recorded with Robert Randolph for our new record. We walk in there and they’ve got big-screen TVs all over the place, people hanging out everywhere. I walked in with a twelve pack of beer and five Honeybuns just trying to make friends, you know what I’m saying? Everyone there was great, man. Duke was so hospitable and nice. He treated me like a professional. We headed back to the room where the work gets done, and he let me watch it all go down. And he introduced me to Jimmy D., who’s like the Kobe Bryant of the chopped-and-screwed scene. He’s the one who chopped and screwed our new record back in Memphis."

One obvious question that arises is Dickinson’s motives in delving into gangsta rap. His enthusiasm and love for the music are obvious, but aren’t normally found in a kid who was raised listening to records his dad worked on with the Stones, Ry Cooder and Bob Dylan and who plays drums in a blues rock band that attracts a college frat/neo-hippie following. What drives Cody Dickinson? Is it his desire to bring the spotlight back to the Memphis music scene, to blow up the city he was born in and the home of so many great records and musicians?

"Rappin’ is not something to be fucked with," Cody says matter-of-factly. "I don’t pose to be a gangsta or anything, man. I just love the music. And I want everyone to see the talent that’s down in Memphis. When I start this label, the only stipulation I’ll have is no beefs. No beefs, man. That’s the only thing wrong with The Chronic and some of the other great rap records. You know, all that bullshit about Easy E? That shit is obsolete. The Chronic is a timeless record, man. It could be a classic, but it’s not because of that crap."

Dickinson came face to face with the violence that is pervasive in the gangsta rap scene shortly after his visit down to Houston.

"A few weeks back, Duke got fucking murdered. It’s sad, man. You know, this lifestyle is dangerous," Dickinson said. "That’s the only thing about the gangsta rap scene that really worries me to tell you the truth. I could get into this and it could blow up, but the violence is serious shit. I’m a lucky guy, man, a really blessed guy. I have to be careful what I wish for, because the shit comes true. Like I grew up loving Oasis, and then we go to Europe to tour, and they came to one of our shows. And then they came to another one. I got to know them some, and they took me to their studio and I got to watch them record Heathen Chemistry. Came this close to playing on it, man. I had my washboard with me and everything."

Cody’s Picks of the Day G-Unit, Beg for Mercy Dr. Dre, The Chronic Ace Frehley, Frehley’s Comet Lil’ Flip, U Gotta Feel Me Oasis, (What’s the Story) Morning Glory?

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