This emcee is a prime example of rolling with the punches and growing within your niche. As an original member of the underground Ohio hip-hop group MHz, Copywrite (Pete Nelson) eventually went solo. Upon doing so, he showcased his penchant for brutal battle-rap punchlines, witty wordplay and multi-syllable rhyme schemes. The problem this reviewer had with his 2002 Eastern Conference debut, The High Exhaulted, and anything else he did at the time was that his flow was off and he tried too hard to sound like an NY rapper. 10 years and several EP’s, mixtapes and one sophomore album later have brought us to where he was in 2012: An older, more reflective emcee. But don’t get it confused: Copywrite’s brutal wit and technical ability got better with age. Even the album title (a play on the “God Save the Queen” by the Sex Pistols) is a sign of this.
On this third LP, Copy lets his duality shine from beginning to end. The album opener, “Post-Apocalyptic Request Box”, shows him re-affirming his faith in God, fully aware of his ego on the mic. But then, the transition goes into “Love” (featuring fellow MHz alumni Tage Future and fierce production from Bronze Nazareth) where he says lines like, “Groupie hoe in the studio? I fuck her while recordin’ / She’s not a fan of gospel, but a sucker for an organ.” Copy has never been short on quotables, as the album’s first single “Swaggot Killaz”, is full of them. Produced by !llmind, Copy and guest Jakki da MotaMouth take clever aim at rappers who overuse the word “swag”. In true underground battle form, they destroy their mainstream counterparts. The guest spots aren’t simply a MHz affair. Copy also enlisted Illogic, Torae, Dilated Peoples, and British crooner Jason Rose (for choral and production duties, he produced 5 tracks here). Though Copy appears in battle form, each song has a concept in the lyrics and/or the song title. It’s this aspect and the fact that every contributor to the album was on their A-game that constitutes one of the album’s major strengths. As to the concepts:
- “J.O.Y”.: Shows Copy and NYC rapper Torae spitting verses about them thumbing their noses at people who wrote them off. Jason Rose is behind the boards and the hook which includes the song title’s acronym “Joke’s on You”.
- “Man-Made”: Features the Rockness Monstah from Heltah Skeltah making social and religious commentary through playing on the term “man-made”
- “White Democrats”: The track is an answer to “Black Republicans” by Nas & Jay-Z. As far as wordplay goes, this is one of the standout tracks. Insane bass on the track and two verses from fellow mid-western emcee Mac Lethal doesn’t hurt none either. Curiously, Mac’s verses are the only ones that are even marginally political to coincide with the title.
As the album progresses, it becomes clear that some tracks have mainstream potential. Pretty much all the tracks that feature Jason Rose on here fit that bill. The most interesting of all is “Yo! MTV Raps (Money for Nothing)”, a modern hip-hop take on the Dire Straits hit “Money For Nothing”. Copy spits a single verse in double-time. A verse so technically accomplished and well-written and executed, it should’ve been quoted in “The Source”:
“Pete’s just mean, spit my Super-Sweet 16 and exit
Direct Effect it
I birth emcees when I preach the message
So my MTV Raps are 16 & Pregnant
And I’m on the grind, you might’ve heard before
And I’m in the game, so I wear a Jersey Shore
Why not? It’s my block, compare me to a Z28 how IROC
I stop, I don’t wanna finish
Pimp my Ride, put it on Xzibit
Fantasy Factor, the kinda kids
swear they original, but they Rob & Big (Robbin’ B.I.G.)
They ain’t such scary O.G. perform on Say What? Karaoke
Love very hokey
When I’m in the night, givin’ the moonlight
In the Real World livin’ the True Life
I’m comin’ at-choo like Gusundheit
God blessed me, but the rest ain’t tuned right
See me rip?
This where the magic happens in the bedroom on MTV Cribs
Get pumped when I’m in the place, hit ’em with the bass
Venomous shit, I get a snake and put him in a cage
There’s four of us chillin’ with my ex-hoes
And my tour bus lookin’ like the next show
XO, sendin’ all of me the love
I always pick “D’s”, they call me ‘All of the Above’
Not Zach Braff til she’s callin’ me a Scrub
Acoustic, I leave MTV Unplugged“
Other strengths include the RJD2-helmed “Synesthesia”, where Copy describes the affliction within the context of creating hip-hop music. The only problem with that track was it was too short. “Talk With Jesus” is reminiscent of “The Convo” by DMX. Copy has an argument with God, each trading verses back-on-forth (with Copy doing both roles, of course). It’s personal, without being preachy which won me over. The beat sounds like what Eminem’s “Til I Collapse” would sound like if gospel was thrown in it. “Golden State of Mind” has him teaming up with Dilated Peoples to describe the beauty of the state of California. The chill beat (courtesy of Vanderslice) and vivid description with the sing-along hook gives it a place with similar songs from 2Pac, LL Cool J, and Biggie. The album’s production is solid and polished, some clearly had radio potential. While all of the tracks are lyrically sound and have varying levels of strength, the only track I thought was weak was the final hidden track “Opium Prodigies” (feat. Illogic). It’s a strong, shit-talking banger helmed by Marco Polo, but it sorta ruins the pensive note the album elicited with the penultimate track.
While the beats and lyrics are keep me hooked, it’s the dichotomy of Peter Nelson that keeps things interesting. It’s akin to a sonic version of having an angel on shoulder and devil on the other. Only, Copy doesn’t choose either one. He chooses both. I guess I should take back that crack about that one weak track. Keeping it in there shows that Copywrite is not absolute, but a man. If hip-hop is an x-gene, and rappers are mutants, then this album shows that Copywrite is a different kind of mutant: An omega-level MC.