Cody Pope is a rapper from New Hampshire who has built himself a cult following through hard work and honest music. Tomorrow night, he’ll be coming through to rock 3rd Thursdays at The Monkey House in Winooski, a venerable hip hop showcase, along with a packed bill of local and national talent. While I’ve always liked what I heard from Pope, I never took a deep dive into his catalog until it was time to do this interview.
Turns out, Cody Pope has serious gravity and serious talent. In fact, I was so distracted by his catalog I almost didn’t finish this interview in time. Every project he makes has an urgent purpose, every song he releases is honed carefully. He took the time to answer some questions about his inspirations, his process and his goals.
VTHH: You have an admirably different approach to bars. Is it safe to say your raps are influenced by a lot of songwriters who never wrote raps?
Cody Pope: First off, thank you for the kind words. In an art form that is saturated with repetition, copycats, redundancy, and lack of effort, it means more than you know to have my lyricism recognized for its own standing ground.
I am absolutely influenced by writers far and wide outside of hip hop. Not even just songwriters but authors in general. Hip Hop is such a beautiful story telling format, if you have an honest story to tell, and can tell it in a way that connects to people opposed to alienating people. I’m heavily inspired by Henry Rollins throughout my life. In addition to that however I’ve gained a lot of perspective and insight into how I can express my life stories from people like Henry Miller, Shinichiro Watanabe, Kevin Smith, Rod Serling, Alfred Hitchcock, and many more as I continue to delve into the history of those who inspired me.
VTHH: What was your introduction to hip hop? Were you sold immediately or did it take time?
Cody Pope: I was very fortunate as a kid when it came to discovering music because I have an older brother and older sister so I was introduced to a ton of music in my youth. My first personal hip hop experience however was ordering from a Columbia Mailing House thing where you pick the stamps and get a zillion CDs for free until your parents get screwed somehow later on. I picked a bunch of CDs including Jay-Z Vol 2 Hard Knock Life, and Blink 182. Those ended up being the first concerts I ever went to as well. Jay Z tour was unreal with how many legendary artists were on the bill, I didn’t even comprehend how legendary it was until I was years older.
Punk Rock and Hip Hop played very important parts of my life growing up, largely due in part to my circles of friends who were already active in music when I was in Junior High. I had friends that rapped incredibly and friends that had raw real punk bands speaking on real shit. It was driven into me that these art forms would follow me on my journey in life.
VTHH: So many of your projects have been tightly thematic -- does that start intentionally or just sort of happen organically? (Or both?)
Cody Pope: Oftentimes I will have an idea or a theme come into my head at a random point and I’ll log it in a note until the time is right. Usually I’ll end up making a song and something about the song will bring me back to one of those ideas and I’ll continue to build in honor of the feelings that made the original theme. I try to write my music like books or movies sometimes where you may not know everything that is gonna happen along the way, but you can dive in based on the theme, aesthetic, or feel of whatever is pulling you in to listen whether it’s artwork, album title, single you heard, etc.
I look at the works of people like David Lynch and Stanley Kubrick, and it’s so beautiful to me how each piece is so vastly different but they all hold a particularly stellar quality that brings you back to the creator. I hope as time continues that my voice and words will leave an undoubtably strong presence amongst music listeners to where it’s no question who made this song or scribed this story.
VTHH: Finally, most of the readers here are, of course, artists themselves. Having helped build a local scene off house parties and DIY options, what advice do you have for cats in rural circumstances trying to found something they can't find?
Cody Pope: My best advice is to create everything that doesn’t exist around you and connect with those better than you at your weaknesses. My city doesn’t have a vast music scene, so when I got into being a solo hip hop artist I was shooting in the dark often blindly hitting up show promoters and sometimes not getting shit in return. If I did get “lucky” I’d be driving 2-3 hours to play for 12 people and not get paid. Do enough of those however and people start to notice.
So eventually my impatience for the world and results drove me to start making it happen. I hosted art and music exhibitions in my apartment and invited artists whom I was just connecting w online and shit. We all forged a strong community for a while in doing house shows and what not and naturally that work gravitated into something bigger. From people seeing those shows we got asked to book venues, then we started trading shows state to state, then that network expanded so much we could tour multiple states. I counted one time a couple years ago for an EPK I was trying to make and I had already done like 500+ shows from 2013-2017. Some were for 10 people in EBF, some were for 500+ people opening for Pete Rock and CL Smooth.
You gotta make the most of the opportunity you get and make all of it count. My whole mentality is build it if you need it. After the shows we took that same energy and opened a recording studio, then we turned the studio into an artspace as well, then we started hosting more shows, eventually we started doing all our own industry style events like listening parties and pop up shops. We would see this online from like big industry rappers and what not, but nobody on our level was executing like this that we had a visual on.