The first thing that caught my attention about CEO Cleezy’s “I Accept Your Apology” (4 Delf Records) was the cover. It reminded me of one of my all time favorite recordings, a 1966 release called “Blonde on Blonde” by Bob Dylan. The photo on the cover was shot by Jerry Schatzberg and was of Dylan in New York City standing outside in winter in front of a brick wall. The photograph was slightly out of focus and a bit blurry. The photographer wanted to discard it and use another shot, but Dylan demanded that Columbia Records use that one for what would soon become the most iconic work thus far in his career. It’s said that when asked why Dylan claimed it represented the way he felt he was viewed by the world around him.
Power requires command. Queens, NY, rapper CEO Cleezy just released “I Accept Your Apology” (4 Delf Records) and already he has many in the hip-hop world saying that this is a record that will command a lot of attention. Why? Well because it’s a cohesive and comprehensive body of work consisting of fourteen tracks that are as intimate as reading someone’s diary yet as grippingly universal as the eternity of death. It’s real and he keeps it one hundred from beginning to end. And the beginning is the best place to start any review.
“I Accept Your Apology” opens with CEO Cleezy’s current radio single called “Fly Away”. Inside the first lines of this song we’re invited to look into his eyes as well as his life. Like a slow funeral march an overall feeling of melancholy permeates this piece. If you sense that there’s more than what he’s telling you about and being offered within the verses and choruses here then you’d be right. Like an iceberg this is just the tip that you’re able to observe while the majority of it remains unseen. As in life it’s often the dangers we don’t see that hurt us the most. The more I listen to “Fly Away” the more I wonder if it was inspired by Mahatma Gandhi’s stirring quote, “You can chain me, you can torture me, you can even destroy my body, but you will never imprison my mind.”
Then, like a flip of a light switch, Cleezy changes it up with “Darling Nikki”. This is unquestionably his club banger. It’s the fast, funky and furious kind of fire starter that gets them up from the tables and away from their bottle buys and onto the dance floor. Even though it clocks in at only 112 BPM, which is a bit below the “disco heaven – 127” BPM DJ formula commonly used, lyrics like “Darling Nikki, I just want a hickey/And throw that thing back like you can’t resist me/And go downtown like you want to lick me/You and me I ain’t talking about a quickie!” fuel it into overdrive.
Confronting the doubts and delusions you live with is the direction “Lifestyle” takes. Against an ostinato motif based on a modal scale repetitively played on the keyboard CEO questions those around him as to what they really know about him. Here again we’re reminded of the blurred and out of focus picture that fronts the “I Accept Your Apology” compilation and the significance it allures to. “Contagious” interestingly experiments with atonality. It eschews the traditional triadic tonal approach and heads deep into a polychodal landscape.
My favorite on “I Accept Your Apology” is the title track. He rides this joint like a rodeo cowboy bare backing it on a bucking bronco. Here CEO Cleezy eliminates any confusion that he’s a boss and you should pity the fool who’d disagree with him. It opens with what sounds like a sci-fi soundtrack sample put through a vari-speed controller resulting in an upward shift from the original pitch. An effect that goes pretty much in the opposite direction from the early chopped and screw/slowed and throwed sound that was coming out of the southern mix labs of the early 1990s. Lyrically it’s a song that speaks volumes on what going on in the world around us these days.
A close contender for my top pick was “Want the Paper”. Once again the direction of where he takes us is unpredictable and before the initial chorus has been completed we’ve entered the trap music universe. The careful enunciation of the CEO’s spit and flow removes most of the obstacles in understanding his message. “Price of Ambition” is the cautionary tale in his library. Rapping his lines at a little under light speed he lays down the law with a warning leaving no ambiguity that you’ve been served by the man.
The instrumentation on “Bad Chic” is a throwback to a solid 1970s Stevie Wonder sound, circa the “Songs in the Key of Life” era. This sonic similarity is also carried over in Cleezy’s “Will You”. On “Scream” we revisit the foray into the atonal and Marvin Gaye even gets name-checked here. A trap music groove and subject matter redux on “I’ll Bring It” is the counterpoint to a Latin rap vibe that pumps up the percussion parts in “Say Goodbye”. Going to the cranked up crunk side is the penultimate cut called “Ghetto”. No better way to wrap up personal package like “I Accept Your Apology” than with a song titled “Just My Thoughts”.
I was unaware of the health issues that CEO Cleezy faced while recording “I Accept Your Apology” and was just informed of them after writing The Review section. During the summer of 2016 he was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer. After the diagnosis and during chemotherapy he soldiered on in the studio to complete this record. Thankfully, through these chemical treatments the cancer is now in remission and his tumor markers and cancer cell count is now down to 500 from a previous high of 17,500. During the recovery he’s made steady donations to The Saint Jude’s Cancer Treatment Center for Children and has announced that 10% of the proceeds from sales of “I Accept Your Apology” are earmarked for The American Cancer Society.
After obtaining this knowledge (and as mentioned above, after writing this review) I’ve listened to this record several more times and feel it has yet an even deeper meaning than I may previously have ascribed of it. Since The Review section was constructed solely from a music analysis point of view I have changed nothing within it. Both The Foreword, and obviously The Postscript sections were then added afterwards.