ThankGod4Cody is responsible for some of SZA’s greatest hits to date: “Love Galore” featuring Travis Scott, “The Weekend,” and “Broken Clocks.” While many may assume he’s an R&B guy from those standout singles on her critically-acclaimed album CTRL, that was actually his first time experimenting with the sound. His original attempt as a producer was for a rapper, but this opportunity came knocking at his door.
Now he’s ready to go full-fledged with his own artistry, proving you don’t have to be boxed into one lane. Hailing from Memphis, Tennessee, Cody proved himself last year with his debut project titled Cody of Nazareth, which has since garnered over 1.5 million streams with endless cosigns from the industry. Of course, SZA did not hesitate in showing her support by posting the album to her Instagram feed.
Now in 2020, Cody releases his most powerful record yet: “Light My Way.” The song arrives in perfect timing with the #BlackLivesMatters movement, giving listeners a beacon of hope that there’s a light at the end of this tunnel. From COVID-19 to the George Floyd incident, Cody creates music to preserve our mental health.
Flaunt caught up with ThankGod4Cody via FaceTime, who just woke up from a midday nap in his home in Malibu. Read below as we discuss his upbringing in Memphis, how he ended up producing for SZA, the meaning behind “Light My Way,” goals, and more!
Being from Memphis, what was the household like growing up?
In the 90’s, Memphis and the South were a real bible belt. Christianity’s very strong, Black religion and black Christianity was very strong. A whole lot of different branches, but Christianity period is extra strong. I wasn’t allowed to even watch Pokemon because my parents thought they were demons. I wasn’t allowed to celebrate Halloween, up until eighth grade right before high school. I didn’t get to listen to music with cursing until my older sister started sneaking burnt CDs, I’d sneak listen to her burnt CDs from local artists like Gotti or Frayser Boy. The first full-length album I listened to was Kanye’s College Dropout.
What do you like about Kanye?
I like the soulful sound. I like that he mixed in meaningful lyrics, but made them easy to digest. I really liked the beats, the beats went crazy. His production is A1.
When did you realize you could do music as a career?
When I got my opportunity to produce with SZA on the CTRL album, it became real real. “Okay, I can do more than live off of this. I can really take this far because my sound’s being accepted on such a wide level right now.”
How did you link with SZA?
Man, being in the right place at the right time. We’d always cross paths. I was staying with a mutual friend of ours who rapped. She’d come through there, we’d link. One day I was in a random living room, working on a beat. She heard the beat, took it and it ended up being her single “Sobriety.” We kept in touch, then finally linked up again and worked on her album. A pretty wild experience.
I know you said CTRL was a new lane of R&B for you.
That’s my first time producing R&B. I was just with a rapper trying to get on his album, the opportunity didn’t work out. This opportunity was in my face so I had to adjust very fast. Had to go for it, there weren’t any other options. It was a natural fit because I wasn’t trying to make a R&B beat with “Sobriety.” It was happening. Kept trying my hardest to go in that lane, studying great R&B music. Really trying to mold that part of my production.
What did you learn about yourself, stepping into this new sound?
I learned that I could be great. [chuckles] I learned the potential I see within myself was real.
I needed to keep working and tapping into that potential, that it wouldn’t come easy. Leveling up doesn’t come easy, it takes a lot of patience and time. Nothing happens on your time, it takes a crazy amount of work.
What was it like to have CTRL skyrocket to what it became? That was huge.
It was! It was huge. I knew the music we’re making was fire to me, but I didn’t know how it’d be perceived by the world. I’ve never gotten the opportunity to put my sound out on that level. When that happened, I was still totally broke. Crazy broke, I had literally zero dollars in my account while the album’s going up. But that’s the happiest moment of being broke I’d experienced because I knew it was over. I literally went from zero dollars into my account to a crazy amount in a snap, pretty crazy.
“Love Galore,” “The Weekend,” “Broken Clocks,” those are her biggest records. You got plaques in your crib?
Yeah, I gave them to my parents. I didn’t give them any degrees to hang up [chuckles], I had to give them something.
This whole time, were you wanting to be your own artist and producing fell into your lap?
Yeah, I’d present her song ideas too. We had a couple songs we made together in that little process, that I only kept as demos (rightfully so). I didn’t have the real confidence to put out a full project, but I was always recording. Staying at people’s houses, I’d be in the bathroom sitting on the toilet recording, out in my car, in the driveway with the laptop on the seat beside me. I was definitely always recording my own songs. The best producers are also great songwriters and artists, I’ve been trying to take it there for a minute.
I saw SZA support you on Instagram when you released your project too!
It meant a lot because it really got a lot more eyes onto the project. We’re really friends so it was expected, but still appreciated I had a friend that’d actually do that for me.
What’s one thing you want fans to get from Cody of Nazareth?
It’s okay to be a fan of all types of music. One project doesn’t have to be in one singular lane. It’s okay to express yourself in all types of ways that you feel fit, that you feel comfortable and are natural and genuine.
You released “Light My Way.” How important is it to create music to give hope during these times?
It’s almost a responsibility to artists, who really care about the people and to make songs that inspire other people. As an artist, you want your work to inspire. You want to be so great that it inspires somebody else to do better. Especially during these times, it’s good to give people an escape. You can log on to your phone right now and see the worst of the world everyday on social media. It’s good to provide people with an escape from the bullshit going on, especially if you can. If you’re able to do that, if it’s in your power. I’d be wasting my talent if I didn’t do that.
What were you going through when you recorded that record?
Man, I wrote it in my backyard. We’re all going through something, period. Especially in 2020, everybody’s going through so much back to back. When I was in London and got away from America, I recorded the real version out right now at Church Studios over there. It’s always crazy to see the difference in how I’m treated in America compared to overseas. It’s not the best, but it’s way different being black in America than being black overseas in the UK. I still listen to it while I go through things now, it helps me get through shit.
Kisha said you were arrested for doing nothing? A lot of my friends were.
Yes, I was arrested for trying to leave the protest. [chuckles] It was trash. I’d gone through protesting for 2 to 3 hours, I was up from the night before because I was so worked up looking at the videos. Fuck, I had to go do something. Went out to these protests, couldn’t watch this shit no more. I ran into friends out there, walked with them for 3 hours then decided to walk back to where we started from. I walked into a fucking warzone. Police cars burning, police are shooting rubber bullets into the crowd randomly. I actually separated myself from the crowd after seeing all that, I was trying to get past it to my motorcycle but it was blocked.
This was in Los Angeles?
Yeah, this was on Fairfax. I was sitting next to the Golf store, then I saw the police start coming my way down the street down Fairfax. They said “whoever’s in this area is getting arrested, stop moving.” I was trying to go between the stores to make my way through the neighborhood. About 50 police came up the alley in army form and blocked off the alley, told me to go the opposite way. I turned around, 2 lines of police cornered me. Turned around again, they had the guns pointed at me and told us to get on the ground.
Damn, I’m sorry that happened.
They put us on the prisoner transfer bus, we’re locked in a cage on the bus zip-tied for hours. My phone died, they let us out on the street in Van Nuys. I had to catch a ride with a random person that I got freed with, back to the bullshit to get on my bike. Then tried to make it home without getting stopped again.
What was your creative vision with the “Emotional” visual?
As soon as you progress in your area of work or in your career, maybe people around you haven’t reached that same progress, you start realizing who’s really cheering you on and who’s really wants you to be on the same level forever. They don’t want to feel they’re being left behind. This is crazy, the video’s supposed to be based on the scene in the Batman movie Dark Knight, where the Joker’s in the factory with the big pile of money. The dude’s sitting on top of it, then burnt the money. But I have to pay for all the videos myself right now [laughs], so it ended up being what it is.
How do you create a vibe in the studio?
Listening to really good music that makes me want to create something great. I have a snack, it might be some fruit, PB&J, or some popcorn. Something nice to drink. I create a nice environment where I’m not hungry and I’m inspired. Listening to good music reminds me of the quality of music I’m trying to stay at before I start creating.
Goals for yourself as an artist at this point?
Building my tribe of people who vibe with the music I vibe with. Another goal is to really get my vision executed at the highest level possible visually. Keep inspiring listeners, keep making music that uplifts listeners.