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Chocolate Genius

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Chocolate Genius is the brainchild of Marc Anthony Thompson, an eclectic singer/songwriter who released two solo albums under his own name during the '80s. Thompson was born in Panama, raised in California, and later moved to New York, where he became involved in the downtown avant-garde scene. When his solo career (which included albums in 1984 and 1989) hit a dead end, Thompson made that downtown scene his focal point, most notably recording with guitarist Marc Ribot in the mid-'90s. Thompson originally conceived Chocolate Genius as a reclusive, self-important alter ego, but the joke soon turned into a full-fledged recording project. The Chocolate Genius supporting band was a loose, free-floating collective of Thompson's downtown cronies, including Ribot, cellist Jane Scarpantoni (plus several other ex-Lounge Lizards), keyboardist John Medeski and bassist Chris Wood of Medeski, Martin & Wood, guitarist (and fellow singer/songwriter) Chris Whitley, and ex-Living Colour guitarist Vernon Reid, among others. Thompson's debut as Chocolate Genius was Black Music, released in 1998. Its eclectic fusion of genre-bending R&B (Sly Stone, Prince, Stevie Wonder), jazz experimentation, and indie singer/songwriter depression (Mark Eitzel, Elliott Smith, Tom Waits) drew many favorable reviews and earned the auteur behind Chocolate Genius a spot in the emerging neo-soul movement. In the wake of Black Music, Thompson scored the film Urbania and the theatrical production A Huey P. Newton Story, among several other side projects. In 2001, he returned with a second Chocolate Genius album, the acclaimed Godmusic. Black Yankee Rock followed four years later. ~ Steve Huey

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