Filed under: Interviews,Rap Veterans,Staten aka Shaolin,Video Clips,Wu-Tang Is For The Children
Written by: Robbie Ettelson
Cappadonna released a new double album last month titled Eyrth, Wynd and Fyre, which focused on more message-orientated tracks. I caught up with him for a quick discussion that provided as many jewels as it did dead-ends. He also explained he makes his music “the best way I know how, by milking this cow”, which makes me wish that more MC’s would answer questions in rhyme form.
Robbie: Ghost and Rae told me you were the Slick Rick of Staten Island. Do you agree?
Cappadonna: It just came from where we was at and where we were brought-up, just coming from Brooklyn and Staten Island. A lot of my friends were from different places, like from Queens and The Bronx, so it was a collaboration of all of those styles that was put together. We had brothers before us that was into fly things and rapping and fashion, so I mainly looked-up to cats from around my way. Mainly my brother Sham God, Ice, Ugar, Jerry G and all of ‘em. Irwin, The Villas. Phase 3, the Freedom Machine, Party Doctors, The Force MD’s. All of that was right at our fingertips, all the time. At an early age I was already mimicking some of the great styles and great flavors that caused my peers to be attracted to it. We bounced flavors around on each other, but I’m glad that my brothers feel like I put some flavor in they ear.
What made you start rhyming?
I met RZA rhyming with one of the great, iconic guys from the hood, his name was Scotty Wotty. We call him Jackpot today. He has a feature on U-God’s last album. He inspired us a lot. We got our inspiration from our hood first, and then it trickled into Slick Rick and MC Shan and Dana Dane. I’m from that era.
Were you called Cappadonna then?
At that time everybody just called me Original, because of the things I was doin’ and the way that I was, because I was original – often imitated, hardly duplicated! I was the first one to come out with the red striped shirt. I was the first one to come out with the green and white Uptowns. I was the first one to come out with the red, white and blue Helly Hanson. I was the first one to come out with the fade! I was the first one to get six gold teeth in my mouth! That right here made me Original, that was first name and then Cappadonna came. I got that name from my brother – Cappadonna, Cappa Slappa! They used to call me Cappa Slappa and I just changed it to Cappadonna.
When did you start making demos?
I was just doing demos, just rapping, nothing serious. I didn’t get serious until it got serious on me! Other than that tt was just a hobby, it was something I did in the lobby. I love it, and I still do it to today.
What do you mean “got serious”?
When they went mainstream, when I got a deal. When they went to the public, when you start getting “Ice Cream” and all of that. When it became a career, when I began making money off of it. I only come in when it’s time to do my part. I sprinkle through a few albums here and there, and then I do my solo work.
Your verse on “Winter Warz” is considered one of the best guest spots in hip-hop. Can you tell me about making that track?
I believe it was just my time to shine. I think that was the ultimate fifteen minutes of fame, coming in. That was a moment in my life that brought changes to my life, and I’m grateful and thankful for that.
“Don’t Turn Around” was another great track.
Thank-you. It was something that I needed to do to be able to balance out my emotions about my family and about my business, having gone so many places in the world and still being able to be grounded. Family and friends – it meant a lot to me, and that was the song that I cried the most on when I was making it.
The strain of touring a lot must be tough.
It can be strenuous as far as your personal life, because it feels like you’re being neglectful of the the things you love the most, which is family. From the outside looking in, even family members can take it as, “You’re out there having fun, while we’re stuck here!”. Just a lot of different energies – sometime it can be envious, sometimes it can be egotistical. Just knowing that this can happen makes me focused on getting in and out and having respect for it.
Last time I caught you performing at the Mobb Deep reunion show in 2011 you seemed to have a lot of energy as far as dance moves and whatnot. Is that standard for you?
That’s normally how I get the energies flowing. Just catching that spirit and feeling good about what I’m doing and doing it all the way live. If I feel like dancing, if I feel like running across the stage, splittin’, breakdancing and doing a flip, I just go ahead and feel perfectly obliged to do that, and a lot of the time the crowds reaction is, “More!” [laughs].
Do you ever do The Wop?
Exactly! Wop till ya head drop! I be feeling that shit.
Do you still drive cabs?
I’m not doing the cabs right now, man, I had to quit my second job and spend more time rapping and with the family.
“‘97 Mentality” was another quality track.
That was just me rapping, I wasn’t trying to deliver a real message or anything. Just a quick collage of a couple of things that were going on. Just the state of mind that I was in, that’s all.
I’ve read that MF Doom was inspired by your music while he was making Operation: Doomsday. He would listen to The Pillage and drink whiskey.
Hmm, that’s what’s up, man. I’m glad that he found something in there that was right for him. I hope that I can keep doing the same thing for the next generation and those that are coming behind me and shine and get a piece of the action as well.
Is there still a place for super-lyrical rap?
I listen to whatever I feel like listening to at that time. A lot of the times I might just want to hear some old disco or some old neo-soul. I might not even want to hear no hip-hop. I might listen to jazz! My variety in music is mad different. Like today, I tried to listen to some Ill and Al Skratch! There’s so much music out here, we forget that we’ve got classic old school hip-hop too! The same way you can listen to some old Patti LaBelle and some old Gladys Knight and the Pimps [sic], you can rock out to some old Spoonie Gee! Go through the archives, get a little Camp Lo in your game, Smooth B. PM Dawn had a couple of good hits, too. They wasn’t the greatest but they had a couple of joints. I like a lotta laid-back, smooth stuff. Just some real nice music, man.
“Puffed On Pride”
“Don’t Turn Around”
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