For most true ghetto-raised and respected emcees that have sipped from the cup of international success, the hip-hop journey is often one of urban enlightenment and universal illumination. Multiply both by mad skilled microphone combat on the front lines of Wu-Tang Clan’s infamous Killer Bees army, along with the 1998 success of the groundbreaking Gold-selling solo set, AFRICAN KILLER BEES PRESENTS: THE PILLAGE, and one stellar name emerges — CAPPADONNA.
Now, signed directly to Epic records, 2001 ushers in the newest and strongest musical chapter in Cappa’s ever-evolving hip-hop story. Entitled THE YIN & THE YANG, and spearheaded by the blazin’, hard-core, Tru Master produced lead single “Supermodel” (featuring the Wu-crew’s Ghostface Killah), it’s a lethal album of lyrical substance, powerhouse production and unique, straight from the street performances. “Throughout my career people have tried to label what I do, but I can’t even do that, and wouldn’t if I could,” says New York based Cappadonna, the last to join the Wu-Tang Clan, and the first to admit he wants to elevate his individual artistic identity. “This album,” he adds, “reflects the real me, the good and the bad, the sinful and the spiritual, in short, the Yin and the Yang,”
With all due respect to Tyra Banks, Veronica Webb, Iman and other extremely famous sisters who sport the title, “Supermodel” isn’t a simple tribute to their curvy bodies and larger than life images. No, in his own, raw, explicit, spiritually motivated, down to the bone style, Cappadonna, along with Ghostface, uses the term to address sexual superficiality and male dominated exploitation — ghetto style. “From an urban perspective,” Cappadonna explains, “it deals with the beauty of females, the fact that most of them want to be models, and how brothers use that mentality in relationships with them to do and get what they want. It also separates the independent ladies from the anything goes groupies. And although it’s a real tight track, the lyrics may rub some people the wrong way. But then, again, there’s that Yin and Yang, the balance of life, the two sides to every story thing?”
There may be two sides to every story; however reading between the lines is also an essential part of experiencing THE YIN & THE YANG. “My job is to make people think, or at least give them something real to think about when they’re listening to my joints,” says Cappadonna, who, in addition to Ghostface, also enlisted two other Wu-Tang members for his album: Reakwon The Chef and Killah Priest. In addition to an explosive guest shot from Shyheim The Rugged Child, Da Brat, also adds fierce female flavor to the new Cappadonna mix. Jermaine Dupri, her discoverer and mentor, is also on board. “Although I’m proud of The Pillage and what it did for me as a solo artist,” advises Cappa, “I feel that this album is the one that gives people the 360 degree Capadonna experience. From the production, to the guest artists, to the songs I wrote, and the spittin’ I do on the mic, I’m putting it all out there for everybody to see, hear and feel.”
THE YIN & THE YANG offers stinging urbanized impressions, laced with ghettoized spiritual awareness that remain indelibly imprinted on one’s mind long after the CD takes it’s last spin. Urban reality based and Black history and culture motivated, in addition to “Supermodel,” which is visually represented by a steamy, state-of-the-art video filmed in Miami (and brilliantly directed by Justice), other radical rap blessed cuts include: “Straw Rats,” which, in addition to its bangin’ beats and ferocious flows, addresses institutional storm trooper mentality, and self destructive ghetto behavior; “We Know,” produced by Jermaine Dupri, is a positive affirmation of collective urban intelligence, that also features Da Brat; “Bread Of Life,” featuring lethal guest raps from its producer, Neonek, and Killah Priest, is a hardcore “each one teach one” spiritually spawned message about life’s trials, tribulations and wrath of the Creator; “Save The Children,” a smoothly syncopated, eye opening jam, pinpointing the eve of mental and physical destruction of ghetto children and society’s obligation to come to their rescue; and “Love is the Message,” which liberally samples MFB’s 1970’s classic funky dance cut , and features Raekwon, is an upbeat, feel good, get down, party up joint, guaranteed to rock the clubs in 2001.
A student of classic urban based music and their importance to today’s artists, Cappadonna comments on where he gets his most of his creative inspiration. “I listen to the messages of people like Martin Luther King and Malcolm X, and I read the Torah, Bible, and Koran, so I’m influenced by all of that, plus my ghetto experiences, and trying to master this music game come into play also. With all of that in the mix, I know that my music has to make a difference by speaking the truth. See. Most of the time people get so caught up in an artist just for the beat or the music itself, they miss the message of lyrics and/or the spirituality an artist is trying to hip them to. I want people that get into my songs to not only have mad love for the production and beats, but most of all, the truth in the words, and the spirituality that is inside of me. If I can’t kick it with substance and knowledge, then I can’t kick it at all.”
Born in Brooklyn and raised in Staten Island, Cappadonna bonded with members of Wu-Tang Clan in preschool. Little did he know at that time, these were the brothers who one day would launch his successful music career. At age 15, Cappa knew he had a gift to write poems describing the trials and tribulations about growing up socially, politically and economically deprived in Black America. He then began writing rhymes, and mastering the microphone.
After making a name for himself as a featured artist on the best selling solo sets of Raekwon and Ghostface Killah, and blessing Wu-Tang’s second album with more of his introspective lyrics, Cappadonna emerged as a solo artist, vastly experienced and more than ready for the world, as THE PILLAGE established him as a formidable artist in his own right. However, frankly speaking, even if he weren’t the well versed, globally known performer he is, Cappadonna would still be a lyricist because of the wisdom he speaks and the truth he expresses in his every day life.
Fortunately for us all, he uses his talent, connections, and personal experiences for his art form. Nevertheless, he acknowledges that it does take a village to raise its children, and that self-motivation also speaks volumes. “We got to come together on a spiritual, tribal basis. With that in effect, no matter where you come from sooner or later you figure out you do have choices, and that you’ve got to choose the greater good.”
Good to go, all the way to the top as “Supermodel,” initially paves the way; its obvious Cappa is an artist with enormous confidence in himself, and the wisdom to heed the valuable life lessons his mother imparted early on. “She told me when I was stressed out, all I had to do was put my best out. At this stage of the game,” he concludes, “The Yin & The Yang’ shows me at my best. But as good as it is, it’s not as good as it’s going to get. Believe it, son, there’s a lot more ill s–t to come from Cappadonna.”