Thursday, May 15, 2008

Cappadonna - The Pillage

Cappadonna - The Pillage
by Jonah Flicker

The road from top-tier Wu-Tang Clan affiliate to disenchanted, broke-ass gypsy cab driver is apparently a lot shorter than one might think. Just ask Darryl Hill, aka Cappadonna, aka Cappucino, aka “dancehall general, party fanatic colonel.” After knocking it out of the park with guest appearances on Raekwon’s Only Built for Cuban Linx and Ghostface Killah’s Ironman—the latter featuring his incredible extended verse on “Iron Maiden”—he received the esteemed “featuring” credit on Wu-Tang’s 1997 double LP, Wu-Tang Forever. One year later, he released his debut solo album, The Pillage, one of the most sorely overlooked albums of the extended Wu-Tang family. Things descended into disarray from there, culminating in his being airbrushed off the cover of Wu-Tang’s Iron Flag; but these days, Cappa’s relationship with the Clan is back to amicable. And The Pillage remains the best work of this illustrious MC’s career.

Cappadonna specializes in making fast raps sound slow by deftly connecting stream-of-consciousness phrases; the results might sound cut-up and choppy out a lesser MC’s mouth, but flow naturally and precisely when Cappa’s jovial baritone enunciates. The best example is The Pillage’s lead single, “Slang Editorial.” Take a look: “My slang is editorial / Explicit material / Briefcase, yo, live in stereo flow / Feel me, Donna realty / Set the black people free / Killer bees got the best stee.” If that read simplistic and disjointed, it sounds just the opposite over Tru Master’s orchestral funk.

The production on Pillage is above and beyond anything you might hear from the RZA these days, especially in his current “hippie” incarnation. He outsourced most of the beats to a crew of producers: the aforementioned Tru Master, Goldfinghaz, 4th Disciple, and Mathematics. But a track like “Blood on Blood War,” one of the few produced by Mr. Diggs himself, makes one pine for his grimier work of the late ‘90s. “Old Special Ed with the plate in my head / Bad bread, spare life, KKK on the mic,” raps Cappa over RZA’s sinister banger.

But Cappa isn’t limited to word association; for all the accolades Ghostface earns for his tales of crime and life on the run, Cappa was already spinning detailed narratives back on his debut. Though “Run” bears the same title as Ghostface’s 2004 track from The Pretty Toney Album, Cappa’s take on the subject matter is actually more unique and visceral.

As usual, fellow Wu-Tang members are peppered throughout The Pillage—Method Man, Raekwon, Ghost, U-God—but Cappa shines best handling his own business. “Milk the Cow” is such a moment (though Meth does rap the chorus). This is Cappadonna’s version of “walking these dogs to represent Wu,” a reminder of the industriousness one needs to make it in rap. The song also sounds like it could have provided inspiration for M.I.A.’s “Paper Planes,” as a gun cock and blast matches each call-out of “Park Hill projects/ Chicka-pow!”

At sixteen songs, the album has some inevitably weak moments, but those failings are minor. Usually though, shit is just nice: “Everything is Everything,” the stuttering “Splish Splash,” the sentimental “Black Boy.” And what other Wu-Tang member actually had Tekitha rap instead of sing on an album? Never again did Cappadonna manage to match the creativity and intensity he showed here; his two subsequent solo albums were basically a wash, but things are different now than they were in the late ‘90s for both hip-hop and the Wu. Cappadonna shared some strong moments on 8 Diagrams, sure. But it would be nice to hear him shine on his own again, as he has already proven himself more than capable.

Jonah Flicker lives in Los Angeles and has written for Pitchfork Media, LA Weekly, SF Weekly, LA Times, Soma Magazine, and more. He enjoys taco trucks and long walks on the beach.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

I remember I had this album when it came out back in 98'. The album was fire, but wasn't a classic like Cuban Linx, 36 Chambers or Liquid Swords. But Cappadonna is broke for real. I just rode the Greyhound bus with him from Manhattan to Baltimore yesterday (You would never catch Ghost or Rae catching the Greyhound because them niggas got dough and have decent rap careers still). I looked at him hard and he looked at me like "Oh shit, this nigga recognize me", but I didn't say shit to him because I ain't no washed up rapper's groupie. I didn't know if it was him at first, but I finally found out it was him because he graying in his little beard and was rocking the same old ass red Avirex leather he was rocking in recent pictures on the google image search.

January 2, 2010 at 7:05 PM  

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