Thursday, March 28, 2013

Cappadonna, the Fading Dart Specialist

After Wu-Tang Clan’s second album Wu-Tang Forever marked the end of the RZA’s five-year plan, the generals dispersed to focus on their own projects. RZA, freed from the responsibility of overseeing every Wu-Tang solo album, turned his attention to an odd but worthwhile solo project, Bobby Digital in Stereo, and to expanding the Wu-Tang empire. RZA’s two record labels, Wu-Tang Records (distributed by Priority/EMI) and Razor Sharp Records (distributed by Epic) began putting out records by members of the Wu-Tang b-team, the Killa Bees.[1] Great albums by affiliates like Killarmy, Sunz of Man, and Shyheim are minor classics of the post-Forever period, but no Killa Bee album[2] was better than Cappadonna’s 1998 debut The Pillage.[3]

Cappadonna was on a hot streak leading up to The Pillage, with incredible verses on Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… and Ironman (including the best verse he’s ever spit, on “Winter Warz”), and aside from a few bum tracks The Pillage lived up to his early promise. The album’s first track[4] “Slang Editorial” introduced fans to Cappadonna the solo artist. Wu-Element producer True Master’s O.V. Wright sampling beat lurches uneasily with the horn sample frequently cutting off abruptly, a perfect fit for Cappadonna’s occasionally (but endearingly) awkward flow and claims that his and the rest of the Clan’s lyrics would set black people free.[5]

The Pillage went Gold and marked the end of Cappadonna’s rise. Having peaked early, the quality of his rapping grew wildly inconsistent, and his second solo album, 2001’s The Yin and the Yang, was terrible. A string of more bad solo records was interrupted by a brief and supposedly self-imposed period of homelessness and he all but disappeared from Clan-affiliated records. His time away seemed to improve his abilities, and he returned with great verses on 8 Diagrams, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… Pt. II, and Apollo Kids, and the lackluster The Pilgrimage and Eyrth, Wynd, and Fyre albums haven’t done too much to dampen excitement among Wu-Tang stans for Cappa’s long-in-the-works sequel to The Pillage.

Unfortunately, “Slang Editorial Part 2,” the first song from The Pillage 2, is awful. DJ Intrigue’s beat features practically non-existent drums, an obnoxious and poorly chopped up vocal sample over the same horn sample used in the first “Slang Editorial,” and an amateurish and sloppy scratch hook. Lyrically, Cappadonna isn’t much more than a shell of his former self, but he shows brief flashes of the fire behind some of his recent guest verses. The song’s association with The Pillage and the original “Slang Editorial” ultimately highlights “Slang Editorial Part 2”’s faults in a way that wouldn’t have happened if this was just another average late period Cappadonna song.

Raekwon set the bar so high with his own sequel to his classic debut that any rapper trying to do the same has no choice but to rise to those standards.[6] I really hope The Pillage 2 turns out well. Cappa’s been working hard the past few years, and he deserves a win, but with “Slang Editorial Part 2” he isn’t doing anything to prove that he has it in him anymore.

[1] U-God, apparently the only Clan member unable to get a record deal with a major label, also put out his debut solo album through Wu-Tang Records.
[2] With the possible exception of Killah Priest’s Heavy Mental.
[3] Cappadonna’s status as the tenth member of the Wu-Tang Clan has been all over the place over the last decade and a half, but at this time he was still being listed as a featured artist on Clan albums so I’m counting him as a Killa Bee.
[4] Also the first of two singles from the album.
[5] The video also notably featured Tony Sirico, best known for playing Paulie Walnuts on The Sopranos, in one of many “generic mafia guy” roles he’s played throughout his career.
[6] I’m looking at you Ghostface and GZA. Supreme Clientele 2 and Liquid Swords 2 better be mind-blowing if they ever come out.

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