Lessons From a Legend: Wu-Tang Clan’s Cappadonna


Cappadonna’s contribution to the Wu-Tang Clan’s legend was predated far before his name no longer needed to be credited as a feature on The W. Replaced by Method Man while he served a prison term in the late ’80s, “Cappachino” rhymed his way onto Wu classics like Raekwon’s Only Built 4 Cuban Linx and Ghostface’s Ironman, establishing a permanent place in the Wu.

Fourteen years after dropping his cult classic debut, The Pillage, Cappadonna is back to serve up legions of loyal fans with some Eyrth, Wynd, & Fyre on his seventh album. The Wu legend talked with AllHipHop.com about his lessons learned – from becoming a self-employed taxi driver after being abandoned by the music industry, to accepting Hip-Hop’s evolving sound and keeping the passion for his craft through it all:

On how he is able to find his sound in new producers:

The thing that cracks me the most about putting together the elements or energy that requires me to bring about my flavor, it’s just about getting up early in the morning. Feeling that energy. Feeling that vibe. Feeling that soulful music that keeps taking me back to how I was brought up and how I was raised – and the things that I been through in my life, and all the things that I’ve come through with rap and school. And just trials and tribulations that touch the heart. It touches my heart, so I try to express it in a way that it could touch somebody’s else’s heart. If it was up to me, I would do all of the songs on a soulful melody [laughter] but, you know, I try to mix it up. I try to keep everything soulful for the most part and everything real. And that’s how I establish my sound as far, you know, what I’m looking for. Or what I’m trying to deliver.

On not always relying on Wu-Tang Clan for his own flavor:

Well, I was more or less famous for just a different feel, as far as what people would normally expect from me. To me, every album that I do got to sound like totally different from the other one. I just want to keep it creative. Keep my creative juices flowing. At the same time, I like to deal with brothers that I meet in my travels and in my struggles. And in situations that happened in the spur of the moment, sometimes. It’s not always about concentrating on our original flavor, which is something that we branded, and that’s always going to be. But it’s good to do different things and be able to change and manipulate our arts and crafts.

On lessons learned from leaving Wu-Tang Clan to becoming a self-employed NYC cab driver:

We scientists. We been scientists since [we] was 16, 17. When you’re a scientist, you deal with explosives. You deal with energy.  So it was more or less just a test to see. We always been those inquisitive, knowledgeable MCs. Those poor righteous teachers who are always coming up with something from the Five-Percent Nation. Some psychology, sociology, and astrology. What I’m building up to say is that was an experience to see how people would react. How people would react to approaching me, by being one that come up from the struggle, coming up from the ‘hood, sold crack to get by, made it into the game, and all of sudden didn’t want to sell my soul for the fortune and the fame. Who gave that up, and then went back to doing something regular to see how it would affect the people around me. And for my sanity as well, because sometimes you get a lot of false love. Some people might love you when you up and not when you down. That’s not true love. So, in order for me to have that spirit of consignment, you got to be able to experiment and to see. You got to be tested. God tests his children. [laughter]

So, what I got from it in that text was that…a lot of people gave me more credit for selling crack than driving a car. So I know what type of demographic that needs to be pinpointed in my music now. For someone to come up with a thought like that to test the masses. Even Jesus was denied three times by his disciples. He was running with them. He sold them miracles. They was like, naw, we don’t know him. [laughter] It was like, ‘Capp ain’t a member. [laughter] He was just there. We would just bring him with us, but he wasn’t a member. Is he now in the Clan?’ You know what I mean? It just caused me to do more reflectable music.

On how to survive after feeling abandoned by the industry:

There was abandonment and love, but there was more on the level of industry. The industry will fund somebody as being a breadwinner, as opposed to someone who is just trying to come up in the industry. Your value decreases based upon what you’re doing and not who you are. In other words, look at two righteous men – one being militant and one being religious-based. Let’s look at Martin Luther King and Malcolm X. One turned the cheek, and one believed in an eye-for-an-eye, but then again, they both died the same way.

On keeping his passion to create Hip-Hop music:

Well, before the industry, I was in the streets. I’m going to always be able to reflect back on that. And that’s what is keeping me grounded. I even had to test myself. While I was testing others, I also had to test myself first. I just learned that from that. It keeps me humble, and it keeps me grounded. It gives me opportunity to come with better verbal, you know, for my albums to come. This is a closing of a chapter right here. We going into 2013, so now I can come with a clean slate, and I can come with some fresh new music and reap the harvest.

On being accepting of Hip-Hop’s new sounds:

I learned to accept the evolution of music, the evolving. Hip-Hop is only 30 years old. It’s like, I’ve watch it changed. As as kid, I would always wonder who’s going to be the next person, what’s going to go down, oh, this is ill. Hip-Hop is the greatest. It’s this wonderful thing. Brothers coming up out the ‘hood and crafting to make a living, to express feelings and emotions that is changing the course of our economic development. To think about that from a young age, and now being a part of it as a pioneer and one who has paved to the way for the artist who has becometh?! It’s just crazy. I don’t have nothing to say, but just thank you. Thank you…for the whole interview. [laughter]

Yes, it has been changed. Them old cars ain’t what it used to be. Matter fact, everything for that matter, man. Nothing in life stays the same. If you are not going to accept the change, then that’s going to make things stuck. You stuck right there. You still trying to fit in a five, homie. It’s like when our parents wore the straight leg at the bottom, we used to go get them like that then take them to the cleaners and be like ‘you got to fix that.’ [laughter] And now, we mad at the little homies, man. We got much more training to do. We the poor righteous teachers.

On Hip-Hop’s shift in “10-year terms”:

Hip-Hop was already at a state of alert when we came in. Think about it. We was like ‘who is going to be the next people?’ Because it was going down for a minute, at that first term. We like in the third term right now. Every 10 years, history repeats itself. For one 10 years, it was the East Coast. Another 10 years, it was the West Coast. And then we start beefing. While we start beefing and fighting, the South snuck in there and just…they didn’t have to. The door was wide open! N*ggas was fighting, and they was like ‘Yo guess what? We in here now yo, YOO!’ They came with that accent and started to reign.