Sunday, September 03, 2006


Cappadonna (b. circa 1969) was one of the last members to join The Wu-Tang Clan. He had known the members since grade school in Staten Island, and he had even decided at the age of 15 that he could write and perform lyrics. It wasn't until 1995, however, that he made his recorded debut, appearing on Raekwon's Only Built 4 Cuban Linx album. With that album, he became an official member of The Wu-Tang Clan, and from there on out, he frequently appeared on Wu records. In 1996, he played a large role on hostface Killah's Ironman. During 1997, his Wu apprenticeship continued, as he rapped on The Clan's second album, Wu-Tang Forever.Cappadonna's solo debut, The Pillage, finally appeared in March 1998. Like any Wu project, the record featured RZA as the executive producer and cameos from a number of other Wu members, including Method Man, U-Cool, and Raekwon. As the sixth Wu solo project, the album was an instant success upon its release, debuting at number three on the charts. A sophomore effort, The Yin & The Yang, followed in early 2001.

Cappadonna - The Pillage (Mar 24, 1998)

By the time Cappadonna released his solo debut album The Pillage in the spring of 1998, the Wu-Tang sound as masterminded by The RZA had become familiar. That's not to say that it was played out, however. The RZA's skeletal, menacing production is bracing even after it's become familiar, which is to Cappadonna's benefit, since The Pillage doesn't really expand the Wu sound any further. With producer cohorts Goldfinghaz and Tru Master, The RZA has re-created his signature sound; while it sounds terrific, it nevertheless will be a little frustrating, since not only does it lack the thrill of the new, but the album isn't as focused as such previous RZA/Wu masterpieces as Raekwon's Only Built 4 Cuban Linx and Genius' Liquid Swords, which both found individual voices within RZA's sound. Cappadonna, in contrast, is a foot soldier, capable of turning out great songs ("The Pillage," "Splish Splash," "Dart Throwing"), but also capable of just going through the motions. Consequently, The Pillage packs more punch than the average late-'90s hip-hop record, but it doesn't reach the dazzling standards of past Wu classics.

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Cappadonna - The Yin and the Yang (Nov 2001)

A year after the breath of fresh air that was Wu-Tang Clan's The W, major members RZA and Ghostface Killah both deflated the balloon with mostly disappointing solo albums. At the tail end of 2001, Wu associate Cappadonna dropped his own sophomore joint, and though he does fulfill the promise in the intro that "you gonna hear a lot of different things," The Yin and the Yang can't break the increasing curse on Wu-Tang solo albums. Cappadonna starts off with a few string-heavy, soul-sampling productions by his usual partners (8-Off The Assassin, True Master, Neonek), spitting solid mushmouthed rhymes, trying (and usually failing) to capture the obtuse metaphysics of Method Man and Ol'Dirty Bastard. Of course, it's difficult to take the apocalyptic philosophizing on "Bread of Life" at face value, especially coming after a degrading track like "Super Model." The flip side of The Yin and the Yang is more promising; "Love Is the Message" is a distinct detour, sampling the hit of the same name by M.F.S.B. for an intriguing, swinging track. Cappadonna also joins forces with the So So Def crew (specifically, Jermaine Dupri and Da Brat) for another highlight, "We Know." Though his rapping ranks above the norm, The Yin and the Yang doesn't live up to expectations for Wu-Tang fans.

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Cappadonna - The Struggle (Sep 30, 2003)

Two years after Epic Records hastily booted Cappadonna back into the hip-hop underground despite the promise of his fine debut album, the rapper returned bitterly with The Struggle, his first indie release, which promised to detail his post-Wu-Tang struggle to exist. The hunger is definitely here, as Cappadonna has never sounded this driven (skip to the last track, "Struggle With This"), yet stripped bare of his Wu affiliates and major-label budget, he sounds sadly plain. It's not so much the rapping that comes across as run of the mill — Cappadonna is a fiery MC with a firm grasp of drama and an emotive delivery — but it's rather the production and songwriting that underwhelm. Fourth Disciple delivers a dark, moody Wu-esque production ("Blood Brothers") that longtime fans will savor, but it's unfortunately his only contribution. Elsewhere, Calogero helms the majority of the tracks, while Soulfingaz, Remedy, Quasi, and Big Mizza each produce a couple. These producers are surely capable talents, who seem to be balancing RZA's trademark Wu sound with their own individual styles; however, despite occasional moments of heat ("Role of a Lifetime," "Get Away from the Door," "Season of da' Vick"), the beats sound a little flat, partly because of the low budget. It doesn't help, though, that the songwriting is lackluster throughout. The tracks have serviceable hooks, but they aren't catchy at all. Moreover, the songs are simply arranged into three-minute verse-hook-verse structures that present no surprises whatsoever. Despite The Struggle's shortcomings, it does have its merits, above all an earnest tone. Cappadonna isn't posturing — he's genuinely struggling here, as even a quick listen will prove, and he's firmly underground, as the low-budget sound makes all too clear. Despite his efforts here, however, the Wu expatriate can't match the verve of his previous albums for Epic, and relative to those albums, The Struggle sounds plain despite Cappadonna's heartfelt intentions.

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