During the mid to late 90s, Cappadonna spit deadly verses alongside his fellow Wu-Tang killer bees on “Ice Cream,” “Triumph” and “Daytona 500.” But those bars were nothing compared to Donna’s masterpiece: the final verse on “Winter Warz.”
Darryl Hill held a clinic on how to rap well. He effortlessly delivered some of the most entertaining verses on any Wu release, a huge achievement considering the quality of the Clan’s early work. In around sixty seconds Cappa Donna Goines rapped old English, rhymed a numerical code, compared himself to Freddie Kruger, put his face on a $20 bill and threateningly used the word “discombobulate.”
Cappadonna’s first album, The Pillage remains one of the most underrated releases from the Wu golden era and it seemed like he was only a small step behind Raekwon and Ghostface. Unfortunately, the Clan’s energies dissipated and his later career was inconsistent despite releasing a largely unnoticed, but quality project called The Pilgrimage in 2011. His latest album, Earth, Wind & Fyre is out now.
We spoke about the ups and downs of his career including recording in the first Wu Tang mansion, being voluntarily homeless, claims that his manager was a police informant and sharing his lyrics with other Wu members. Cappadonna also laughed hysterically while telling me about the time he almost fought a midget Kiss tribute band, so you should read that. —Jimmy Ness
In the early days, local rappers including some of the Wu Tang Clan called you the Staten Island Slick Rick?
The Slick Rick of Staten Island, yup. Because that’s the style that I had, you know. I had the clothes plus I had the big jewellery. Even when I was young I was doing that. I was wearing slacks. I didn’t wear jeans until I was about 18 years old. I dressed like a gentleman with slacks and dress shirts and wore stuff like that to school. I took a brief case to high school instead of a school bag [laughs.] Book bags were disgusting to me. I didn’t want to have anything on my back, you know what I mean? I was like “I’m so fly, I’m gotta put my books in this.”
Method Man said you were the best rapper he knew in the 80s and you would use each other’s rhymes in your music. Is there a particular rhyme that we might know from the Wu albums that was originally yours?
Most of my early demos were by myself, but me and Meth did some demos. We used to hook a speaker up to the window and make mixtapes.
I had so many different lines. I can’t even remember all of them myself, but we all used a little bit of each other’s stuff. I think one of them was “life is hectic” [The final lines from Inspectah Deck’s verse on Cream] or something like that. There were a couple of joints. “Life is hectic” was a song that me, Rae and Meth had a long time ago. We all basically took pieces of that and used it in other songs like “Cream.” Meth got so many songs on his album, I probably didn’t even hear them all. We just do stuff like that. Even like “love is love.” It just so happened it was part of another song and it just went well, so we’ve got: “Love is love love, love is love love” and that’s not even my song, it’s Meth’s song. [Cappadonna is referring to the hook he uses on Method Man’s track “Sweet Love.”]
What about “Run?” You used lines about running from the police on your album The Pillage, then Ghostface Killah made a very similar song on Supreme Clientele?
Yeah, Ghost took a lot of reference from the “Run” I did to do his “Run,” and he reworded it a little bit, but basically wrote the same song. A lot of cats did “Run.” Juvenile did his “Run.” Xzibit did a “Run.” They all basically came after the captain. They took a little piece of that, it was good and they just wanted to do it over man. It’s flattering.
When you were in prison, Method Man replaced you in the Wu Tang Clan. How did you feel about the success they were having at the time?
I felt great for them, but when I was in prison I was in combat mode. While they were doing all that, I was in Rikers Island like Three Upper. They call it 374: Adolescents At War. So I was in there. Big up to all my niggas locked up. It was about survival. So when all of my dogs were popping off and on the TV, niggas already knew that I was from Shaolin. They knew that I had skills on the mic. I wasn’t going around about all that though. I was focusing on my bid and after I got out of Rikers Island, I went straight up North. I went to Fishscale, from Fishscale I went to Elmira. I was in the hub for a little while, out all night and all that. So through that whole transition I been popping darts off and watching the Wu Tang grow and watching them do what they doing. Everyone knew I was a close affiliate. I had pictures and all that, of my brothers, with my brothers and when I got back, you know I didn’t pursue no music. I wasn’t looking to get on or nothin. I felt great about everything that was going on, but I had a different thing that I wanted to do. I was a hustler, I was just a hustler man, you know?
Tell us about when you did get back in the studio with them?
At that time, studios weren’t popular like that. You couldn’t just rent them at any time. I had been in some before. Some of them were exquisite and expensive, some of them were homegrown. The majority of them were homegrown studios. So you know, that wasn’t really what “did it” for me, but it was definitely an adventure to be recording in [RZA’s] studio for the first time. We did Ice Cream and another in RZA’s first homegrown studio and it got flooded out right after that, so you know we lost a lot of stuff.
So where did you record The Pillage?
By that time we were doing fairly well, the clan was doing very well. We did that in Jersey, at the first Wu mansion. We were still fixing that up, you know, just bringing in furniture, bringing in stuff and deciding who is going to sleep where and how many beds and rooms were available. So we basically slept there. I slept there to record that album and whenever any Clan members came over it was easy access for them to just jump in the studio with me. Like I didn’t have to go flying nobody out, we never had to do that because we were always right there and everybody could just hear what you were doing and just drop a verse right there. It was the best. It was beautiful.
How was recording with Wu producer Tru Master?
Tru Master was the one that was there engineering the whole time and he made The Pillage into a successful album. Like he was 75% of that album man, and he knew what kind of tracks went well with my voice. He had a special gift for that, you know what I’m saying? Probably not only for me, but for a lot of other brothers that he did work with. Peace to True Master man. Hold your head baby, come home soon. [True Master was imprisoned in 2011 for fleeing court on assault charges.]
Tell us about “Milk The Cow?”
Milking that cow, the best way we know how. It’s just trying to feed your family, and trying to make money and survive. Trying to keep your job, trying to survive, the best way we know how and sometimes to pay that rent you gotta have two jobs. Word.
A lot of your standout verses on “Ice Cream,” “Camay,” “Maria” and “Jellyfish” have been about beautiful women?
Yeah, those verses are kinda raunchy too at the same time. I was never one to try game a chick. I would always just kind of go up to them and be like “Yo, I’ve got four girls but I would love to sleep with you tonight.”
Have you ever thought of buying the number “917 160 49311” from your verse on Winter Warz? There’s a lot of discussion about it online. Some people even claim they called it and spoke with you.
Nah, that’s a code. Only the ones who know, know what it is. I’ll tell you, the 160 part that’s my building number. 49311, only people who mastered it, know it. It’s just a code.
[On further investigation, 917 is the NYC area code and 49311 spells out a certain explicit word if you associate each letter of the alphabet with a number.]
After your second solo album, The Yin and The Yang was released, you were voluntarily homeless and working as a cab driver. How do you feel looking back on that situation?
At the time I did it, I had a lot of different reasons but one of the reasons was to test the people that were around me. I wanted to see who would be really on my side and there was no way for me to see that because everyone would stick around me because of whatever they thought I had to offer. Once everything was gone and I was looking back, I could see who was really on my side. It was basically a test you know, just to see where I stand and it also gave me the opportunity to annihilate myself. It was kind of like it equally damaged me as much as it gave me morality and strong morals. It definitely was a shot to leg.
Did you feel like you had to give up all of the material excess?
My family started to look at my value based upon what I could do for them and not really look at me as a loving individual. So yeah, I definitely had to give that up. I gave it away mostly to the ones that clung onto it and that’s what they ended up with in the end. They ended up with all of that and none of me.
Your manager Michael Caruso was fired after it was claimed in a Village Voice article that he had been or was a police informant. Can you tell us about that?
I don’t know. I don’t know about his personal life. We did some work together, he worked for me. He was good at what he did and I hired him on those basics. I didn’t do a background check on him. I’m not no kind of agency or anything like that, but he did good work and that’s how I know him. I have no information on his past life and whether or not he was involved with certain activity or not.
Here’s a random question. Ghostface said on Jimmy Kimmel that during a tour you nearly got in a fight with a midget Kiss cover band?!
[Laughs] I think I remember something like that very vaguely. I don’t know what happened, but I think they were more or less mad at me because I probably walked across their set. I think the anger came because I was so tall. They were kinda upset about that and when I came in there everyone started focusing on me, but at the end I was with them. I was bouncing with them on their lil set. We were together, so in the end everything worked out and we made it peace. But they definitely wanted to penalize me for stealing their limelight.
You’ve commented in the past that not all Wu Tang members have respected your position and have tried to pay you less than equal share. This is despite close friends like Ghostface or Raekwon claiming that you’ve been an important part of the group from the beginning.
Do you feel like the members respect you now?
It’s not a matter of whether they respect my position or not, it’s just the fact that if you’re dealing with greed, you’re dealing with greed. Word, because respect is something that you’ve gotta earn, it’s not something that you buy.
How have people received your latest album Eyrth, Wynd and Fyre?
The double album is a classic right now. I call it my “miracle album.” Right now it’s 89 on the Hiphop Billboard Chart, getting great reviews, getting front pages on a couple of websites, getting five mics in a magazine. It’s the highlight of what’s going on right now. It’s the force behind the upcoming album, The Pillage 2. This is the bird that I’m creating so they will know that I’m there. I’m in the area, I’m next door and I’m ready for war.
Speaking of The Pillage 2, how is that going?
It’s going well. I’m getting good cooperation from the involved parties. It was a little tender in the beginning, but now it’s breaking off.
What about the new Wu Tang album, have you contributed yet?
Nah I haven’t done my contribution yet, but the Wu album is in the making, recording and it’s getting done. It’s popping off and more things will be popping off soon, but it’s out there.
Remember Wu Tang is forever. Witty Unpredictable Talent and Natural Game HUH!?