How the UK’s rap community transcends borders

By Dylan Robinson

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CAPRIISUN dropped his second full album ‘Calliope’ on Group BraCil last Friday. Unlike most of his content, it is available to stream, cop and own. It follows on from ‘A Fleeting Now’, which was also produced by Group BraCil’s label-head and scene figurehead Morriarchi. We caught up across borders as CAPRIISUN recuperated in his Oregon haven, providing insights into how the UK scene has helped an artist like himself flourish.

Cap, how’s it been? What have you been up to today?

“Not much, it’s still kind of early. Just woke up, went on a run, and watered my garden. It’s pretty hot here so I’m having to water the plants a lot to stop them dying. Later I’m gonna go play the album on vinyl for the first time because since I’ve been back I haven’t had a [record] player. So I’m gonna go to mates and, yeah, hear it on wax for the first time.

“I just got back from Oregon, so I’m still adjusting. I was in the UK for all of May, so yeah been back a couple of weeks.”

Is that where you’re from, or is it a bit mixed?

“Well, I was born in Boston, Massachusetts, but I moved away when I was like one, so I don’t have any connections to that place. Then I lived in Kansas when I was younger and moved to Oregon when I was about thirteen. I’m twenty-nine now so I feel like I’ve lived in Oregon the longest, you know.”

So, ‘Calliope’ dropped last Friday on Group BraCil. Talk to us about the album.

“Originally, it was just going to be a five-track EP that I did with Morriarchi on wax, and those songs must’ve been from like 2020/2021. Then the other songs, not produced by Morriarchi, were just unreleased ones that I had. So basically, I lived in Spain for a year and a half before I came to England, and I didn’t have a recording studio or anything like I did at home. So, I chatted with Morri and he said I should just add to the five tracks with unreleased stuff. A lot of the joints were like soul and funk loops, not too heavy on drums, which fit with the project, so we added them.”

Your last album, ‘A Fleeting Now’ was three years ago now. How would you differentiate the projects and what’s changed between releases?

“I was in England and had this unfinished project and decided to put it out with Morri on Group BraCil, but the beats were different, you know. They were kinda similar to a lot of music I’ve made in the past. Not that I haven’t touched on that kinda style in ‘Calliope’, but yeah, I wouldn’t say I’ve changed too much, just leaned more into one style of production.”

How did you and Morriarchi start working together?

“Let’s see. I was featured on his album with CLBRKS, on ‘BONITO’. I recorded the verse for that back home. I was in England doing some shows at the time, I think beginning of 2020, before the pandemic. We were supposed to film a video for ‘BONITO’ in England, but I got something wrong, like the dates of a show or something. But I ended up in Lisbon and CLBRKS came to meet me, and we filmed the video there. Then a week later I flew to England for some shows and met Morri then for the first time. We made the song before I really met him.

“He hit me up to make music on Insta or something, but I’d worked with CLBRKS years before the SoundCloud connection. I’d come over [to England] before and I was doing shows with Verbz and Slipz, and Morri DJ’d a few of them. We chilled for a bit, and I showed him ‘A Fleeting Now’, and he said I should put it out on Group BraCil.

“There was a bar about Barcelona, and he heard that and was like, okay, let’s go to Barcelona and film the video for Celeste. We’d planned to put it on vinyl and tour it a bit that summer but, insanely, we left Barcelona on March 8th and the lockdown happened on March 9th. So, we got home, put the album out in September, and ever since then it’s just been homies.”

Did the streaming success of ‘BONITO’ have much effect on your exposure?

“I wouldn’t really say so ‘cause it’s C’s album, you know. Then again, after shows I have kids come up to me saying they’ve heard me from that song or whatever, but nah, I would say most of my audience is on SoundCloud. I’d say 90% of my music isn’t on streaming.

“In 2015 and 2016 it [Soundcloud] was really popular. You could just be some independent artist and share your music with the world, and people could hear it wherever they were. I think that’s very special and important, but it wasn’t like I could interact with fans.”

How does the scene look where you’re from?

“Kinda dead. In Portland there’s a bit going on, but I’ve heard that’s kinda dead as well opposed to bigger states. The audience and market in America are still the biggest though; when I look at my statistics of where my music gets played it’s all in America mainly. My biggest city is LA.

“But the fact is if you’re not a high-profile artist in America it’s much more difficult to tour, just ‘cause it’s way more expensive to book venues here. Promoters only wanna fuck with people who will make their money back. I just found in England and parts of Europe I had much more success with shows.”

Although there is still obviously lots of room for improvement, the opportunities for independent artists, particularly rappers, in the UK are getting better. Depending on the scene you are in, YouTube channels like GRM Daily or COLORS provide up and coming artists real exposure. Most cities or larger towns can house independent artists in local venues and, although government spending towards creative spaces is decreasing, people within the scenes are carrying the flag and keeping it waving.

Are there many or any spaces for independent artists to showcase themselves?

“There is where I am in Oregon, the Pacific Northwest, but it’s more for like indie rock and grunge, not hip-hop. Oregon’s not a very diverse place, and you kinda just get left out. It’s better for me to go to places where there is a scene. I like living here; it’s very calm and I feel inspired to create, but my approach is to make music both here and wherever I travel to. When it’s time to play shows I go to the places where it’s more embraced and there’s an actual community.”

Is travelling important to you? Do you do a lot of it?

“Yeah, for sure. My Mum and Dad worked in Peru so I would visit there in the summer when I was younger. I learnt Spanish as a kid as well when I was out there, which I’m super grateful for. Cultural learning at that age is super cool. I haven’t been to South America in like 10 years, but I’d like to go back.

“My sister moved to Spain a few years ago, and I went to visit her for Christmas and stayed for three months. I used it as a platform to explore doing rap in other parts of the world, like England and Europe. I’d built up good momentum making music at home, and I wanted to connect with the world too.”

Would you say rap gave you the confidence to travel to these parts of the world?

“I wouldn’t say it gave me the confidence ‘cause I think I would’ve still travelled to these places, but I have been to some countries now that I wouldn’t have travelled to if it wasn’t for rap. It’s a reason to travel. I was in Hungary with Verbz and Slipz in April, and we were thinking we probably wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for rap… but then I think maybe I would!”

But maybe the experience of that country is a bit different?

“Absolutely, the experience can be very different. It’s a different level of hospitality, you know. There’s also a way greater degree of integration if you’re going to play a show, ‘cause people want to leave more of a good impression. You fit in more ‘cause you’re in a community of people who are interested in the same things as well. When you’re just a tourist you aren’t as tapped into that place’s rap scene, and you’ll bump into a bunch of other tourists all there doing tourist stuff. We like doing tourist stuff as well, but you know what I mean.”

What inspires you to write?

“Travelling, definitely. Leaving your setting and seeing something else sparks something – that definitely helps my writing. But if I do have a studio and I’m able to work on a song or a verse all in one sitting, then I get that cadence; or I get that first bar and the rest kinda unravels. I would say films and books too.”

It feels like sometimes the flow writes the bars itself?

“That’s what happens: you just get a cadence. I like songs where I don’t switch rhyme schemes; if I’m able to keep the rhyme scheme the same then I will, but it’s pretty difficult. Some joints come together like that. I start with the cadence, that’s like the skeleton, and the words fill in where the syllables should be.

“Imagery and literature help as well. I’m reading this book by Jorge De Campos at the moment; it’s a bunch of short stories. I prefer imagery over punchlines and double entendres. I’m not saying I don’t like that stuff, but I don’t look at rap like it needs a punchline or has to be funny, you know. I like shit that’s abstract. This book is super abstract, and there’s a crazy amount of imagery in this dude’s writing that’s a big inspiration. I really like writing that’s visual. I aim to make a piece or composition that does that too. I want to make stuff that I think is tight.”

Who inspired you musically both growing up and more recently?

“Early Snoop, like ‘Gin and Juice’. ‘Doggystyle’ I think was the first rap album I really loved. Then like twelve, thirteen it was 50 Cent, MF DOOM, early Kanye, and Wu Tang. Then when I was a bit older, I delved in into East Coast like Mobb Deep, and that was also around the time I started writing my first rhymes and listening to a lot of beats like Pete Rock and Dilla.

“That’s kinda the canvas I gravitated towards. That was when I got like an appreciation for production, but to those beats I like the drums to have swing.  I like  a more minimal, stripped back sound. A sample that doesn’t have too much going on is perfect to rap over for me.”

Walk us through a typical day in Oregon for Cap?

“I’ve been back for three weeks, but I’m waking up super early ‘cause of the European time difference thing. So, I’ll get up around 6.30 these days, have a coffee, go for a run, water the garden, roll a zoot and smoke. After that, chill for a bit, make some lunch, read, and then smoke more and chill. This isn’t my routine all the time but just at the moment. Just, you know, recharge and reinvigorate. I’ve been taking mushrooms in the garden, so yeah just reinvigorate.”

By splitting his time between creating, performing, and recovering, CAPRIISUN has found a happy balance in this usually exhausting profession. The UK has fully welcomed him as one of their own and what a blessing that is. ‘Calliope’ is available to stream everywhere now, with vinyl also ready to cop on Group BraCil’s website.