Based in North London, Capo only took up music seriously in February of 2015. An able spitter amongst his friends, it was a chance break on a free compilation that gave credence to the idea that he could make it, and since that moment, he’s never really looked back. Having learnt the lessons of the fabled ‘new wave’ MCs of 2010 who, although high on ability, lacked the professionalism required to make the grade, Capo also has a gift for hooks — a staple of some of grime’s most memorable tracks through the years.
Although still fairly fresh-faced in the live arena, his gig performances are coming on at a rate of knots too. With a willing mentor in D Double E, and Sir Spyro playing a key supporting role on the decks, he seems well positioned to really kick on with his development over the remainder of 2016. How far he goes is down to him, but as we met to discuss his year so far ahead of his Room One debut this week, we encountered an MC willing to listen, learn and most importantly, apply himself to the max.
How would you describe your journey so far?
Capo Lee: I’ve always been able to MC and rap, but I never used to take it seriously, I’d only do it here and there. In February last year, I decided I was gonna give it a shot. I went to the studio, wrote a tune and sent it to a friend to listen to. He passed it on to the people at Grime Forum because they were putting out a compilation and it ended up being released as part of it. Lots of people said I had the best tune on there, but people were like, ‘is this guy a fluke?’. So, I made another and carried on. It was very natural, it was actually a mistake really if I think about it. I had Twitter at the time, but I didn’t even use it and my friend said to me go and check your Twitter. I logged in, checked my mentions and I was like, ‘fucking hell bruv!’.
People probably know you best for Liff and Mud, two tracks with really strong hooks. Did you expect Liff, in particular, to do so well?
Originally, I was putting together another tune but it came out as a track to just keep my name alive. It wasn’t supposed to be major and I didn’t think it was anything special. Again, by fluke, I uploaded it on Soundcloud and Rinse hit me up once they’d heard it and made it their 'Track of the Week'. Then it made it onto the A-list and then 1Xtra heard it - the video helped too. I released it in November, put the acapella on the release and loads of people round the world were making and sending in remixes, which kinda kept me moving. I think giving other people a chance to be involved in what you do is always a good thing.
Are hooks a big part of your writing?
I like hooks, man. I don’t want to say it is in case my next hooks don’t bang [laughs], but I think a hook makes the tune. I didn’t wanna keep doing freestyles, I wanted to make songs, so I’m kinda known for that now.
Every MC worth their salt has got a signature style, that something that’ll grab an audience. How would you describe your style / sound?
A lot of people talk about the way I flow and put words together. People say my flow is off but it’s on. It’s distinct. Someone tweeted me yesterday saying, Capo Lee - ‘the best off-beat spitter’. I mean I get it, but I don’t really get it. I kinda finish late, it’s weird how I do it really - I’m calm, I’m not really that shout-y or loud on the mic. When I recorded the Liff remix, I recorded my verse and then P Money went into the booth and free-styled it, so I’ve been trying that recently too. Now, I’ve kinda learnt how to hear a beat, pick up a vibe and write on site - that’s played an important part in my development.
"D Double, man. Bruv, he’s a mad man"
You can hear that development in ‘Mud’ I think…
Yeah because people thought I was a fluke, so much so that I thought I was a fluke myself to be honest! People hand’t heard me collaborate before either, so I thought I’d show off and bring out one of the big guns for it. It was sick, it’s one of my favourite tunes. I didn’t think D Double would reply after I’d sent him he track, but he recorded his vocals two days later. That was the tune that made people realise I’m not a joke, I think. Whatever I do next, I always aim for it to be better than the last thing I did.
There’s obviously been a lot of grime MCs breaking through over the 12 months — how do you find positioning yourself? Is there much competition between you all?
We’re all friends and everyone is cool. When we were all on radio together, people were finding their paths and people soon realised where they wanted to go. I do try to put out songs regularly. Sometimes, MCs don’t put out music as regularly as they should, but I like to keep it fresh and I’m always about. Staying on top of putting out music is key. I record a lot, so what you’re hearing now, like Mud for example, I cringe because I can hear mistakes. My next stuff will be above that. I’m conscious of making every track better.
How do you translate recording to the live arena? Do you enjoy performing?
You see the Eskimo Dance sets, the 10 MCs on mic vibe - I don’t mind it, but it’s not my forte. I like to perform my tunes, it’s just what I like to do, but performing live takes years of practice. No one wakes up a 10/10 performer, so I like to plan my sets. If I get booked, I’ll meet with my DJ and we’ll go over everything. But screaming on the mic isn’t my thing. I enjoy performing, I get the butterflies and that, but I’m still learning. One thing I worry about is getting up to spray and everyone walking out, but it’s all good really. That’d be the worst ever!
Is there anyone you look up to in that respect?
D Double, man. Bruv, he’s a mad man. At Born & Bred festival, he walked on the stage and got a reload. That was it. I go to meet Double on a normal one though and he’s so quiet. He can do a madness on stage. but I don’t always think he’s aware of what he can do. It’s sick though and he rates me highly as well, which makes me feel sick you know. He rings me up and gives me advice. It’s nice.
This’ll be your second time playing at fabric this summer — do you see it as a milestone?
It’s a proper milestone. When I got booked for the first time in Room Two, I was like ‘broooo!’, and then getting booked for Room One immediately afterwards, it’s nuts. Me and Spyro are obviously good friends and I’m comfortable with him on deck. The line-up is sick but I love a challenge. A lot of people won’t know how I’m gonna handle it, but I’m a young Rashford.
It’s an inevitable question, but looking ahead post-fabric, can we expect more new music?
Within the next few weeks, the ‘Mud’ EP will be out on iTunes - the vocal, the instrumental and the remix. I’ve got a few surprises too, but I can’t say too much more yet.