As a member of the hip-hop collective All Natural, Capital D has stood out as one of the most proficient lyricists in Chicago. His uncompromising style and silky smooth delivery project wisdom well beyond his years, and at this point youíd be hard-pressed to find an emcee out there who works as hard as Cap does in terms of perfecting his craft. Most critics have labeled him as a ďlaid-backĒ and ďconsciously mindedĒ lyricist, which isnít altogether a bad thing, but recently heís made steps to get outside of his comfort zone and show the full extent of his range, as seen in his albums Return of the Renegade and Elements: Fire (with labelmate Tone B. Nimble). Over the past year Cap has been occupied with several endeavors including his latest album PolyMath, which features producers NO I.D., Illmind, K-Kruz, Battlenek, S.C. and Blended Babies as well as guest appearances by Brother Ali and Tragedy Khadafi. Centerstage recently caught up with the local legend to find out more about his new project as well as his take on the present and possible future state of hip-hop.
Your new album PolyMath has a stacked lineup of producers as well as some solid contributions from Brother Ali and Tragedy Khadafi. What was the chemistry like for you on this project in comparison to past albums?
I handled all of the production on the album Insomnia and a lot of the production on Return of the Renegade so it was good to get out of my own comfort zone and match the energy that I was getting from other producers and MCs who I respect. A song like ďAddictionĒ or ďLive My LifeĒ are beats that I would never have produced myself, but they are beats that I love to ride and create lyrics to match. On each of those, but especially Addiction, the vibe of the beat definitely forced me to write something that I wouldnít normally write about, so that was a challenge and good for me. Also working with Bro. Ali and Tragedy Khadafi forced me to really match their intensity because both of them bring a lot of emotion to their songs and their vocals. Overall I think I needed that in order to get out of my comfort zone a little.
The album cover in addition to the title involves some pretty unique concepts. Can you explain in detail how the vision for the album came about?
Honestly the album was done before I even came up with the album title or cover concept. Usually I have the name of the album in mind before itís done, but this time I had the songs done but couldnít come up with a title to match. Tone asked me what it was that I wanted to say about myself and who I am on the album and concept. And basically my goal in life is to really be a master of a lot of different thingsÖto never be somebody that you can pigeonhole as a particular type of artist or particular type of person, but someone who has a lot of different interests and talents, and the focus to try to master them instead of just half-doing a lot of things. Ultimately thatís what a ďpolymathĒ isÖitís someone who is an expert in several different fields. Also the title is a play on the words ĎPolyí (multiple) and ĎMathí (knowledge), so I think it works on a couple of different levels.
As far as the cover image goes, a circle always represents completeness so I took the zodiac circle and replaced the images with symbols that represent who I am and what Iím all about, such as symbols for Islam, peace, law, family, music, etc.
In addition to emceeing youíre also an attorney and a father. How have you been able to juggle so many commitments and still be able to give 100% on your projects?
I focus first on the requirements and second on the things that I love to do but that are just optional. So first is the job. I work the job and give 100% to it so that my family commitments are taken care of. I want to make sure that my kids have all the opportunities that I had growing up. Once my commitments are taken care of, then Iím always able to find time to do the things that I love like music and chilling with my kids. Once the commitments are handled then itís easy to feel good about doing music and other things without any kind of stress or pressure. I think we all find time to do the things we love, but the problem comes when we prioritize the non-essential things over the things that are required (e.g., providing for family).
The All Nat fam is synonymous with Chicago hip-hop. In your opinion how has the hip-hop landscape here changed over the years, and whatís your take on it now?
Iím really not the best person to ask about the scene in Chicago nowadays because I donít really spend a lot of time being part of the scene. I donít get my inspiration from being on the scene anymore. I wish I had more time to be out, but thatís really low on my list of priorities. One thing I can speak on is that there continues to be a lot of talent from Chicago that is getting noticed on an international level nowadays, so that is real good to see. Groups like Cool Kids and of course Lupe, Kanye, Rhymefest, Common and Twista have all represented Chicago hip-hop for the world in a way that makes you proud to be from the city. The one thing though that has never changed is how segregated the scene seems to be. Chicago has always had that gang/clique mentality and so the scene is still too segregated along racial and geographic lines.
For many artists itís easy to criticize the current state of hip-hop when comparing it to its past. Whatís your vision for the future?
I think a lot of the ideas of being independent and self-sufficient that were really popular during the í90s can actually be put into action nowadays whereas artists can truly be their own companies and cut out a lot of middlemen. The present/future of music is for artists to figure out the things that they need to outsource and the things that they can handle in-house. The last few years has been about the industry trying to figure out how to deal with piracy and file-sharing, and the present/future is about really making money off of the way that people consume music. As far as hip-hop goes, I think the game nowadays really benefits the people who have a strong work ethic. If you have talent also, then thatís all the better, but work ethic is probably more important than talent nowadays.
Youíve never been shy about discussing controversial topics. Between your practice in law and music, which has been the most effective for you in terms of evoking reform and change?
I donít really know that I can say that Iíve effected change or reform. I try to use my music to remind people. I think Ngugi wrote that the pen should be used to remind people in power that their crimes are being seen. So I try to do that to a degree. And I try to inspire and show a different way of doing things. Ultimately I think that reform and change has to come from the ground up though, so I try to use my legal skills to help organizations that are doing real work on the ground. They are making the change and Iím just assisting in an advisory role.
When can we expect you and Tone to release the next album in the Elements series? What other projects do you have coming up?
I really donít know to be honest. We have a few songs floating around but we havenít focused on created the next album. I have a lot of projects that Iím working on right now and my priority is to get those finished and out the door. I finished an album with the producer ProhMic that I think is real fresh so the plan is to release that next. Lately Iíve been doing a lot of writing for a sequel to Writerís Block with the Molemen, so hopefully that will be ready to drop some time during 2011. And also Iím real focused on finishing an album that is more in mode of New Order/Depeche Mode/Larry Heard and I canít wait to get it mixed and out to the public. The name of that group is Perfect Strangers and I did all of the music and have a lot of guest singers like Wes Restless, Jules ESQ and Aaisha Durr. Iím really excited about that project. Then the All Natural will follow when itís time, God willing.
You have an album release party coming up December 4th at Reggieís, any particular hopes for the show?
Iím really looking forward to seeing Gift of Gab and Raashan Ahmad again to tell the truth. I met them in Brazil during January when we were there for a week together and they are real cool brothers. So itís a blessing to be able to bring them here and have them be a part of the show. Also last time I performed at Reggieís, I was opening up for Qwel at his release show so we wanted to return the favor. So the bill, in addition to be packed full of true lyricists, is one that we put together for personal reasons and I just really want to vibe with those cats and enjoy it. Thereís going to be a lot of lyrics getting kicked that night.