Verita Supposte


hilst the EU may well be welcoming twelve new nations with open arms this week, it’s highly unlikely any of them will help raise the perception of mainland European hip-hop amongst the English speaking world, possibly due to exposure to late 90s Germanic aberration Die Fantastiche Vier during a channel-hopping session. Sure, MC Miker G and DJ Sven may have had the game down on lock during the late 80s, but since then the EU Hot Ish Commission has been slack. Those kids rocking a sizeable Quannum collection and a white-boy fro’ may have love for Saian Super Crew, and MC Solaar may have done that song about playing Monopoly with Missy Elliot, but, with the exception of Lil’ Jon, rappers that can’t speak English have done little of note over the past five years.

Like the rise of far-right nationalism, it’s a rot that starts at home. The majority of Euro hip-hop consists of a blue-eyed wunderkind convincing you of the harshness of being straight outta Krakow. As a rule, the beats are pedestrian, the delivery’s weak, and the videos are laughable. There’s enough bad hip-hop in the States already, there’s no need to import more, so nobody bothers. People aren’t massively impressed in the home nations either, the charts are still dominated by Messrs Mathers, Cent, Nelly, and Eyed Peas.

The upshot of all this is that the hip-hop acts that do make it do so as a result of providing something different. A, often confusing, weird plait of what flies in their own country, and what they’ve learnt from Hollywood blockbusters and Dawson’s Creek. Take the two biggest acts that pass under the umbrella of rap in Italian history. Jovanotti, who were like a less E’d up East 17, and Articolo 31, who featured a DJ in a cricket jumper. No Italian rappers have yet been asked to drop 8 bars at the end of a Jennifer Lopez single.

Caparezza won’t be asked to do so either, but I doubt he’d want to. He’s the great olive skinned hope of Italian hip-hop. Claiming his biggest influences as Woody Allen and Frank Zappa (he even sports an ill-advised Zappa beard-and-hair combo), he’s emerged from the ignominy of early appearances at San Remo (Italy’s one nation, even more horrendous take on the Eurovision Song Contest), to become… would it be ghey to use the phrase “the Italian Eminem”? It would? OK, to become Italy’s leading rapper, mixing both credibility and sales. He does social commentary, he does comedy, and he does it with… with such a detachedness from what you’re used to hearing in current hip-hop as to mark him out as a uniquely distinguished talent.

Take, for instance, “Dagli All’Untore”, which sounds exactly like “The Real Slim Shady” except a) it features a sample of horses walking cobbled streets and b) it has an authentic Goth rock chorus. “Nessuna Razza” begins as a Warp style post-trip hop track, goes junglist for exactly nine seconds, and then turns into KoRn. Single “Fuori Dal Tunnel” is “Da Rockwilder” if Red and Meth had have starred in Amarcord instead of How High. It ends with an extended rap-dance outro.

It isn’t just the backing tracks, though, even if “Stanco E Sbronzo” features a DAMN SYRUPPED ACCORDION RIFF for crying out loud. No, Caparezza is blessed with the fact he’s rapping in an Italian tongue. Whereas rapping in French tends to leave everything sounding too placid, and rapping in German basically results in four minutes of shouting, Italian is a gift for an MC. The surfeit of similar sounding word-endings, the abundance of vowels, the rapidity the language is spoken with anyway… it results in a flow that folds in on itself, an origami of a rhyme scheme, multis placed upon multis. He also has a strangely endearing knack of saying the end of each line in a higher register as well, which could just mean that he has dreadful breath control, but it still works.

Back to those backing tracks, though. “L’Eta Dei Figuranti” begins with a kind of weird-ass kids TV show theme lite-funk, and then degenerates into an electro-punk beer hall riot. “Vengo Dalla Luna” is a nu-metal track with Theremins. Stand-out YOU MUST DOWNLOAD THIS SONG NOW OR DIE track “Giuda Me” loops up a vocal sample of an Italian farmer, as the boy Capa rails against “Bush, Saddam, Arafat, Sharon, mah, la nuova collezione Benetton”. It comes across as an Italian “The Message”, such is the urgeny and anger it’s delivered with. Halfway through, he stops to point out that while the future may be Tron, we’re currently living like the Flintstones. He could well be talking about the state of European rap. However, if any one person is gonna drag it out of the Stone Ages and into the 21st century, Caparezza’s your man.

Reviewed by: Dom Passantino

Reviewed on: 2004-05-04

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