His family nickname is “Pooch.” To business associates he’s “Dave.” But to his fans and most of the public he’s known by his DJ tag, “Uptown’s greatest, Kid Capri.” Born into a musical family in the Bronx, Kid Capri began DJing when, at the age of eight, he talked his mother into buying him a mixer. At the time there were 31 DJs on his block. Now, 15 years later, he’s the only one still spinning. But, as Kid grew up and his hobby became his profession, as a hip-hop DJ and rapper; so the music he helped create grew from a street-level to world-wide phenomenon. This month marks the debut of his eponymous album on Cold Chillin/Warner Brothers.
Lynn Geller How did you get the name Kid Capri?
Kid Capri That comes from a girl I used to go with who was killed, murdered by accident. We was in the same class and she said, “Kid Capri sounds like a good name for a DJ,” so I kept it.
LG You were DJing all through school—where were you playing?
KC Private parties, outside in the parks, a lot of centers; basic things that everybody from the “old school” did. And then I started doing an after-hours club. It was me, Silver D, and Money Mark.
LG Did you all grow up together?
KC We all met on the block, in the Kingsbridge section of the Bronx, Kingsbridge Terrace. It used to be a popular block. Everyone would come from other blocks to hang out. There’s the park, the schoolyards, the city steps. It was just one of them blocks.
LG So, you’d just take out your equipment and play?
KC Yeah, we’d bring it out and hook it to the light pole.
LG What kind of music were you doing then?
KC Straight rap with beats, no regular records being played. No R&B, no disco, no nothin’. Just rappin’ and DJing, cutting—hip-hop. And a lot of people involved in rap now don’t understand what it is to just go to a park carrying your own equipment and do it for fun. Everyone just wants the money now, it’s gotten to a whole different stage. But back then it was for the fun. With my album the whole thing is to prove that we never forgot where we come from, the old school.
LG Sophia (Chang, from Jive Records) said something about you being billed as the hottest uptown DJ.
KC They call me the hottest DJ uptown, uptown being Harlem, the Bronx, they give you all kinds of names—the world famous, New York’s greatest, uptown’s best. The promoters do that to get people to come to shows. It’s good for them and for me. They just put Kid Capri, they get the usual crowd. If they put “uptown’s greatest,” they get more people.
LG When you go to do a show, what do you take?
KC Now that the album came out, it’s a little different. For the DJ parties, I take four crates of my records, mic, headphones, things a DJ would take. Then, for the show, I would take the records Money Mark and Silver D need—they both DJ and I do the rapping.
LG As a DJ, what kind of music are you looking for?
KC (laughter) Beats! If the beats ain’t right, you ain’t right. But I can take a little bit of one thing and make it big. You can give me anything and I’ll know what to do with it.
LG What stuff do you look for, for inspiration?
KC Actually nowadays it’s about putting things together, not just a beat. Even the rhyme has to flow with what you’re doing. I look for old records, ’70s stuff.
Silver D Don’t say no names, they’re our secret weapon.
KC No names. I look for old records, put a beat under it.
LG So you take a melody line from an old record and add a beat—you must spend a lot of time listening to music.
KC I’m a person who gets things quick. If I hear something, I know what goes with it.
LG Do you have a whole room full of records?
KC We have 42 crates and then some.
LG So how do you decide what to take for a particular night?
KC The way I do it is I take the newest R&B crate, the two newest rap crates, and an old school crate. Then I put some reggae in, too. The old school crate is like records from ’81, ’82. Some of the records I play, I don’t like, but I play for the audience. That’s what makes a good DJ, to play for other people.
LG But you wouldn’t do that on your album. No. Your record is like a radio show. Have you ever had one?
KC No, but as a matter of fact, BLS wants me to play for them right now, to do the master mixes every day from six to seven, and we’re in negotiation.
LG That makes sense with your tapes—can you explain about your tapes?
KC When I first started DJing at this after hours club, me and this other guy used to make tapes of the parties we did every night. Then we’d copy the tapes and sell them. People would come in and buy them. Then when he and I stopped working together I went out on my own and started selling the tapes I made. I’d sit on the corner of 145th Street and 8th Avenue and sell them on the street. They got popular and I started selling them to stores. People were coming from out of state to buy them. Some of the stuff on my record I already had on my tapes. But being that my tapes didn’t go national, I put things on the album and then wrote some more.
LG Do you take a different approach going into the studio as a DJ?
KC Well, I write all my songs, but a DJ has a better concept of what he wants to do musically than a rapper. A DJ knows what to do as far as beats are concerned, as far as what music matches other music. A rapper is just supposed to flow with the music. But being that I was rhyming as long as I was a DJ, both of my talents were at the same level.
LG The actual music on the album, was any of it original, or was most of it sampled?
KC We have both.
LG Were you worried about clearing any of the music you sampled?
KC No, a lot of people are getting away with things I didn’t think they could. A lot of stuff out now was commercial at one time. The stuff I got not too many people have heard before.
LG I can understand why musicians are annoyed by sampling, but personally I think it’s really creative and grass-roots to use found music in a kind of collage. You might disagree but I’ve always seen some parallels between punk and rap in that they both came along in a time when corporate music had become really bloated and boring and encouraged a kind of bravado, like why can’t I just get up and do it, play an instrument or take the mic? It’s about making music accessible, not to the audience necessarily, but to people who dream of being musicians.
KC But the difference between punk and rap is that rap is here to stay. And the thing is, a lot of people say they can get a turntable and rap and make a record, but it’s not always true. There are people making it now who don’t deserve it and vice versa.
LG Well, it always comes down to talent and charisma and of course, luck. But I’m really referring to the attitude. Still, that’s an interesting point. Rap really has proven to have longevity. Punk was inspirational, but ultimately mutated beyond recognition.
KC They thought rap wasn’t going to make it, but it has.
LG I know. I remember in ’81 I worked on a 20/20 piece about rap and we had Hugh Downs saying, “Rap is sweeping the nation.” Of course, it wasn’t at that point.
KC I think if it ever looked like rap would die out, I would have been the one to try to keep it going. Because I don’t know what else I’d do. What’s great about rap is you can rap about anything. Most [non-rap] songs are about love, men, and women. But with rap, you can talk about racism, war, love, hate, being a gangster or a drug dealer, baseball—there’s a rap out now about baseball. Most people wouldn’t want to hear someone singing about baseball, but with rap, you get away with it. There are more words. I love singing, but rap is a better way to express yourself.
LG Your single is about the Apollo Theater—did you play Amateur night?
KC Yes, but we were special guests. The first time we did that song, The Apollo, on June 1st, ’88. We’ve played there six or seven times.
LG You never got that clown with the siren pulling you off stage, what’s he called?
KC The sandman. No, and he’s my buddy, too.
LG I’ve been up there a couple of times and I always cringe for people who get pulled off. I’d start crying, but everyone seems to take it really well. Ralph Cooper, Sr., who started Amateur Night, has just written a book I want to get. He has some stories.
KC I gotta get that and write Apollo II. I don’t think I put enough information in the first one.
LG Do you think there aren’t enough places for rappers to perform?
KC Yes, definitely. Because they try to blame violence on rap. I was watching a late night show called Instant Recall and they showed the Rolling Stones concert where someone was murdered. People have died at AC/DC concerts. Those are white musicians, but nobody blamed white music. Rap isn’t responsible for violence—it’s individuals. It’s not fair to blame the music. But, no matter what they do, rap is too strong to stop.
LG I know, it’s really been against all the odds. They didn’t give it airplay. MTV took years to recognize rap and now, even though Yo! MTV Raps is their highest rated show, I hear they’re cutting back airtime. Then, in terms of crossover, you get Vanilla Ice and MC Hammer, when there are really brilliant acts who deserve the recognition like KRS-1, LL Cool J, Queen Latifah—the list is endless. It’s kind of a tired subject, but what do you think of Vanilla Ice?
KC Vanilla Ice is a joke. It’s okay that he is where he’s at, but he downs the next man. Like he opened for Hammer and now he’s saying “Hammer can’t touch this.” Why disrespect somebody else when they put you on the map? I think people are pushing him too hard, pumping a lot of money and saying he’s selling more than he’s selling.
LG I think he is selling a lot of records. He has a really well-tuned machine behind him, SBK Records. They’ve really got the promotion thing down, you have to admire it. But do you feel resentful that someone like him didn’t pay his dues?
KC Yes, I do. He doesn’t know what he is. That’s what I’m saying. He doesn’t know what it is to really go through what we went through. Not to use that as an excuse, because if your records sell, they sell. Good. But don’t try to change on people. Always remember where you came from, because the same people you see on the way up, you’ll see on the way down.
LG One thing I wanted to ask you, are there any other DJs who’ve put out their own albums, not just as producers?
SD Big Daddy Kane used to DJ for Roxanne Shante way back. But most DJs just DJ, so they usually go into just production, producing rap.
LG But you always did both, so even when you’re hired as a DJ, you take the mic?
KC Yeah, people want to hear my big mouth.
LG Let’s hear a typical Kid Capri intro.
KC Yes, indeed, New York City, it’s the sounds of the midnight rockin’ DJ Kid Capri wrecks in full effect for you and yours like this…