Friday, April 12, 2024

EXCLUSIVE: CAP is designing the Nairobi sound one beat at a time

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Michael Carpenter stylized as CAP, has yielded an informidable reputation as Kenya’s Urban Music golden child. Grossing a laudable catalog with placements that across Kenyan Hip Hop tastemakers from Kahu$h, Boutross, Wakadinali, Timmy Blanco, to saccharine R&B stars in NJERI, the name CAP is adjacent to hits and records that very much shape Nairobi’s Hip Hop canvas.

Brooding cassius clay energy following his most recent works of soundtracking Kenya’s blockbuster Netflix series, VOLUME, CAP is in a stratosphere of his own. Bullish, buoyant, but focused, he is hardly celebrating the meteoric accolade. He is the studio working with Kenyan Alt risers Maya Amolo and Nyokabi Kariuki, as well as his familiar peers – Albeezy, Sabi Wu, and may others.

In an exclusive interview with Hip Hop Africa, CAP shares his most detailed interview to date in an unfiltered and unadulterated conversation with us. Read all about it below.

One on One with Producer, CAP

Talk about your background and your upbringing?

I feel like from a young age, I’ve always had a musical ear. Like when the radio would play certain songs, I could hear the harmonies in my head. I think that’s because my parents were in a choir. 

How did you get into music production? 

So as of production, my brother had FL studio on his laptop and when I was a kid, I thought it was a game (Laughs). So I used to mess with it here and there and then it got serious when I went to high school. That’s around the time I met most of my collaborators to date. We were in a very musical school so we would always be in the music room. Then I made my first serious beat on my guitar teacher’s laptop (shout out Mr. Mike). And the rest is history. 

When did you realize you’re a full-fledged music producer? 

I think when I made my first song with MIKE OF THE FUTURE. Yea I’d say that’s what gave me that realization.

How supportive have your family been of your music career? 

Quite supportive actually. There’s obviously the occasional “So when are you going back to school” (Laughs) but for the most part they’re very supportive.

You recently produced the soundtrack to chart-topping Netflix series “The Volume”. Speak to how that came to be, your reaction to being chosen, and being part of the project? 

So that came about through Ivan Odie where he was already involved with the project and he called me in about the intro sequence song first. After we worked on it, he told me they were also looking for some more music to go into the show so we got to working on that. As far as my reaction, I was excited to have Netflix on my resume.

Speak to what it’s like working with Timmy Blanco, NJERI, Poppa Don and Ivan Odie in the studio? What is the vibration? 

So the intro sequence song went through different iterations. There are other versions with different artists and also different beats. So as far as the song, we didn’t do it all in one session. But working with them is always a fun time for sure. I’m working with Blanco and NJERI on their next projects as we speak so be on the lookout.

What does it mean to work on a Netflix production? 

It’s a kinda cool experience where Netflix went from being unavailable in this country to our music being on that platform so it’s surreal in that regard.

What are your main inspirations generally and at this current point in time? 

Right now I’m getting a lot of inspiration from films at the moment. My favorite movie right now is Memento which was directed by Christopher Nolan which has a very layered story and I’m trying to see how I can tell a complex story like that through music. Also I recently started listening to scores of movies and shows to get out of the box of listening to normal music.

What about fashion makes it an important extension to your being. To that point, how did you come up with The Agenda Worldwide. And what’s the vision? 

I really like putting on good outfits and on top of that, I feel like fashion, alongside music, is a very core element of culture. That’s where The Agenda Worldwide comes in. As of right now, the vision I have for it is to try to do unconventional things with fashion. I wanna keep it at that for now.

Can you give us your Top 10 Produced by Cap records? 

Oof this is a hard one. They’re all my babies (Laughs) I don’t think I can pick.

Give us your Top 10 rappers. Doesn’t have to have a particular order. 

Damn top ten of all time might be to hard for me I can give you my top 10 right now though:

BEAM

Vory

Fridayy 

Cash Cobain

Drake

Swahili papi

Tommy Revenge

Lancey Foux

Len

Finigurrero

How about producers?

Has to be:

Wondagurl

Wheezy

Ye

Metro

Redda

Jvcxb

FK

Boi-1da

Mike Dean

BNYX

When you’re cutting records, what’s the most important thing to you at this point in time versus when you first got into music production? 

These days I look at the song as the priority where before I only used to care about how the beat sounds. I used to put too many things in the beat in my first sessions and wonder why artists never used to pick it.

Who are your favorite Kenyan creatives generally? 

I like what Kxffy is doing with the music but I especially like the vlogs he puts out. It gives the producers that’ll come after us good insight on production.

There’s also Annette Michatha. She’s a stylist who’s doing amazing work. We’ve worked on some projects that will come out soon.

Also Chief Custom Grillz. He’s a jewelry designer. All I can say about him is “be on the lookout“

Ama too. Ama is a model and we’ve worked together on a lot of the Agenda stuff but I also love the stuff she’s doing with Tysevisual, super cool. Brands please give her all your money (Laughs).

There is a huge renaissance happening in the Kilimani-Kileleshwa rap and general creative scene. Talk about what makes this generation special? And who are some of the faces, collectives and creatives we should be paying attention to?

I think the biggest thing that differentiates us from any other generation is technology. It lets us work in more efficient ways from the previous generation. Literally someone can go platinum from a song they made in their bedroom today. There’s this new artist I’m working with called 30 (he’s crazy to check him out). He records songs off his phone, which would have been crazy even 5 years ago. But a few people that you should look out for are: 30, Gaccu, Kihoti, Varde, there’s this artist called Kay khali that my brother FK put me onto, also Ashley Kitonga. It’s a lot of really good music coming out of Kenya right now I’m definitely forgetting some but those are a few you should look out for.

What’s the ultimate Cap girl? 

Damn this question was unexpected (Laughs). But she has to be openly passionate about something. It could be about anything. It can be trees, how a road is built, literally any random thing. I love hearing about random facts about random things from a beautiful girl . Girls I’m single too.(Laughs).

A lot of people aren’t familiar with your projects prior to ‘All Caps’ like ‘East Bound’, ‘Block Boy’, ‘On Our Own’ etc Why do you think this is so?

I think it’s recency bias to be honest but also it might be too old of a sound from me for people to gravitate towards. I feel like I have grown so much from that sound that the new music I put out is almost completely different so people just like this new sound.

What’s the goated studio session that you’ve ever had to date? 

I’ve had a few amazing sessions but there’s a weekend I was at Hotbox studio for a weekend and me and Dez made a whole album. Don’t think I’m biased when I say this but that’s some of the most timeless music we’ve ever made.

A lot of artists whether from the indie to the mainstream scene are now coming to you for records. From Nyokabi Kariuki, to Nviiri The Storyteller, what compels you to work with an artist? 

I think that I have a sound that’s starting to reach all these people’s ears and I’m super grateful for that. In the case of Nyokabi, we haven’t made any music yet, we are just working on a separate project together which is a short film (be on the lookout for that) but we’re definitely planning to get into the studio.

Lastly, you had your first ever show last year. What can we look forward to this year? 

What’s that one 21 Savage song? (Laughs) but for real, expect a lot. I’ve been working on my next album for a while now so be on the lookout for that. Also I’m doing a lot of projects with artists this year, new artists and frequent collaborators too.

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