Cappadonna: The Struggle

The Struggle
Code:Red Entertainment

There shouldn’t be much to say about this record, and for the most part, there ain’t. It opens with a clip of a faded civil rights rally as someone declares that black people need “a man to make us live again” — then Cappadonna starts the revolution by rhyming 12 different words with “struggle”. It also comes with a free glittery sticker. Fuck yeah, dude!

If you’re a Wu-Tang fan, this’ll elicit a wistful sigh, which is better, I guess, than the attack of revulsion likely to overcome you when witnessing the current necrophiliac work of most members of the extended Wu family. Not that Cap doesn’t rob the grave, but at least he really aims for the tonsils, bringing that new outdated shit with real passion. There’s some production here that’ll push all your Wu-buttons (soul strings, dusty drums), and a couple of bubbly tracks by Soulfingaz that actually break out of that stale mold. Lyrically, Cappadonna was never the shining star of the Wu-family’s crown, and here he’s mostly going through the motions — but like a really good Elvis impersonator, he is occasionally good enough to let you project your love for the genuine article onto him.

Worth noting in this context is that, after a row a couple of years back involving allegations of gun-running against the main trunk of the family, Cappadonna no longer has any official affiliations with the Wu-Tang clan — no “W” appears on the cover of The Struggle, and it’s released by Code Red Entertainment, apparently a collaborative effort between Cap and Remedy, another onetime Wu-associate.

Despite their falling out, Cap does manage to get a couple of real Wu-Tang members on the mic — which may be his fatal mistake. Inspectah Deck does a chorus on “Get Away from the Door”, and in eight bars he shows just how flatfooted Cap is. Despite the loathsome derivativeness of “Killa Killa Hill” (“God Rules Everything Around Us!”), and his audible reluctance to even be associated with the whole thing, Raekwon turns in a verse that satisfies like Snickers. Back at the ranch, meanwhile, it takes Cap plus three guests to come up with this chorus:

Money, cash, flows and bitches!
Money, cash, flows and bitches!
Money, cash, flows and bitches!
Money, cash, flows and bitches!

I assume they mention both money and cash to emphasize the importance they attach to their 401(k)s and Mastercards. Similar in tone are “My Kinda Bitch” and “Life of a Lesbo”. I gotta say, it’s not like political incorrectness is unexpected in hardcore rap, but when it’s totally formulaic it pretty much loses its frisson of transgression — and frankly, it’s Cap’s completely unabashed plundering of the Wu-legacy that’s really offensive (see: GZA, “Life of a Drug Dealer”).

Admittedly, even an easy target like “Money, Cash, Flows” has some nice production, as Soulfingaz throws down a Neptunes-ish bouncy, tight bassline with a great swing trumpet sample for something really funky. There are also highlights in “Broken Glass”, an easygoing R & B-flavored track, “Power to the Peso”, and “Pain is Love”. “Pain” in particular is strong — with its tinkling electric organ, swelling strings, stereoscopic effects, and a well-balanced mix of observation and philosophizing on the lyrics, it would’ve made a respectable album cut on Ironman. Which means it’s head and shoulders above everything else on The Struggle.

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