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LVR for OutPump: Capo Plaza - 3

Capo Plaza is one of the most prominent names in the new Italian rap scene and in Italian music in general. At just twenty years old he was already at the top of all the charts, collecting tens of millions of streams and awards with his songs. He was among the first in Italy to become the protagonist of a European tour, a triumph on a continental scale that led him to be appreciated in Spain, France, Belgium, Germany, Croatia.
He has already collaborated with prominent rappers all over the world, from Europe to America, where he dreams of landing as an artist. In all this, he manages to live his 22 years of age with his head on his shoulders, his goals very clear and his feet firmly on the ground. A few days ago we had the pleasure of meeting him and taking some photos with looks from our LVR selection.

LVR for OutPump: Capo Plaza - 2

CAPO PLAZA, THE WORLD IS YOURS

Palazzo Serbelloni in Milan, on Corso Venezia, is not exactly the typical location where you might come across a rapper. From its inlaid walls, art and history, its huge crystal chandeliers exude magnificence, the thousands of rooms and corridors are characterized by a timeless elegance. Walking under these ceilings does not require street credibility, but above all maturity, the maturity necessary to understand that you are treading on history. Capo Plaza crosses the threshold of the Palace on tiptoe, completely devoid of any form of stardom, no trace of the shameless egocentricity that many might expect from a boy who, at only 22 years old, is one of the most successful artists in Italy, and one of the few Italian rappers to have made it throughout Europe.

There are about ten days until the release of “Plaza”, his second album. The rapper, originally from Salerno, however, does not seem to suffer from the typical pre-release anxiety: “these days I’m chilling at home, also because you can’t do anything. You can’t go anywhere”. There’s a slight hint of frustration in his voice, more than justified given the situation. It’s not so much the fear of making low numbers – given the reception given to “Allenamento 4”, you could say that the risk is not really there -, but the awareness of how much better it could have gone in a situation of “normality”. “The record was supposed to come out in April, then this situation postponed everything, and led me to revise it. In fact, I really revolutionized it, for example I decided to include international features,” he says, and adds that “the pandemic led me to take the next step, also because in the meantime many things have happened. The Italian scene has grown abroad, both with records like Sfera’s and with young emerging artists like Rondo, who have already arrived outside Italy”.

Only five years ago Capo Plaza published “Sulamente Nuje”, his debut album. From there, an incredible rise brought him to the peak in his early twenties. “I always imagined I could do something with music, but I never imagined I would get this far. I never thought I could call myself not only an Italian rapper, but a 100% European rapper, and now I can pursue the American dream as well.” He is the youngest Italian rapper to have completed a European tour, and a successful one at that, but he admits that he did not immediately realize the extent of his achievements. “Only recently have I become really aware of what I’ve achieved: by never stopping, I didn’t realize where I had arrived. Once I moved to Milan and finished the tour, I really realized that no, I wasn’t someone just in my small town, I had become something much bigger.” When he looks back, he is more than aware that all of this was possible not only because of his work, but also because of those who came before him. He knows well that there have been several generations before his own, and that the road of Italian rap is paved with successes that, one after another, have created the opportunities that he and some of his colleagues are now able to exploit. He doesn’t look for a break with the past, on the contrary, in his eyes there is a certain pride in claiming the unbreakable bond with those who preceded him. “Before me and Sfera, many artists allowed rap to be cleared through customs in Italy: Dogo, Inoki, Bassi Maestro, Fibra, Vacca… They are people to whom respect must always be paid, because they allowed us to get where we are now. They opened the doors to rap in the mainstream, then we managed to take it abroad, because before there were no possibilities, and maybe not even too much interest. But respect for what they did will always be due them.” He credits the OGs with more than their due – and often forgotten by others -, he acknowledges the giant strides made by others, but at the same time he doesn’t hide behind a finger, he doesn’t deny that there are still a lot of problems to solve and obstacles to overcome. When we talk about the gap between Italy and Europe, between Italy and America, he is as blunt as he is brutal in his criticism. “In Italy we are five, ten years behind, and the fault is not with the artists. I often say it, our problem is that it’s an old system, especially at the top. And not only in music”, adding that “we need a shake-up everywhere, even in discography. Artists are not well managed, yet the new generations should be supported: thanks also to what we have done, they can potentially reach even greater goals”.

Observations about discography are just the tip of the iceberg. Capo Plaza doesn’t mince his words, and isn’t afraid to pillory the hypocrisies of our country. “In Italy if you make it you’re an asshole, if you fail you’re a failure, if you try you’re trying, yes, but where do you want to go; when I read the local comments and then I see comments from abroad that support us much more than the Italians, and I ask myself two questions. Here the situation is really bad.. Music is just a reflection of what’s happening in society, and Capo Plaza knows it well, repeating it in his words as well as in his music. In fact, we end up widening the spectrum of his reflection, and we find ourselves talking about the social and cultural climate that is anything but serene in which we now navigate. We talk about cultural barriers, how in Italy we struggle to absorb what comes from other cultures, and he has no doubts about what the root evil is. “In Italy we have to solve the problem of racism, the issue of rap in our country is also very related to this problem. Why can’t a black person have the opportunity to come here to us because things are bad in his country? Who are you to deny the dream of a better life? In France, all cultures come together, regardless of skin color. And our racism also leads us to reject the people who created rap culture.” The record is littered with such stances, though without what could be called a true socially engaged piece. There are slivers of musings scattered throughout the tracklist, and they are not the result of a random outburst. It’s impossible not to see the common thread that connects some of the lyrics in “Plaza” to recent news events, which we inevitably end up talking about. “The more engaged references in my pieces are a deliberate choice, I want to get a message across. Whether in America or at home, for example, an episode like the murder of George Floyd should not exist. I can’t accept it, just as I can’t accept the massacre of Willy in Italy some time later. Then it happens that Trump sends people to Capitol Hill and virtually no one lifts a finger. The police need to protect us, not slaughter us.” As he speaks, his voice is filled with anger and resignation, and unfortunately it’s easy to see why. We’re in a time in history where it’s really hard to see the glass as half full. He often looks abroad at Plaza, and the results of the comparison are merciless. Whether it’s overseas or transalpine, the scenario doesn’t change. “In America, there have been serious protests for thirty years, when there are real problems. In Italy we arrived thirty years late. In France and America, when things go wrong, people take to the streets, the frenzy happens. I’m not justifying wicked violence, that is always wrong, but I’m saying that people have the balls to make themselves heard. Here we think to comment from behind a keyboard: what do we hope to conclude like this?”. He has no intention of elevating himself to an opinion leader, but at the same time he can’t remain indifferent to everything that’s going on in the world. As well as other artists of this generation – for example Izi with “RIOT” -, he felt the need to put down on paper some reflections. “In Italy if you’re born in certain contexts or you make some mistakes, you’re finished. You fuck up as a kid, you’re reported for life. There’s no redemption, and racism makes it worse. Abuse of power is horrendous, always. What I want to do is try to shake the kids up. You need someone to tell them certain things, otherwise they’re going to recoil even more in front of the television and Tik Tok.” Incredibly complex speeches, problems whose solution is in the hands of other tables, other figures, other institutions; yet the importance of launching messages like these is undeniable, especially from those who really have the possibility to be heard.

Capo Plaza is not afraid to reason, to ask questions, and to seek answers. It’s not exactly the typical attitude of his peers, and it’s even weirder to see it in an extraordinarily successful 22-year-old who theoretically has the world at his feet. “Being 22 but actually not being “just” 22 is one of the things that makes me think the most. You find yourself in situations that force you to grow up fast, this is not an easy environment, it’s tough as a life, but there are difficulties in all environments.” Is there really the infamous and dark side of success? Or is it really all gold that glitters? “After a couple of years of living a successful life, you realize that in the end anyway, when you go to bed at night, it’s just you and the pillow. You can have 8,000 girls drooling over you, all the jewelry and cars in the world, but they’re of no use in the end, because you’re alone, you don’t know if the people you have around you are there for you, or for who you are, for Luca or for Capo Plaza.” His is not ingratitude, also because he knows very well that he is in an unthinkable position for the vast majority of his peers (and not only). But the past is there to keep him grounded, to allow him to enjoy his achievements, without deluding himself that they are the spice of life, and without ever taking them for granted. “I appreciate success and wealth, but why is it that every time I lay eyes on my jewelry, or maybe my car, I realize how valuable it is, because I remember where I came from and what I had when I started. It wasn’t easy to emerge from the context I was in, so I don’t get “tired” of success and wealth,” and again “money doesn’t make all the happiness in the world. I say it in my songs and it’s true, I do it for money and passion, but they are not everything. I’ve always been inspired by Birdman and Cash Money Records, money, success and passion, but that’s not where happiness lies”.

Not just Birdman and Cash Money Records, though. If the businessman’s approach and the breaking attitude of the label that discovered Lil Wayne and Drake have shaped him, there is no lack of inspirations and tributes that go even further back in time, to a historical era that one would not expect to find among his influences. Already in “Track 1,” the track that opens the record, Plaza mentions the Dipsets and Jim Jones, who are not exactly the most immediate references for his generation, quite the contrary. “The Dipsets are one of the bands that influenced me the most. Without them there would be no A$AP Mob, let’s face it. I owe so much to that era, without them I probably wouldn’t be here.” He spoke of his “debt” towards the previous generations in Italy, but sincerity does not fail when looking at America, the cradle of rap and hip hop. “If I quote the Dipsets or sample Nelly, it’s no accident. I mean, I know rap, I’ve listened to it, I know what was there. I know who the Dipsets are, I know who Large Professor is, I know who Raekwon is. I’ve been listening to this music since I was seven years old, but my biggest influences have been Birdman, Rick Ross, Meek Mill. And sorry if that’s not enough (laughs).” To make “Plaza,” the Campanian rapper went back to the past, put aside the Lil Baby generation – “I owe him so much, he’s a monster, but I was looking for something else” – and went back to the turn of the 90s and early 2000s. “For this record, I went back to listening to 50 Cent, the Dipsets and similar names, because I was trying to find that attitude, that desire to rock, to do bad,” he says. After a successful European tour and two years of “break”, that hunger, that attitude a little bit comes less. I found it again listening to those records, I had to go back to where I grew up”. It’s not so much a matter of lyrical or sound references, the journey back was in search of something else, something more elusive than a sample to retrieve or a rhyme to quote. “It’s mostly their attitude that inspires me, the brazenness with which they stand on the beat. Cam’ron cracked me up, he’d wear pink and fuck it, nobody had the guts to say anything to him, whether it was with the mic in his hand or backstage. That attitude can’t be beat.”

An attitude more necessary than ever, especially after almost two years of official stop. In the last few years, the record market has become more and more frenetic, the attention threshold lower and lower, the link between artist and audience – paradoxically – more and more volatile. One day you are the star of the moment, the next year you are no longer there. Not even a success like the one achieved by “20” is enough to keep you calm. “Pretty much every day I was afraid of losing grip on the audience. That’s also why I’ve done so many features in other people’s projects in the last two years, to stay on the scene, even four in a month, they were all born out of mutual respect.” Fears and worries that have come up time and time again in one of the most complicated years in recent human history. “Several times I felt as if the situation was getting out of hand, but at the same time I knew that, when I returned, there would be a great expectation, I always sensed the public’s desire.” Even at an artistic level, there was no lack of doubts: once you’ve reached the top, it’s easy to rest on your laurels, but it’s just as easy to realize that today’s recipe for success might not work tomorrow. The sudden changes in the scene certainly didn’t help. “I was worried about me actually, I couldn’t put pen to paper the way I wanted to anymore. I’ve had so many influences, I’ve seen the scene evolve rapidly, I’ve changed so much too, I’ve had to live this moment as a challenge, to come out stronger.” He realized that he risked ending up trapped inside himself, inside a character and a stylistic figure to which he owes so much, but that could become his worst enemy. The real challenge, essentially, was against himself. “I didn’t want to repeat myself, I was beginning to realize that I risked being repetitive, so I preferred to wait even months to give an evolution to the project, for example a more personal and introspective turn, “wins & losses” in short, to quote Meek Mill”. The final result? “20” was the record of a kid trying to be an adult, this one is called “Plaza” just to make it clear that you don’t play anymore. It’s not just an album, it’s a step in life, another chapter in the journey to becoming a man.”

And Plaza, as we said, has become a man who plays in the big league. No longer just in Serie A, the new album is rightfully part of the Champions League of rap. America, Europe and Italy come together, thanks to collaborations of absolute thickness. It doesn’t happen, however, from the point of view of productions: “I wanted to make this album only with my producers, it is called “Plaza” and it is my journey, and I wanted with me the people who have been part of this journey from the beginning. A choice that rewards the work of Ava and Mojo, and that brings on their productions of talents with hundreds of millions of streams behind. If on the one hand there would seem to be some exceptional exclusions, just to take the audience by surprise – “obviously with France the collaborations are not over, I’m present in several French records coming out this year, with them the collaboration has been open for years” -, there are also confirmations that solidify pre-existing relationships, such as the collaboration with A Boogie Wit by Hoodie. “After the “Look Back At It” remix, A Boogie and I really started to hear from each other almost daily. I really respect him as an artist, and after watching his documentary on Netflix, I realized that we are very similar. We both come from the streets, from certain situations, but we don’t hail that world.” “No Stress,” then, is not a “simple” featuring for Capo Plaza, not to mention contributions from Gunna, Lil Tjay and Luciano. “Having him [A Boogie Wit da Hoodie] on the record for me is a cool thing, there’s a mutual respect and support, it’s all genuine.” The project’s only Italian collaboration, on the other hand, is in “Demons,” and it corresponds to the name of Sfera Ebbasta. In some ways, the paths of the rapper from Cinisello and Capo Plaza are very similar, it’s easy to draw parallels, and it’s just as easy to see them competing for the title of best in Italy. “Between me and Sfera there is friendship and competition. We’re a bit like Goku and Vegeta, friends who compete sportingly, but there’s no problem collaborating. Obviously each of us wants to do more than the other at the level of numbers, at the discographic level, trying to make cooler stuff, but there is a great friendship at the base. “Famous” has incredible bombs in it, the project is perhaps the most important that has come out in the last 20 years in Italy, in terms of media and marketing. Just respect, no cap.” Luca has no problem in giving to Caesar what is Caesar’s, but he doesn’t even hide his healthy competitiveness. It’s rap on the other hand, it would be strange the contrary.
We are very close to the release of “Plaza”, the culmination of a journey – personal, artistic and professional – more than a year long. He is serene at the idea of the album’s release, a little less so at the thought of the period we are living in. “This has been a complicated year. The first wave I practically didn’t feel it, it was almost a pleasure to be able to stop for a moment, lock myself at home, devote myself to PlayStation and Netflix. Once the summer was over, though, I’m experiencing this second wave badly. All I can do is work out, play online games, write music. On a loop.” It’s hard to find a better definition of workaholism: the new album has yet to be released, yet creating new music continues to be his sole prerogative, with frightening constancy. “The Plaza project isn’t finished, it doesn’t end once the record comes out. I’m also recording verses for others, there will be no shortage of surprises.” There is no shortage of down moments, as it should be, especially after such a 2020; one should not forget that, behind the flashy looks and international fame, there is still a very young guy. “I’m 22, I want to go out, go to clubs, go to bars. Even if you have all the gold in the world, even if you live in the most opulent castle ever, after three months you can’t take it anymore.” And if the splendor of one’s own home or of Palazzo Serbelloni alone is not enough, they can still become the perfect frames to try to get the best out of a similar situation, without stopping to work on oneself even for a minute. “I’ve never been an avid reader, but I’ve started reading more often. I look for new words, new inspirations. I’ve also started studying English. I feel it’s time to hammer a lot, I have to evolve, I’m only 22 and I can’t stop, I have to go as far as I can.” The marathon continues, in short. “Exactly, like Nipsey says,” Plaza replies, smiling. Yes, the maturity is there, without a doubt.

LVR for OutPump: Capo Plaza - 1

Production: Outpump studio
Photo: Francesca Di Fazio
Video: Andrea Schiavini
Light assistant: Michael James Daniele
Make-up and hair: Gaia Dellaquila
Stylist: Edoardo Cavrini

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IP-0A004C0B - 2024-06-24T01:24:04.3522190+02:00