As an innovator, originator, and pioneer of the art of DJing in hip-hop, Kid Capri has been around long enough that he doesn’t need to prove anything. Throughout his several decades in the genre, Capri, who was raised in The Bronx, honed his DJ skills at a young age, eventually mastering other creative outlets like producing and rapping. His quick rise led to him gaining national recognition for being the live DJ on Russell Simmons’ Def Comedy Jam for seven years. Capri embodies the elements of hip-hop because he lives and breathes the culture, becoming the blueprint for longevity and building a successful brand in entertainment.
As far as introducing techniques, Kid Capri was an early adopter of extending the record, bringing the record back, and teasing the records to crowds. Capri backs his contributions to DJing with more examples. “Playing the records from different parts than what would normally be played from, playing the record 15 times back-to-back like I did with ‘Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Could See,’” Capri says. “That’s how DJs started doing that on the radio. Playing records fast, putting it on, taking it off in the fourth bar. All these different things you see DJs do right now: Kid Capri.”
The proof of his icon status was seen at this year’s BET Awards, where he curated a celebration of the 50 Years of Hip-Hop through musical medleys across all generations and pulled it off in a way only he could’ve done. 2023 continues to be an active year for Kid Capri as he’s featured on Hip Hop 50 Live at Yankee Stadium on August 11 for the Bronx Bombers set with A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie and Fat Joe. He’s also back in the studio working on his next album More Love as well as appearing on tracks by Daz Dillinger and Lil Eazy E (“Ridin”), Ron Browz (“Stay With Me”), 5ive Mics (“I’m a Rap Star Remix”), Dave East (“Come 2 Far”), and an unreleased Black Rob collab from Life Story 2, produced by Deric “D-Dot” Angelettie.
Kid Capri remains a household name because he’s always on the road, giving fans plenty of dates to catch him behind the 1s and 2s live. You can hear him on Kid Capri’s Block Party on Sirius XM Fly on the weekends, bringing throwbacks with new tracks that end with a special Block Party mix. His status has been built off being a Grammy winner, producing for Jay-Z, Heavy D, Madonna, 50 Cent, and more. He’s been the touring DJ for Diddy, Aaliyah, Salt-N-Pepa, and Timbaland. Kendrick Lamar once reached out to feature him on his Pulitzer Prize-winning album DAMN. All of this to say that Kid Capri’s career knows no bounds, a constant force within hip-hop’s 50 years who remains humble and thankful to still be here.
Let’s put a number on this now. How long have you been doing this?
Since I was eight years old. I’ve been known for 35 years.
I ask because on your album The Tape, you have this song called “Don’t Sweat Me” where you saw you’re the hardest working man in hip-hop. After all these years, you’re still living up to that.
Absolutely. Thank you. I appreciate that.
Why haven’t you slowed down? What keeps you motivated?
I genuinely love what I do. I know that me being a DJ in this business was always an uphill battle. They always look at DJs as the bottom of the totem pole, except when hip-hop first started. DJs were the front guy; records came in, and the rapper had to be the front guy. They pushed the DJs to the back. So that’s when I became my own one-man band and didn’t need anybody in front of me. I could do every myself and I just needed the world to see it. And fortunately enough by the grace of God, a TV show called Def Comedy Jam fell on my lap so I could show the world that and I just took it from there. That’s where all the DJs followed, they followed what I did, speaking on the mic the way I do and everything I do. And it just created a whole new thing. That’s just one of the things I did. But it all comes from me, staying focused on it and knowing exactly what I want, and also being a fan as well as the deliverer.
With The Love, you wrote, produced, and rapped on it. Why do you not want to be put in a box?
This is the reason why I don’t have “DJ” on my name. When you see “Kid Capri,” you see Kid Capri. You don’t see “DJ Kid Capri.” The reason why is it puts you in a box. It makes people think that’s all that you do. There’s nothing wrong with that, but if you’re a person with many talents, why would you be put in a box? Look at 50 Cent, he’s not just a rapper. He’s a director, he’s a producer, he owns a clothing company. He’s got things going on. He’s not just one thing. When we get into this music business, we do what we do to bring everything else to what we do. If you are a person that wants to open a restaurant, do you not want to open a restaurant because you’re a DJ or bass player or a drummer or a singer? No! You shouldn’t be stuck in no box and nobody should tell you to stay in a box. The sky is not the limit it is just the first stop.
When we think of Kid Capri, we think of your contributions to mixtape culture. A lot of people credit you for making a profit off your mixtapes. When did you realize that you could make money off them?
Well, I was doing that when I was in the SNS Club with Starchild. We was doing some tapes, and people would come and buy them right there. When it became something different was when I decided to sit on the street corner and sell my tapes. First of all, the $20 me and Starchild was making, we would have to split. Now I’m by myself, that whole $20 is coming to me. People were walking up, ‘why would I buy a tape for $20?’ Listen to my tape in the beginning, you’re going to buy everything I have. Because that’s how I made it. I made it so people were there while I was making it. When you heard it in your car, you felt you was a part of it and it felt like you was at a party even though most of the tapes that was made was in my hallway. But you felt you was in a club somewhere. The things I would say and the music I would play that other people wasn’t knowing about. Just the way I did things, it became so infectious around the world that it just stuck.
My generation would say DJ Drama is the person we look up to as a pioneer in the mixtape game. What about the other pioneers in your class? What have they done to influence it?
I don’t know what everybody else is doing, you know what I’m saying? I just stick to what I’m doing. I will say this: DJ Drama has done tremendously great picking up the torch and moving in the direction he moved. Because when I stopped making the tapes, I didn’t stop because I fell off. I stopped because I was the Michael Jordan of making the tapes. I just stopped because they said I was making all this money for making these illegal street tapes. So I said, ‘You know what? I made a name already. Let me take my career and go a different way.’ I just left at the top of my game. The last tape was the Doo Wop diss. I was on fire and I just left. I started television, I started all the other things and took my career to a more serious direction. Ater that, Clue, Drama, and everybody else came in and took the torch and did what they did. But had I kept going, there would still be a Drama, Clue, and everybody but I still would’ve been one of them dudes at the top.
You’re known for allowing DJs to be viewed as artists. Can you elaborate on how you did that? You’ve talked about this before if you’re on stage killing it for two hours, you need to be paid the same way as an artist.
Why should the DJ get treated any different? Why isn’t the DJ on the front cover of a magazine? Now it is, but all these years I had to fight for it, I would have to say no to a lot of things that people was giving to me because they thought I needed it. No. I’m not doing this, I’m not doing that. I had to stay at a certain level to let people know how serious it is and how we got to be looked at. You’re not going to look at me as someone just playing records. I’ma bust whoever’s ass that got the big platinum record. I’ma make it hard for him on that stage in this arena. So you’re gonna give me the same type of respect. You’re gonna pay me the same kind of way. You might not pay me the same as the platinum dude, but you’re going to pay me respectfully the way I’m supposed to. I don’t want no more than what I’m worth. I want what I’m worth, no more no less. So if you can’t give me that, then you don’t respect what I’m doing. What’s any difference between me playing turntables and Stevie Wonder playing the piano?
What’s the difference? It’s a talent. It’s something I am doing. So you’re going to look at the DJs as less then because they’re playing records? It’s the way we play them. It’s what we do that make people feel the way they do. Why shouldn’t we be respected? Why on the flyer on some of these festivals, they are at the bottom of the flyer? Why? You won’t see me at no bottom of no flyer! I rather not take the show. I rather you keep your show before you not respect my position. Very known thing, I was supposed to do the TLC tour with Bone Thugs-N-Harmony. But the promoters thought I was less than. They had TLC real big as they should be, they had Bone Thugs medium, and they had Kid Capri real small. So I said, ‘Ok, end the tour.’ And I deaded the whole tour because of a flyer. I had to take those types of stands in order for people to take it serious. If I gotta take from myself to say no for people to take it serious, then I’ll deprive myself just to make sure I make my statement.
You’ve been immortalized in many songs like Biggie’s “Juicy,” worked with Big L on “Put It On.” What do those shouts out mean to you?
Well, I’ll tell you this. I’ve been shouted on many, many songs. The one Biggie shouted me out on. The one Greg Nice shouted me out on. The one Parrish from EPMD shouted me out on, “Crossover.” All of those are hit records, but there’s a lot of records that I’ve been shouted out on that wasn’t hit records. To be shouted out on all those records and did all these records, produced for Heavy D’s “Nuttin’ But Love” and wrote half of it. I produced for Madonna. I did Jay-Z’s “It’s Like That.” All these different records I did, “Rowdy Rowdy” with 50 Cent. To get a call from Kendrick Lamar in 2017 to be on his album and narrate his album, that shows right there the growth of everything I’ve done. I ain’t have to say nothing else. When me and him were in the studio, I asked him ‘why didn’t you get Battlecat and Pooh? Two West Coast legends to be on the album?’ He’s like, ‘Nah, love those dudes. Those are my dudes but I know what you did for the music business. I know what you did for the DJ. I know what you did authentically and that’s what I want on my album.’ So this young dude knew the story. I didn’t have to tell him, he knew what it was. He put me on this album that put me in countries that I never been to before. He put my voice in countries I never been to before, so he brought me to a whole new generation of people that might not even heard of a Kid Capri or don’t know what Kid Capri is about, or haven’t had the Kid Capri experience. He brought me to those people. I wish we could’ve did a lot more like concerts and tours. He didn’t need me, of course. But if we would have been together, it would have been insane. Because I’m on the only hip-hop, Pulitzer Award-winning album, a milestone was made when we did that. So I’m grateful for that.
This is a loaded question: what made you fall in love with hip-hop?
The same reason everybody else do. You can’t help it. It is entertaining. I would not want to be born in the ’50s, ’40s, and the ’30s. I was born at the right time where I came right in the middle of the meat of everything. Everything dope. I’m in that. My dad’s a soul singer. My grandfather played trumpet for all the big guys. It’s always been there. So it was inevitable for me to do [music]. I grew up with it and I gave my whole life to it. When somebody is like really dedicated without even knowing they are dedicated, you can’t beat them. You can’t never outdo them. You can’t outwork them because they’re dedicated without even thought.
You’re always wanting to create opportunities for other people. Not a lot of people in this industry want to do that, to bring the next generation up.
Well because some people get stuck in an old-school way of thinking. They don’t want it to go nowhere, they don’t want the shine off of them. They think if the younger man comes in, he’s going to take away from you. No. There’s only one Kid Capri. You can have a million people try to be Kid Capri, but there’s only one Kid Capri. There’s only one Jay-Z. There’s only one Busta Rhymes. There’s only one Nas. There’s only one Eminem. That’s it. So, that’s you, forever. Nobody can take that away.