Historically in hip-hop, the DJ has always been an essential element with respect to the culture, the sound and the style. DJs have not only paved the way for new music to be blasted into the ears of eager listeners but also broken new ground to expand the scope of the genre. Today, hardly a DJ in hip-hop can boast about his credits more so than Kid Capri, who has bridged the gap from old-school DJs like Hollywood and Red Alert to today's mix masters. While other DJs strive to gain exposure and grab the spotlight via radio, TV and the like, Kid Capri has already done it all.
The Bronx-born DJ first gained national recognition and helped put a face to the DJ as the man behind the wheels of steel for Russell Simmons and HBO's hit show Def Comedy Jam from 1992 to 1997. Before Def Comedy Jam, no other DJ had performed live as an integral part of a television show. “Def Comedy Jam made me a star,” Capri says. “It took me to a whole new level. I did that show for years, and [on tour] we hit every city in the United States.” In addition to Def Comedy Jam's success (it was No. 1 on HBO during most of its run), the Def Comedy Tour ran for almost eight full years. Doing his set right before the comedians came out, Capri worked the crowd into a frenzy each night. “Mad people used to come up to me and say that the best part of the show was listening to my set,” he says. “They didn't even come to the show for the comedians.”
Already a legend on the streets and in the clubs before Def Comedy Jam became a cultural phenomenon, Capri put himself in the hip-hop spotlight by being one of the first DJs to pioneer the mixtape concept as a for-profit business. Most of Capri's peers will agree that his development of the mixtape has been copied by an endless number of DJs. “The way I did it was different than anyone who did [mixtapes] before me,” he says. “The sound and the style were completely different. Even though there were tapes before I did them, I just took it to new heights. I kept my ass in the park and sold me some mixtapes till people knew who I was. Once magazines said I was making millions by selling [tapes] in the street, that's when I shut it down.”
What's more, Capri was one of the first DJs to speak on records, introducing himself and the artist, though it's commonplace today. Kids heard records from “The Kiiiiiiiiiiiid Capriiiiiiii” long before P. Diddy started doing his thing on tracks. But the new generation often takes something from that which came before.
Although his DJ experience is vast, Capri is comfortable not only behind the decks but also behind the mixing board. He has produced two full-length artist albums — the 1991 Warner Bros. release The Tape (which some music-industry people consider the first commercial mixtape) and Soundtrack to the Streets (Columbia, 1998) — as well as songs for some of hip-hop's heavyweights, including Jay-Z, 50 Cent, Nas, Snoop Dogg, Busta Rhymes and numerous others. Capri also co-wrote and produced on Heavy D's classic “Nuttin' but Love,” one of hip-hop's all-time-greatest hits.
From an early age, Capri was exposed to studio sessions, touring and rehearsing, as well as how to act like a professional onstage. As for how he transformed his DJ skills into production skills so easily and successfully, he says: “That comes from me being a fan [of music]; that comes from me being a drummer; that comes from my love of music. My father was a singer; my grandfather played with artists like Miles Davis, Count Basie and Dizzy Gillespie.”
Not surprisingly, music has always been foremost in Capri's life. Although he still spins about 250 times a year, the days of endless nights on the road in meager conditions are a thing of the past. “This year, I'll have my third version of the Kid Capri Tour Bus, which I own,” he says. “We don't rent.” But he does still love to do parties — big and small. Recently, he and hosts Russell Simmons and P. Diddy DJ'd a party for Donald Trump at Trump's house, with proceeds for tsunami victims.
Today, Capri is putting much of his time into building his new label, No Kid'n Records, and developing talent such as R&B artist Natalee and rapper Buddah. He also plans to do another solo album for release on the new label later this year. “I got big plans for No Kid'n,” Capri says. “Being on the road and doing shows kind of takes some of the time away from that, but I am setting myself up to make all that happen.”