Back in 2017, Capo Lee gave us a taste of what he is capable of with his impressive Capo The Champ album. Now, fast forward to 2019, and his latest project: Heart of a Champ.
Reaching for flavours of grime, rap, afrobeat, garage, drill and trap, Capo condenses a full picture of his perspective and experiences. Even though there are hits peppered throughout the release, this is one of those albums that should be listened to in order as presented, allowing Capo pull you through the highs and lows of shifting genres, styles and moods.
The opener, ‘Pray For Me’, is a reflective introduction from the MC, telling the tale of what has shaped him up to this point. Over Sir Spyro’s bright synths and an elegant vocal sample, Capo opts for glimmers of vulnerability and doubt rather than brash overconfidence, signalling the mature artistic undercurrent across the record as a whole. The hype soon follows though: the jumpy bassline and drill flows on ‘Money Thirst’ give way to the tense strings and grimey rhythms of Silencer’s production on ‘Sunday’, complimented by Capo’s sparse, snapping delivery.
The mood turns again on ‘Patterns’. Shimmering melodies float on the pure garage bouncer supplied by Izco. Beginning with ‘Get the mic out and I do it properly / gloves on and I feel like I’m Rocky’, Capo crafts self-assured bars to complete the dancefloor heater, alongside Lando’s smooth as silk vocals on the chorus. A more serious tone sets in on ‘Way Too Long’, as eerie choral layers and piercing chimes preface Capo telling of his unrelenting work rate. He comes hard for this skippy flow, telling of his unstoppable grind for success with a harsh dose of reality: 'Days and nights on the curb / too late and I can’t go broke / trynna think of a life that’s worse / put ps in my grandma’s purse / all the mandem burying friends’.
It’s no mistake, then, that the next track is the deepest on the album, ‘Therapy Room’. In a short but powerful two and a half minutes, Capo reveals the drive behind his growth and change away from his past: ‘Ain’t no offending me / I sat in jail in the darkest corner, I know that its meant to be / shit changed up mentally, and I feel like I’ve grown up mentally’. A rumbling trap beat balanced with delicately ringing top notes gives the perfect foundation for these confessional verses. ‘All 4 U’ has a warmer feel, as weighty 2-step matches with Lola Snow’s stunning voice and Capo’s loved-up bars.
‘Coulda Been’ returns to the grime MC’s home territory, as Capo runs rapid-fire lines over Z Dot’s ice-cold instrumental. The infectious finished product focuses on the complex rhyme structures and rhythms, letting Capo’s writing and mic skills come to the forefront. Next, ‘Circles’ switches up the style with a tropical beat that intertwines beautifully with Capo’s understated story of a complicated relationship. Finally, ‘Grateful’ is a soulful cut, speaking directly about how life could have taken a very different path for Capo. Joss Ryan’s hazy piano cords and bassline combination, paired with the righteous voice of Happi, are the perfect backing for Capo’s heartfelt concluding message.
‘Grateful’ brings the project full circle, resolving the questions and doubts that were voiced in ‘Pray For Me’. Together, the first and last songs cement the entire tracklist as a complete vision of life from Capo Lee. This isn’t a collection of over-hyped, run-of-the-mill beats and bars. Instead, Capo distils the high points of a range of UK sounds and spins them together for his lyrical self-portrait, supplying an authentic narrative of his progress up to this point.
Topping off a hugely successful year, Heart of a Champ demonstrates Capo Lee’s path: from a rising star in grime, to a fully established MC that cannot be slept on, with great stylistic flexibility and an increasingly accomplished discography.
Listen to Heart of a Champ below now.