Deep Thought EP
April 5, 2013
Rapper Caper slams the Native Title Act as a "white bible" on his latest release.
The Narungga emcee, who has worked as a Native Title field officer in South Australia for the past 10 years, raps on his track "The Writing's On The Wall":
A lot of misconceptions about us owning land
We don’t own any, man
I work for Native Title
The government is a rival
Assholes with a white bible
"I call the government assholes because the government suppress Aboriginal people when they're trying to gain Native Title with a white bible that’s called the Native Title Act," he tells Green Left. "I call it a white bible because The Native Title Act is the white man’s law book that Aboriginal people have to abide by to gain Native Title. It should be burnt."
On the same track, the Whyalla-born rapper spits:
Every time we get a step closer
They change the Native Title Act
Insert a barricade so we lack
Any ownership over land - true fact
It is often said that Aboriginal people's law never changes, but white people's law changes all the time.
"Absolutely, the white man’s law changes all the time and they can do it whenever they like," says Caper. "With the Native Title Act they will keep inserting more barricades to keep us suppressed because the government will never allow a piece of land to be handed back to be owned by Aboriginal people. The system in place is that Aboriginal people can gain 'recognition' by the High Courts if Native Title is proven - and that is by proving connection to the land, and that laws and customs are still being practised. But that’s it - recognition. They don’t actually get the land back to own."
Aboriginal activist and academic Gary Foley puts it another way: "Native Title is not Land Rights." Foley has also said that if Aboriginal Australians were wiped out tomorrow, 2 million white Australians would be out of a job.
"Interesting," says Caper. "I know there are a lot of white Australians working in Aboriginal organisations so no doubt a lot of people will be out of a job. Often it’s said that Aboriginal people should be placed in Aboriginal organisations and jobs, but I’ve even seen blacks being suppressed by other blacks in workplaces. Sad."
Caper, also known as Colin Darcy, hit headlines worldwide in 2010 when his track about blacks being suppressed by non-blacks, "How Would You Like To Be Me?" was temporarily banned by Facebook.
He says "The Writing's On The Wall" is the follow-up to that song. "I had to write this to explain that I proved my point by racist people leaving comments on YouTube and Facebook. I remember at the time of the controversy I even had white people threatening me on Facebook to beat me up, which was funny. We still need change. I think racism will be around forever, but, hey, we should still talk about it."
"The Writing's On The Wall" appears on Deep Thought, a release that Caper calls an EP, but - at 14 tracks - is longer than most albums. It also manages to keep up the quality where most albums fade to fillers. Caper has a penchant for pounding pianos, soaring vocals and catchy hooks that conjure up the euphoria of early acid house. That passion for big melodies is why, in the future, he says: "I’d like to work with new artists, not so much rappers, but singers."
A prolific producer and poet who usually pours out release after quality release on the internet, Caper had the Deep Thought EP mastered in the US and held back on putting it out, building up the anticipation. It was a move partly inspired by advice from Matt O’Connor, one of the most respected A&R managers in Australia, who has a string of hits under his belt.
NO TRIPLE J PLAY
"Yeah, the EP was sent to Atlanta in the US and the job that was done was great," says Caper. "It was also cheaper, which was a bonus. I had to hold the EP back on the fact that the single, ‘Bright Lights’ featuring Darren Mullan, had to come first, which was released nationally by Matt O’Connor, so his advice was to hold the release back till the single was released and pitched to Triple J. That did create a little extra anticipation."
Triple J, which didn't pick up on the single, often comes in for criticism for the type of hip-hop it playlists. Fellow Indigenous rapper Thorts recently said: "The majority of music played on there is independent in nature and really fucking cool but the 'hip-hop' they choose to play is like Kanye West, Jay-Z type shit that I would personally consider money-making rap. There is dope indie hip-hop out there that is innovative, refreshing, abstract and intelligent that I know non hip-hop listeners would really enjoy. What’s going on?"
Aboriginal-Serbian hardcore hip-hoppers Kings Konekted, who were featured on Triple J's hip-hop show this week, said: "We'd be really happy to hear a bit more authentic, undiluted hip-hop being better represented across the Triple J playlist and we reckon you [listeners] would too."
Says Caper: "I’ve had this conversation with many people. Over time, hearing what’s on Triple J, it’s enough to make me feel confused when they play music that's very commercial and a lot of it in my opinion is very bad - I have no idea how it gets air play. I’m not and never will be the hating type, I’m just very passionate about music and being honest. I think I speak for a lot of people that think it’s a radio station funded by the government for the community to bring great new music to the public, yet it definitely sounds like it’s changing its direction."
A DIFFERENT VOICE
Some might argue that Caper's unusual, nasal delivery might have influenced Triple J's decision. In his short documentary for the song "Reminisce" off the Deep Thought EP, Caper's childhood friend remarks that "his voice is a little bit different".
"Yeah, he did," says Caper. "So have so many other people, in a bad way and a good way, too. I don’t like my own rap voice myself and I’ve said it in the track ‘Till There’s Nothing Left’: ‘Shit, you don’t like my rap voice man, me neither, but I'll still take ya favourite rapper to the cleaners.'"
Others might argue that Caper's dark, radical, confronting lyrics about racism and growing up poor and fatherless only to see his brother and mother die early, sparking thoughts of his own demise - might be too much for radio.
"In 2010 I was diagnosed with chronic dysthymia, so I struggle a lot with chronic sadness from my past and present," he says. "I’m paranoid about dying young like my mother and brother before I get to see my dreams come to fruition. I used to have these crazy nightmares and I put that in my video for 'Roller Coaster' about death always stalking me."
However, such arguments against Triple J play would be false. "Bright Lights", the single off the Deep Thought EP, was in no way confronting. Besides, the radical, dark, confronting "How Would You Like To Be Me?" even managed to sneak onto daytime radio play in 2010.
"I’ve come to terms just recently to not let Triple J be the stepping stone," says Caper. "When you let radio dictate your career, that’s when you find yourself in constant disappointment that leads to creativity problems, which is not good for anyone’s music."
Which is why he'll keep rapping about issues people would rather not hear, like the fallacy of Native Title, in his own, unique voice. "I’ve learnt that having a different voice is a good thing," he says. "Because nobody sounds like me."
CAPER TALKS ABOUT THE SONGS ON DEEP THOUGHT
"Call On Me" featuring Sophie Metcalfe
I always wanted to be a superhero when I was a kid, like Astro Boy, so I tried to capture that in this song. Like a hip-hop superhero here to serve justice, here to save the day, by using my words as inspiration to help people get through their tough times and just to also let the fans know through the good and bad I promise to deliver great, honest music.
"Fuck The World"
"Fuck The World" is one of the darkest tracks I’ve released to date. I was scared as hell to put this out. I tell a story about a night when I was drunk feeling depressed and suicidal after my brother had passed away. Fast forward a few years, in 2010 I was diagnosed with chronic dysthymia, so I struggle a lot with chronic sadness from my past and present. Like all my music, I can’t move forward in life until I let go of negativity, and this track definitely captured a negative situation.
"Peer Pressure" tells a story of my bad childhood of making bad decisions and doing crime out of boredom. I sampled NWA, who I listened to a lot when I was young. I think a lot of kids especially resort to crime out of boredom, because there’s simply nothing for the youths to do if you're less fortunate, have no money and are living in country areas. I remember last year on Facebook I posted, "what’s there to do on a Friday night in Port Augusta?" One kid commented, "CRIME". I was, like, "Damn…" This was important for me to tell this story, to show how bad my decision-making was when I was a kid. To show you either keep doing this and end up in jail or clean your act up and become something greater. It’s up to the youth, though, to make those decisions and for the parents to guide them in the right direction.
"On To The Next One Freestyle"
This beat is one of the illest Jay-Z beats ever so I had to rap something over the top to rep my city, Whyalla. It’s more of a lyrical wordplay track, with some ill metaphors. When I first started rapping, I studied Eminem, his lyrical style and wordplay. When I knew that rapping is what I wanted to do, Eminem was the actual rapper I was influenced by to say, "OK, I wanna be like him." My brother introduced me to Eminem and I thought he was so dope to be that bold, witty and honest on wax, which gave me courage along with Pac [Tupac Shakur] to do the same. At the time, he was the best rapper out, so I thought I had to study the best to be the best. So along with real stories I used to write a lot of ill battle rap-type stuff, me and an old friend would, like, battle each other over email with lyrics at the time. Also, I used to go to the local battles here in Adelaide, just to watch and always be intrigued by lyrical wordplay. I have a lot of ill, witty-type tracks recorded, but I'm not sure if they’ll see the light of day. We’ll see.
This track I literally wrote as I jumped in my car after work one day and wrote the song on the way home, each time I stopped at some stop lights. I say that throughout the song. Inspiration flooded in to my mind at random occasions and I knew at the time, "I just gotta capture it." So I would stop at the lights and write more lyrics in deep thought until I got to my house. I parked outside just writing for a while as the car engine idled. "Deep Thought" has a nice drifting tone and vibe. I called the EP Deep Thought because all of my lyrics I’ve ever written are written in deep thought.
I always wanted to write and record a song about growing up in Whyalla on a light note, and that’s why I did "Reminisce". Also, just to show fans where I come from is why I did the video for it and to let people into my background a little more. I appreciate my favourite artists that let me into their lives visually as well as musically. I always knew I had to be this kind of an artist to stand out, so I do the same because I think it’s important for you to know who we are. I remember reading a in a book about tips for making it in music and a Triple J presenter said that nobody cares about your story, they just wanna hear the music. I instantly thought that was bullshit, because they wouldn’t be as influential if we didn’t know, when we hear what they had to get through to get to where they came is inspiring and makes the music more believable.
In this song I touch on some random deep thoughts about life in general, then go onto about black people being suppressed. I wrote this with the mind state of people promising black people so many opportunities but who don’t follow through, in particular with music. I’ve been to the music expos where companies talk about signing artists who are Aboriginal, but that’s just talk, gassing us up. Why do you think we have the Deadly Awards? Why do you think we have NITV? Because we don’t get recognised for our talent through mainstream media as much as we should, so we gotta create our own lanes.
"Outta Control" is a tongue-in-cheek song I wrote about a close friend becoming out of control once intoxicated. It has a really fun vibe, this track. An important one, though, with a message.
"Bright Lights" featuring Darren Mullan
This is the first official single that took a lot of time to bring to life. I remember I recorded this, like, three times to perfect my verses. At this stage I was thinking about compromising my style to be more appealing to the so called "Oz Hip-Hop" [scene], but after I did it I realised it definitely wasn’t me. It didn’t feel right. I never spoke like that, so why would I rap like that just to gain momentum? I saw it as a way of selling myself out. I remained true to myself and Matt O’Connor agreed. As an artist, I’m also trying to change the game and can’t allow the game to change me. This track actually has a slow but bouncy tempo so I had to come up with a lot of words with multiple syllables. I think I did it justice by telling the story thus far of struggling while working hard towards fulfilling my dream of making it rapping.
"Fed Up" is an intense story about two different situations. One is about a girl trying to fit in at school while she dresses different and gets teased by her classmates and to top it off she has to come home to getting sexually and physical abused by her stepdad. The second story is about me. I had to go way back to my mind state of the young kid against all odds trying to remain through adversity. I think we all get fed up with life sometimes. I play this song the most and reflect, like, "Damn, did I used to be that kid?" Know what I’m saying? I used to pray a lot when I was young. Pray for better days, which is why I quote it a lot in my music. A lot of people who know me now don’t see my struggle. They sometimes find it hard to believe when I play them these types of songs. I think it’s because I rose up so strong that the surface don’t look cracked, but little do they know, inside it is. That’s why it’s so important to never judge anybody on their appearance, because you never know what they have been through.
"The Writing's On The Wall"
This is the follow-up to How Would You Like To Be Me?" I had to write this to explain that I proved my point by racist people leaving comments on YouTube and Facebook. I remember, at the time of the controversy I even had white people threatening me on Facebook to beat me up, which was funny. We still need change. I think racism will be around forever, but, hey, we should still talk about it.
"Torn Between 2 Loves"
This song right here explains a lot. I nearly quit rapping. I seriously thought about quitting, because the girl I was with said it was either a future with her or my music. I couldn’t have both. During this time, I went through a lot of depression, life was really complicated, I felt stressed from my day job and music, from the knockbacks, from industry doors I’d been knocking on that wouldn’t open. My health wasn’t the best also. I couldn’t go to the studio or perform without chronic back pain. So I had all the odds against me, thinking, "Fuck it, I’m gonna quit then start to plan a future with my girl because this music thing isn’t working." That’s why I posted on Facebook a while ago all my tracks that I had held onto for so long, so that I could be done with it. To be honest, the passion wasn’t there and I had no direction. The last thing was to do the video for "Roller Coaster" and "Freedom Writer". I shot them in the same weekend and all of a sudden I got my passion back, which wasn’t good for my relationship, because my girl was expecting me to chuck it in. At the end of the day I had to ask myself if I really would be happy and will I always hold resentment towards her and myself if I had quit, because I’d always be thinking "What if?" So I chose the love of music over hers and that’s what this song is about. The sacrifice I make is crazy sometimes, but hopefully, one day, it pays off.
"When It's Time To Go"
Again a very dark track that I was scared as fuck to put out. I talk about death, it’s like a will. Call it "emo" or whatever, I’m not fussed, I just say it’s honest. I recorded this, like, five years ago, but had to record it again for the EP because it sounded outdated in terms of the vocal quality. I’m a perfectionist and make sure everything I put out I’m happy with. In this track I talk about how I’m paranoid about dying young like my mother and brother before I get to see my dreams come to fruition. I used to have these crazy nightmares and I put that in my video for "Roller Coaster" about death always stalking me. In the track, I say. "Maybe it wants to keep in touch" - death, that is. My good friend, who’s on the track, Tony Minnicon, said after I recorded this that this is going to be people’s funeral song. I was, like, "Really?" Whatever effect it has, I hope they connect.
THE FULL, UNEDITED, Q&A WITH CAPER
Tell us about the lyric, "The government is a rival / Assholes with a white bible".
I call the government assholes because the government suppress Aboriginal people when trying to gain Native Title with a white bible that’s called the ‘Native Title Act’. I call it a white bible because The Native Title Act is the white man’s law book that Aboriginal people have to abide by to gain Native Title. It should be burnt!
It's often said the black man's law never changes, but white man's changes all the time. Tell us about the lyric, "Every time we get a step closer they change the Native Title Act / Insert a barricade so we lack / Any ownership over land - true fact".
Absolutely the white man’s law changes all the time and they can do it whenever they like. There will always be laws set in place. With the Native Title Act they will keep inserting more barricades to keep us suppressed because the government will never allow a piece of land to be handed back to be owned by Aboriginal People. The system in place is that Aboriginal people can gain 'recognition' by the High Courts if Native Title is proven and that is by proving connection to the land and that laws & customs are still being practiced. But that’s it… Recognition… They don’t actually get the land back to own.
Activist and academic Gary Foley has said that if Aboriginal Australians were wiped out tomorrow, 2 million white Australians would be out of a job. Thoughts?
Interesting. I know there are a lot of white Australians working in Aboriginal organisations so no doubt a lot of people will be out of a job. Often it’s said that Aboriginal people should be placed in Aboriginal organisations and jobs, I’ve even seen blacks being suppressed by other blacks in workplaces. Sad…
If I'm not mistaken, you got your latest EP mastered in the US and deliberately held back on releasing it to create extra anticipation. I think that was a good move. How has it worked?
Yeah, the EP was sent to Atlanta in the US and the job that was done was great. It was also cheaper which was a bonus. I had to hold the EP back on the fact that the single ‘Bright Lights’ featuring Darren Mullan had to come first, which was released nationally by Matt O’Connor from The A&R Department, so his advice was to hold the release back till the single was released and pitched to Triple J. That did create a little extra anticipation to some loyal fans cause it’s been a minute since I’ve released the Believe EP. It worked in terms of process.
Other artists such as Thorts and Kings Konekted - and I'm sure many more - have talked about the lightweight nature of the hip-hop played by Triple J. What are your thoughts?
I’ve had this conversation with many people. The last one was with the homie Monsta G that I built a relationship with late last year, he said to me he wouldn’t get airplay due to his gangsta image. But just the other day I saw a rapper on [Triple J] Unearthed who was a feature on the site dressed in street wear wearing a bandana, who got rave reviews from all Triple J presenters, praising this guy who had production very similar to Kendrick Lamar & ASAP Rocky, very Americanised production and image. Not that I have a problem at all with it, but that’s something I never would have thought being praised by Triple J. Over time, hearing what’s on Triple J, it’s enough to make me feel confused when they play music that's very commercial and a lot of it in my opinion is very bad. I have no idea how it gets air play. To be clear, I’m not and never will be the hating type, I’m just very passionate about music and being honest as to my taste of music. I think I speak for a lot of people that think it’s a radio station funded by the government for the community to bring great new music to the public, yet it definitely sounds like it’s changing its direction. Matt O’Connor told me a while ago that if I’d ever want to get my music anywhere it has to start with Triple J and then everyone else in terms of radio will follow. But after 'Bright Lights' and 'Freedom Writer' being knocked back, I’ve come to terms just recently to not let Triple J be the stepping stone. Don’t get me wrong - I’ve never created music just for the radio, but you have to have that radio song as your single to get your name out and the songs "Bright Lights" and "Freedom Writer" were meant to be that stepping stone. It’s fine that if you do music just for the fuck of it and don’t want the music for the wider consumer then, well, don’t post it out on Facebook or ask people to check you out. What’s the point of creating music if it ain’t reaching its full potential to a wider audience and that means getting your shit on radio. Unfortunately, if you haven’t got a web buzz, radio provides that. I think now, though, when you let radio dictate your career, that's when you find yourself in constant disappointment that leads to creativity problems, which is not good for anyone’s music.
In your video - for "Reminisce", I think - where you went back to your home town, your old mate says your voice is a bit different, but it's good. I thought that was a pretty quirky quote to include. Did you find it funny?
Yeah, he did, and so have so many other people in a bad way, and a good way, too. I don’t like my own rap voice myself and I’ve said it in the track "Till There’s Nothing Left": "Shit, you don’t like my rap voice, man, me neither, but I’ll still take ya favourite rapper to the cleaners." I’ve learnt that having a different voice is a good thing though because nobody sounds like me. When you turn me on, you can tell it’s me because I have that distinct voice. At first I thought it would be a problem and mentioned to a lot of people close also to Monsta G when we first met and he said, "It’s not the voice, it’s the message, so don’t worry about it." Matt O’Connor provided me with advice on it also and a lot of the tracks I’ve sent him he thought I’d sounded like I was trying too hard in my vocal tones in certain tracks like I’m pushing my voice too hard. I remember he gave a hypothetical and said, "It’s like when you're at a house party and there’s a guy who’s being loud etc. People aren’t going to want to pay attention and listen because he's shouting too much and making too much noise." But I explained to him and everyone else that it’s pure passion. I really mean what I say. I had to really think after he mentioned that, but then I thought to myself, "If you don’t make noise and be loud at a party, who’s going to even pay attention? You're just going to be the shy, quiet person in the corner having no fun, that no one remembers." Probably one of the best complaints I’ve had from fans and peers was that I rap with so much passion in my voice. I guess I can’t please everyone’s liking, so I just rap how I rap.
Tell us about the line, "Never forget where I came from, reppin' Steel City".
It’s important to me to never forget where I come from, which is Whyalla, that’s also known as "Steel City" because of the steelworks. My childhood and everything about growing up in Whyalla made me who I am today. It will always be home to me, plus the fact my mother and brother are buried there. I can never forget the struggles and happy times I had in Whyalla and it’s important to rep that in my music to show people where I came from.
You rap on "Fed Up", "Please give a little insight / Will my stepdad touch me again? / If so, I don’t like / This thing that we call life". I don't think you have talked about that before. Is that something you want to talk about? No worries if not.
That lyric was from stories I’ve heard from other people. I not only tell my story in my music, but I capture other people’s, too, and say it in a way to be universal that hopefully connects with people who have been in that situation, like in "Fed Up". "Fed Up" is one of my favourite tracks off the EP, it’s so honest and the stories are so intense, in my opinion.
What are your plans for the near future?
It might be a minute till I put anything else out. I may put out another EP before Xmas, depending on the momentum of Deep Thought. I’ve been producing and recording demos at home still, so I’ve got so much more material to record with Darren, which is debut album quality stuff. I’m not sure when you‘ll get to hear them. A lot of different subject matters and the production is so different. I feel I’ve grown so much as a producer as well as a rapper over time. I don’t know, maybe I’d like to work with new artists, not so much rappers but singers. I’d love to work with Thelma Plum. I reached out to her once, but didn’t hear back. Eventually I’ll release the track with Angel Haze, who’s about to explode on the scene, who I respect as a lyricist. About five years ago, I started writing a book about my life. I hope to pick that up again to try to finish one day. I hope to head over to the States at some stage and a thing I’d love to try is acting, so Wayne Blair, holla!
Is there anything you'd like to add?
Shit, I was probably too open in this interview. But fuck it, it’s been a minute since I’ve spoken and I’ve experienced so much since the last one so why not? I don’t like to put my personal shit out on Twitter or Facebook like everyone else does. So I hope whoever reads this takes something away from it. When listening to the EP hopefully you appreciate the music more now that I’ve spoken in depth about the struggles and sacrifice’s I made while making it. I guess in closing, just know that I’m still the underdog, a black man against all odds to trying to rise up and become greater than what I am.
PLAY THE EP IN FULL...