Review Summary: S is for the stamina, T is for the talent, And then two E's so you don't forget the name Excalibur
Capital Steez came into note when he and fellow Pro Era member Joey Badass released a video for the track ‘Survival Tactics’ onto YouTube. On this track, both Badass and Steez shook the world of Hip-Hop, as two 17-year-old kids from Brooklyn showed their ability to rap as good as the best of them. This was the start of Steez’s short Hip-Hop career in the spotlight.
Amerikkkan Korruption was released on April 7, 2012
When a notable amount of hype gathers round an artist prior to a mixtape or any substantial release, it’s often hard to live up to. With only a small shred of Steez’s ability shown in the releases prior to his first solo mixtape ‘Amerikkkan Korruption’, it would’ve been hard to fathom how good the release was to be. Luckily for everyone following the hype at the time, and now for any listener looking back at Steez’s work, the mixtape lived up to the hype.
Starting off with a statement, the opening track ‘Capital Steez’ is bizarrely named after himself, perhaps as this track is a good introduction to his general style and technical ability. On this track Steez raps over an old Madlib beat. This is risky business for any rapper, but for an up and comer it’s near blasphemous if it goes wrong. Luckily for Steez he is able to stand his own over the beat, muddling in the quirky witty lyricism that he uses fantastically throughout the entire tape – “all you cats can fine your damages I'm smashin' the song” – under an already acclaimed beat. The use of already notable beats is a common occurrence on this release, using beats previously found on works ranging from acclaimed artists such as MF Doom and Atmosphere to less notable artists like Action Bronson’s producer Tommy Mas. As with the opener, however, he never fails to either live up to the quality of the previous artist, or often out-perform the predecessor. It’s an impressive performance of making these beats his own through his unique sounding flow and style, and an even more impressive start to the mixtape.
The intensity of this opener does not relent from the start to finish of Amerikkkan Korruption. The song flows through to 'Dead Prez', a melancholic number, produced by fellow Pro Era member Joey Badass. Then to the aggressive and passionate ‘Free The Robots’, where Steez takes a completely conscious approach not seen in the previous two tracks. The album is progressed further through to the youthful production found on Vibe Ratings. This variance continues throughout the entire release, no two songs share the same vibe.
The lyricism found on this release is impressive; often Steez uses a metaphorical poetic approach to getting his points across. An example being on 'Vibe Ratings' he raps “but that's the past, I don't ponder on it anymore, represents a metaphor of me closing a mental door”. It’s not just the lyrical ability that stands out in terms of Steez’s vocals. You will often find him inter-whining fantastic technical ability, frequently using tonal perception, impressive world play and double entrendes amongst other things as if they were a second language to him.
As seen with the use of beats, this release is heavily routed with influence. With self-comparisons to Aesop Rock found on ‘Dead on Arrival’, a reference to Jay Z on ‘Dead Prez’, and even a conscious mention of Stevie Wonder on ‘Free the Robots’. At age 18 and still in high school, it’s easy to have aspirations akin to those influences he mentions. It’s endearing to see how fantastically he draws his influence from all of these different corners and bend them in such a way to fit with his own style, where he never fails to achieve originality.
Amerikkkan Korruption isn’t just good, it’s a near classic and Steez achieved the near impossible by not just living up to, but ethering the hype he gathered from his original verse on ‘Survival Tactics’. At any age it would be impressive to achieve what Steez did with his first release, and more than anyone, like all great MC’s, he is aware of his ability. It’s this cocky confidence that keeps the album heavily away from mediocre and into the realms of brilliance – “any way that you cut it, I'm still monstrous, hey dude, he's in grade school, so play cool”.
On October 10 2012, 6 more tracks were added to the mix and Reloaded was released.
If there’s one notable thing about the lyricism and general sound found on Reloaded, as appose to the original release, is that it is significantly more gloomy. ‘Evol Love’, for example, is Steez’s darkest song. It almost appears as cry for help, or more an acceptance of the darkness that surrounded Steez at the time of writing. This is followed by 'Black Petunia', discussing the sorrows faced by both Steez and Jakk the Rhymer hidden under a cloudy eerie instrumental – on this song Steez spits ‘When I look in the mirror, there's a bastard staring back at me’. There is a notable change in mentality found on these two tracks, compared to the original yet humorous lyrical prowess found on the prior release.
It’s not all darkness, however, Hard Times contains the witty lyricism the man in question does so well, and contains some fantastically smooth instrumentation whilst doing so. As well as that Reloaded in general acts as a fantastic accompaniment to the original. The points of appraisal remain fairly similar, however a notable point of mention is that with 20 minutes added material atop of the 40 minutes already clocked, Steez never fails to bring his A-game and at no point ever shows a sign of weakness. It was looking good for Capital Steez, and then
On December 23, 2012 Courtney Jamal Dewar, Jr committed suicide
Capital Steez might be one of the greatest tragedies of Hip-Hop in memory. A 19-year-old kid with struggles of paranoia and suicidal thoughts, a kid with a love for Hip-Hop who managed to create one of the best Hip-Hop mixtapes of the decade thus far, but more importantly, just a kid. Who knows what he could have done? It’s easy to ponder on the loss of potential that came with the death of Steez, but luckily for many, in his short time on earth, Steez was able to create Amerikkkan Korruption. Unfortunately, this album may not get the acclaim or recognition it deserves, 4 years on. But with Pro Era doing well, and a new posthumous release on the way Steez’s brilliance lives on.