It’s no secret that psychedelia’s tripped out squeegee has gone to work on hip-hop’s third eye of late, and it’s at work scrubbing all aspects of the game. Lyrical content, beats, visuals and attitude; all have been getting pretty trippy. That said there are few acts that manage to bring together this hallucinogenic aesthetic alongside quality music (without seeming like a cheap gimmick) as cohesively as Onoe Caponoe has.
Heavily inspired by George Clinton and the Parliament-Funkadelic movement of the 1970s, Onoe and his crew weave a theatre of alter egos, marionettes and mythology which need no justification beyond their own invocation, through the music and the visuals. Having released his first two LP’s on Audio Doughnuts; Control Central in 2011 and the Wizard of Oz-inspired Willows Midnight Gallery in 2012, Onoe made the jump over to hyper-active High Focus Records to release Voices from Planet Cattele. Fully produced by chief doctor Chemo, it’s an album that seamlessly jumps through moods and atmospheres quicker than you would think possible while managing to retain a cohesive feel.
Let’s start somewhere near the beginning… Tell me the story of Onoe Caponoe.
I’ve been making music for a long time, since I was twelve. At first it was punky stuff, playing guitar and singing. Then I got into hip-hop when I changed schools. I was rapping in an American accent at first because I hadn’t even heard anyone rap in an English accent before. I didn’t even think it was possible. Then I heard some UK shit and I was like “what the fuck?”. It was so sick. I think it was London Posse. It wasn’t just American shit in a UK accent, it proper touched me. Everything they were saying I could proper relate to. It was a really weird experience. From then on I worked in my own accent.
So what brought it forward, when did you start to take it at least semi-serious?
When I was maybe nineteen or twenty and I was proper pissed off, almost depressed. I knew it was getting good, I had a cool flow and shit, I liked how my voice sounded, the beats were cool. But I’m not stupid man, I was listening and thinking there’s no real reason for anyone to get excited about it. It wasn’t like you’d go back and listen to it tomorrow or the next day because there wasn’t that thing, that thing to draw people in. But that was cool because it was the first time I started to think about those things. I knew I couldn’t just put out shit.
Couple years after me and all my friends went and broke into a music festival just to sell weed, but we ended up having a crazy experience getting fucked up. We ended up going back the year after legit and I remember saying to my friends then “when we go back I’m gunna start making music again, but I’m really just gunna be me and do what I want.” Those years of growing up had really changed me and the experience I’d had at this festival was the icing on the cake. I came back to London and made this one tune called Clockwork Green. That was alongside the first video of us being ourselves, dressed up in mad masks and just having fun. I put it out and it popped, then put Milkyway out and that popped too.
The first time I heard you I hated your sound… like what the fuck is this? It seemed kind of self-indulgent.
[laughs] Yeah a lot of people say that. My stuff is so different it depends on what you first heard. You coulda heard a track of mine which is just me screaming and thought that all my shit was the same like that.
So why do you think people should be interested in what comes out of your head?
Nothing is for everyone. Some people will find what I’m doing interesting and other people won’t get it. Maybe they shouldn’t… If my head cracked open blood and brains would come out of it. So maybe a doctor might be interested in that.
The creature that is Onoe Caponoe and the Delix crew are not just a music focussed beast, correct?
It’s like ying and yang with what we do. It’s not just me you know, it’s a group, with mad different names… 169, Holy Delix, Funk Math Punk Trash, Funkadelic Mathamatics… The vision we began with was originally an art collective. So hopefully this year we can push that out more. When we do shows with all this dress up and different shit going on some people could look at it like “ahhh why they doing that?”, because their minds are just in the world of music, just in the world of hip-hop. But we’re something different.
Moving as a unit, creating the whole aesthetic with in-house videos made with no budget, shouting about not giving a fuck… a lot of people have drawn parallels with the whole Odd Future origin story.
It was around 2009 that my group began this Delix mindset and planning all this shit, sorting it all out, making this music to put out in 2010. I’m pretty sure if you look back it was in 2010 that all that shit started first poppin off in America. At first we was like what the fuck? Hip-hop was still some fuckin dark clothes talking about street shit spot. Boom 2010 comes and Odd Future started coming out properly and the whole wave of that sort of stuff with it. At first I was like fuck that’s crazy… I was taken aback by it a bit because there are certain similarities but have we been inspired by them? Not in terms of creativeness or ideas but as it started poppin off more it’s always made us feel like yeah, we can do our thing and people will be receptive to it.
You’ve just released Voices From Planet Cattele, fully produced by Chemo. Tell me about how it came together.
We met through a mate who was doing a skills trade with him. After he heard Control Central he hit me up and was like “Yo if you ever want help mastering and shit I’m there”. Until that point all my stuff was super lo fi. So I was like yeah obviously… It got me bare haps because I was like “Wow, this is Chemo!!”. So he mastered Willows Midnight Gallery, then he said he’d mix my shit for free if we could do a project together. Win win for me. It had come about so naturally on just a friendship talking thing, and that’s how the project got done too.
So how did the High Focus link up come about?
On a personal level I’ve known Fliptrix (label long legs) since I was fourteen, through graffiti. The first release that he did years ago I was on two tracks. He’s a cool dude, but on top of that the position that he’s in, he takes his shit seriously. He was hitting me up on a business thing around 2010, but at the time my mind was all over the place. When he was speaking to me before about it I couldn’t see it. UK hip-hop seemed like a dead end so I didn’t really wanna get involved. Then he was always hitting me up to play shows over the past few years so seeing what he’s been doing up close… I still don’t understand how he’s taken stuff to this new level.
Finally, any advice for the you that you were when you first touched mic?
Yeah… Stop wearing XXL Echo hoodies and leather gloves. It doesn’t look as cool as you think it does.
For those that haven’t delved into Onoe Caponoe’s brand of psylocybic chopped up brain natterings, it’s a little like eating a fancy molecular meal complete with a foam of this and a spherification of that. You’re not exactly sure what’s on the plate, or where the elements came from originally. You might even think it looks a bit bugged out or even suffers from a style over substance issue from time to time. But after a couple of forkfulls you realize that god damn it tastes good.
Ultimately, Onoe Caponoe crafts murky fairytales for the urban traveller and the third eye explorer. Yet alongside the otherworldliness there’s something uniquely unpretentious, an almost childlike honesty in the content of a lot of Onoe’s lyrics. Stories of broken friendships, of love and sex, of drugs and nightlife, of anger at a materialist world. Throw in an unwillingness to be pigeonholed and “the ability to hear what’s shit” and there you have it, a pretty delicious avant-garde meal for the ears.
Words: Oscar Burton Xi
Onoe Caponoe’s Voices From Planet Cattele is out now on High Focus Records.