ITALY: Exuvia - Caparezza
Rap rock all'Italiana? If anyone will convince you of the genre, it's Caparezza
Before this process, I used to be rather rigid in my tastes. I more or less only listened to The Beatles, Fleetwood Mac, The Rolling Stones, and AC/DC, with a few forays into other genres. Now that I am more than three quarters of the way through this journey through the world’s music, I’d like to think that I’m far more adventurous in what I listen to, and I have listened to fusion genres I would never have thought could work, and yet they do. I have listened to, and enjoyed, such oddities as Japanese ethio-jazz, French-Mongolian folk-fusion, and Sufi inspired rock from Pakistan. All of them I would never have thought could mesh together nicely, but in the hands of talented and inventive musicians, they do. And yet, there is still one mashup of genres that I feel somewhat hesitant towards. Rap rock. There’s nothing wrong with it per se. I enjoy Rage Against the Machine enough. The Beastie Boys managed the balance quite well. That collaboration between Aerosmith and Run-D.M.C. is pretty fun. But beyond that, I have struggled to find it a genre I have much love for. In the wrong hands it seems too forced, too much a relic of the late 1980s and early 1990s. Rap is a brilliant genre, and rock is a brilliant genre, but they are almost completely different in style, and I’m just not sure they mix well together in all circumstances. And so, here we find Exuvia, by Italian singer Caparezza.
“This, to me, is where the album is at its best, where his rapping and song writing are on the same level, with both aspects contributing to creating an enjoyable listening experience.”
Born in the southern Italian region of Puglia, and whose stage name means ‘curly haired’ in the local Pugliese dialect, Caparezza may seem an unlikely candidate to be a rap rock artist, but he has carved out for himself a niche as Italy’s most famous rap rock musician. I know this may seem an overly specific superlative, but it is true, and Italian is, I imagine, quite an easy language to rap in, much like Spanish, due to the large number of rhyming words, and the already rhythmic nature of the language. As such, Caparezza does sound ‘authentic’, or, perhaps it’s fairer to say he’s as authentic sounding as an Italian rapper can sound. He’s good at what he does. I’ve already stated my issues with rap rock as a genre, and those aren’t completely dispelled by Caparezza’s rapping skills. More often than not, I don’t feel it meshes with the rest of the music, which is a problem when you’re trying to enjoy an album that is mostly rapping over rock and related styles. I do appreciate that this is a question of personal taste, and you may not have this problem that I had while listening, and as such, you may get far more out of it than I did. A ciascuno il suo, as the Italians say.
None of that means the album was a write-off for me. Not one bit. There’s a lot I liked on Exuvia. El Sendero is my favourite song on the piece, mainly due to Mishel Domenssain’s exquisite vocals that evoke an oneiric quality. I also really like Campione Dei Novanta, which has an almost operatic feel to it due to its horn section, and La Scelta is also one of the better tunes, containing a funky bassline a lovely piano section that compliments the gentler style of rapping, which them yields into memorable, radio friendly chorus. This, to me, is where the album is at its best, where his rapping and song writing are on the same level, with both aspects contributing to creating an enjoyable listening experience.
There are a few other problems, however. For one, the album is far too long, with there just not being enough good songs, let alone brilliant ones, to sustain a runtime of one whole hour, and the skits that pepper the album seem a bit redundant. Songs like Contronatura are too busy and aggressive for my taste, with rap and vocal sections jarring rather than complementing like on El Sendero. On that song, as with Azzera Pace, I feel that the balance slides too much towards repetitive charts-style music with rapping over it, which I personally find less interesting. Yet, Eterno Paradosso is in a similar mode, and I really like it, as it has a catchy chorus. So, while I am not completely sold on Italian rap rock, there’s a range of things to enjoy in this album. If rap music is really your thing, then I’m sure you’ll enjoy this more than I did, but even if you’re a bit of a sceptic like I am, there are songs you’ll almost certainly enjoy. I can’t sit here and lie to you by saying this is my favourite rap rock album, my favourite Italian album, or even one of my favourite new albums from this year, but I will say this – it’s the best Italian rap rock solo album released in 2021. Slap that on the poster.