Dana Coppafeel isn't feeling Milwaukee media (including us)
The local MC gets some things off his chest before releasing his solo debut
The new album by Dana Coppafeel, Coppa’s Welfare Foods, has a vintage feel, with plenty of tasty jazz and R&B samples to accompany the Milwaukee MC’s smart-aleck delivery. It’s a fitting sound, since few artists in Milwaukee hip-hop have a resume as long as Coppafeel’s, whose loudmouthed witticisms date back to 1995 as a member of the Rusty Ps, back when they were called the Rusty Pelicans. After leaving the Ps, Coppafeel moved to Madison with his group Intel Agents, who traveled with the Vans Warped Tour before splitting up, and then returned home to join forces with KingHellBastard and later House Of M. In his 15 years of doing hip-hop, Coppafeel has never recorded a solo record—until now. Before Coppafeel's record release party March 13 at The Highbury Pub, The A.V. Club tapped the always outspoken MC about going solo and his thoughts on the state of Milwaukee hip-hop and how the local media covers it.
The A.V. Club: What are some of the biggest differences in Milwaukee hip-hop from when you first started?
Dana Coppafeel: Hip-hop in Milwaukee was hard from like '96 until '99-2000. You had to put in work to make it happen. Nowadays, it's like anyone with a computer can do it, anyone can claim they're an MC, and you can get a show if you want to. Back then, you had to pull teeth to get a show, or even have a venue talk to you. Maybe the Globe East would do a hip-hop show here or there, but that was the only real spot. But I think the biggest difference is recording. Back then, the “home studio” wasn't really feasible; technology wasn't what it was today, so it was like if you wanted to really do it, you had to be almost elitist. You had to know where to go, you had to have your beats together.
AVC: Why make a solo record after all these years?
DC: I hit up some friends who I met on tour, asking them to drop some verses, really just wanting to put out a mix tape. It started as a loose collection. Like the song Kid Millions did with Shemp [from KHB]. We recorded that to be part of Kid Millions' album. A lot of these songs we just did on the fly. It was a lot of experimenting. There were 27 or 28 tracks initially, and Dima [Pochtarev, Uni-Fi Records], was like, “You should really make this an album.” If it wasn't for Dima pushing it, it would have probably turned out as a mix tape.
AVC: Do you approach solo work differently?
DC: When I'm working with KHB or House Of M, the songs are a little more set up, the concepts are already there. With the solo stuff, I'll be in a mood, or listening to something, and just go home and work with the beats I have and see what happens.
AVC: The Milwaukee hip-hop scene seems to be finding itself lately. What are some things that still need improvement?
DC: Milwaukee publications, that’s what needs changing. The Shepherd, The Journal Sentinel, The Onion, 88Nine—the people that work for those companies are lazy sometimes, like they recycle the same hip-hop stories, the same names. It's just upsetting because anything else—food, for example—they'll let you know about the next cool restaurant, but when it comes to hip-hop music, there's just a real lack of reporting. Milwaukee publications need to get people that really want to write about the music, and go out and search for that music and put it all together. Like they don't even scratch the surface, like, “Let's just re-run that story again, throw that name out there and ask a few questions.” It's laziness.
I don't want to put anyone on blast, but when they say 88Nine is Milwaukee music, it's really not. It's a radio station in Milwaukee that sometimes plays Milwaukee music. They're set up and programmed like any other station; they have a playlist they have to stick to, they have to abide by certain guidelines and answer to bosses like everyone else. When KHB was trying to get on the radio, we had to jump through fire hoops to make it happen.
AVC: Fire hoops? What did you have to do?
DC: We've sent lots of songs to 88Nine. When they picked "Danger" to play on the radio station we had to change a few parts on the song—not that this was anything major, and we understood where they were coming from. But, you know, you get frustrated sometimes. Like, when are they going to mention something that's not the Rusty Ps or Black Elephant or Prophetic? It's like, they've been saying these same names forever, pushing the same show that all these people do, but you got other groups in other parts of the city and they never come up.
AVC: So, who are some acts that aren't getting due press coverage?
DC: I think KHB and HoM don't get enough recognition; I don’t say that because I'm a part of those groups, it's that those guys are always doing stuff. I think HoM has one of the best albums that came out of Milwaukee; even if I wasn't a part of that group, I'd still think it because no one around here has done anything like that.