The group RapLords consists of emcees Dana Coppafeel and SPEAK Easy along with DJ/producer Mammyth. Each member of RapLords has their own solo career, but decided to unite for the betterment of their crew, record label, Uni-Fi Records, and their hometown of Milwaukee. The result is a 12-track album appropriately titled, “#RapLords”.
#RapLords is produced by Mammyth, J.J. Jabber, Grimace Eats Produce, and Uni-Fi Records founder Dima The White Russian. The album features appearances from Skyzoo, Open Mike Eagle, SigNif, Haz Solo, Punchline, Vincent VanGreat, Vonny Del Fresco, and Guilty Simpson.
Two-thirds of RapLords, Dana Coppafeel and SPEAK Easy spoke to The Real Hip-Hop about the Milwaukee Hip-Hop scene, the genesis of their group, and their new album, #RapLords.
TRHH: How did you guys come together to form RapLords?
SPEAK Easy: It was basically we were doing some things as solo artists and Dima came up with the idea that we were doing good as solo artists but we can do great if we combined forces. We did a project, Dana and I collabed before, we did the last album and this Raplords thing kind of came up in different studio sessions. We started working on another album and it kind of stuck with the way we look at emceeing and what we put forth.
Dana Coppafeel: It came to a point where Dana Coppa, SPEAK Easy, and Mammyth was always deejaying for us, so it was a way of us condensing all of that into something more solid. It gave us more unification that was easier to push. That was the idea, to come together instead of having all of this stuff and our names being misspelled. We’ve been together for 3-4 years already. At first we were thinking of coming out under Uni-Fi Records and pushing that out in front. More people were just interested in me and SPEAK and with Mammyth being around we felt we needed to call it something so everyone can get their due. We’re not worried about our names being left out, it’s just an easier way to bring everything together and condense it.
TRHH: What was the process like recording the album?
Dana Coppafeel: We’ve been getting up together once a week for like the last 3-4 years. Sometimes even two times a week. Dima is running the label and I’ve been with Dima for a long time. I’m one of the only people that’s still around from when Dima first started Uni-Fi Records. I’ve always been a crew person and I work with teams pretty well. At that time my group dissolved and we were looking to branch out. Dima was really interested in working with SPEAK. We recorded a song together and from there Dima liked the way it sounded and said we should combine what we’re doing. We both have a similar work ethic so let’s just bring it together. The process is really organic and over time we’ve adjusted. We both kind of like the same thing and are into the same Hip-Hop. There really isn’t too much that we don’t see eye to eye on rap wise.
SPEAK Easy: I think the biggest thing was that our process was consistent. I never met an emcee that worked as hard as I do until I met Coppa. Before we even joined forces dude was in the lab as much as I was. That along with our consistency and dedication to the art made the recording process very, very smooth.
Dana Coppafeel: It’s just an organic process. We would know who we wanted to work with and with Mammyth there he would know how to read the situation. We got the opportunity to do a song with Skyzoo, so let’s bang out something that would fit that caliber and would get the best possible verse from him. Sometimes we have a plan where we go in and know what we’re trying to create, and sometimes we’re just in there and Chuck’s just messing around and it turns into something. Or Dima comes with a sample and we’re in the studio hanging out with somebody and the next thing you know it just starts rolling into something. It’s always been really organic and fun. We don’t really take ourselves too serious and we love what we’re doing. SPEAK’s a lot more serious than I am, actually [laughs].
TRHH: What inspired the new single “Excursions”?
SPEAK Easy: When we heard the track it took me back to music to drive to. That was the main inspiration. I laid my verse down way before we even had the hook. Sometimes we have a very unconventional style to how we build songs. With this particular song I started off lead-off and we started building the song off of the verse and it came together perfectly.
Dana Coppafeel: The dude that produced it, J.J. Jabber produced a few cuts from Prof from Rhymesayers new album, he’s from here. We pretty much had the album but we could use one more song. It just came out of nowhere. We had a lot of solo songs and features but we thought we should do a song with just us. We got a beat from J.J. Jabber and the beat was real dope. He ended up laying a hook to it and did a verse. I laid my verse last because it was around the time SPEAK was getting ready to move to Atlanta. That’s what inspired the video too because SPEAK was leaving and Dima has the idea that since we wouldn’t be together we could shoot some scenery. We went out to Chicago and shot some footage, came back to Milwaukee and shot some footage and put it out like a collage of visions of rolling through the city in different places. Jabber made the inspiration for the most part because the beat was really laid back.
TRHH: Milwaukee’s not a place you think of when you think about Hip-Hop. What’s the Milwaukee Hip-Hop scene like?
SPEAK Easy: Coppa will probably have a more elaborate answer than I, but I will say it ebbs and flows. Every 4-to-5 years there is a new wave of artists. Coppa would know better because he has stood the test of time and is still relevant, if not more relevant than the other artists. It’s flash in the pan. It’s really hot and thriving and then all of a sudden it slows down. There has always been people from Milwaukee flirting with the music industry but nobody is quite sticking and getting that mainstream appeal. As we travel and do shows we see it’s really no different than any other city. We’re still kind of the underdogs because we haven’t had enough people hit the national scale on a consistent basis.
Dana Coppafeel: The Milwaukee Hip-Hop scene is it an all-time high right now. There are a lot of young people coming out that are talented. The technology helps them further propel into what they’re doing. I’ve been working since like ’96. Something that would have took me 5-to-10 years they’re doing it in a few months. They grow up on the computer and understand social media a lot better. It’s second nature to them. On top of that, the things that are inspiring them they’re just bombarding them and hitting them so quick that things are changing fast. Another thing that’s driving here in Milwaukee is Hip-Hop used to be so closed-minded, but now it’s a lot more open minded that it has been in the past so it allows people to develop new lanes. In Milwaukee it’s like a Hip-Hop renaissance right now. Noisey and Vice just wrote an article about Milwaukee being a haven for DIY Hip-Hop music. The article mentioned Mammyth as the number one studio go-to in Milwaukee. He’s the driving force behind a lot of the Hip-Hop that’s happening in this city. You can go to him and he’s young, he understands things, he’s eclectic, he knows how to flip shit, and knows how to make you sound good. Milwaukee is a very segregated city. You have different types of Hip-Hop that thrives here. It’s like an enigma, but at the same time there is always negative connotation to certain artists or certain sides of town and what they’re doing. There is a lot of really dope talent here, it’s just slept on.
SPEAK Easy: I will echo what Copp is saying. Mammyth is pretty much responsible for making everybody sound industry ready. Ninety percent of any artist getting national exposure is because Mammyth is giving them an industry quality sound. You come into the studio with one track and an idea and due to the fact that we all record in the same area, sometimes our sessions overlap, and he brings some of these songs that come to the attention of these national blog sites because he has a bigger vision and helps artists go even further than they thought they were capable of going. Mammyth deserves a lot of credit for a lot of the national exposure that cats are getting.
Dana Coppafeel: Also cats are on their grind too. Even the ones that he’s not working with. Milwaukee is bubbling right now and it’s virtually unknown but there are a handful of artists that are making headway. For the last two years it’s just getting stronger and stronger and more people are believing in it and supporting it. Another cool thing about Milwaukee is people understand that it’s not going to be that break out artist. It hasn’t really happened yet. If it does everyone is gonna be happy because everyone is willing to work with each other for that one goal. There are a lot of collaborations that happen here because we understand that pulling together means strength. The more that people are talking about Milwaukee in general the better it is for all of us. Who manages to stick out is who sticks out. That’s how it always is. The dope thing is people are working with each other to try to make something happen here. In the next few years Milwaukee is going to be a place where people should keep their eye out. There is definitely going to be some breakout artists here.
TRHH: I loved the single “2 mph”. Whose idea was it to flip Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince’s song?
Dana Coppafeel: I believe it was probably mine. At the time I had the sample and we had the song together but there was no hook. I kept saying, “Dude, we need to take something from the Fresh Prince.” It just happened to be the “2 mph”. We were in the studio with Haz and Dima had a few beats. Haz is a homie of mine and we wanted to work with him on a project we were putting out. Dima played a few beats and Haz happened to pick that one with that sample. By the time we all had our verses down and came back the next session we decided to add something from “Summertime” and make it happen.
TRHH: What do you hope to achieve with #RapLords?
SPEAK Easy: For me I would say the biggest thing that we’re hoping to achieve is capitalizing on another opportunity to show everybody how great music is from Milwaukee. Any time somebody gives us a platform you can put our city on the map and match us up against anybody and we’ll hold our own. I think RapLords will be yet another example of, “Those guys in the middle are serious. They’re for real.”
Dana Coppafeel: I totally concur with that. At this point it ain’t even what you think you can establish or hope to gain. I just hope people can understand or want to listen to what I’m going through or what I’m thinking. Whether you like or hate it, some type of feedback helps us to develop. We just want to keep developing something that we do. As far as RapLords goes I can’t see myself doing anything else. I’ll be 50 years old rapping. I don’t care who is here or what. I hope that everything that happens with it is a bonus. As far as music goes I’ve done everything I’ve wanted to do except leave the country and play across seas. That’ll happen. It’s just trying to keep adding on, making better music than before, and showing development and growth. That’s the biggest thing for me and I hope that that’s what they get from this album like, “Okay, I can see where this is going. I can see where they came from.”
Purchase: RapLords – #RapLords