Dana Coppafeel and SPEAK Easy Broaden Their Scope as Raplords
When Uni-Fi Records head
Dima Pochtarev suggested that two of the labels’ rappers, Dana
Coppafeel and SPEAK
come together as a duo four years ago, both were reticent. Frankly, they
weren’t much alike. Coppafeel is fun-loving and outgoing, and generally
approaches rap as party music. SPEAK Easy, on the other hand, exudes
respectability, and usually rhymes about social responsibility. “He’s like a
workout, workaholic, meat-eater who doesn’t do drugs or drink, and I’m a wild
vegetarian who likes to go out and party and drink,” Coppafeel says.
But the two had music in common—a shared love for golden-age hip-hop as well as an openness to modern rap—and that’s proven to be enough. In 2013 they released their debut together, Uni-Fi Records Presents…Dana Coppafeel and SPEAK Easy, which they followed with a trail of singles and mixtape tracks. And now they’ve expanded their collaboration as Raplords, a collective including their longtime producer Mammyth and a host of likeminded guests. Their debut album #Raplords, out Nov. 10 on Uni-Fi, features Milwaukee rappers Vonny Del Fresco, Vincent VanGREAT and members of the Rusty Ps, as well as national names like Open Mike Eagle, Guilty Simpson, Punchline and Skyzoo.
The two started calling the project Raplords as a joke, but eventually the name stuck, reflecting the genuine pride they felt for the project. They wanted a name that conveyed something greater than just Dana Coppafeel and SPEAK Easy.
“I think when the two of us came together, there was a feeling-out process,” SPEAK Easy says. “But with this project, we’re definitely in the pocket. We’ve developed this undeniable chemistry, but we’ve also pushed each other outside of our comfort zones. There are some songs that you wouldn’t ever think of as a Dana song, or as a SPEAK song. Like, there’s one song where I’m singing the hook. That’s not something I’ve ever done before.”
There’s one other thing that binds Coppafeel and SPEAK: They’re both parents, and parenthood has shaped how they approach music. “My son is 5, and five years ago when he was coming into my life I was preparing myself to make music less and less, because I was going to be taking on so much more responsibility,” Coppafeel recalls. “But when he came, it actually made me that much more focused on what I wanted to do. Having him my in my life gave me more motivation to make more music, because I realized it’s an important part of my life, and I realized it’s the thing that keeps me young and happy and grounded, and I need those qualities to be a good parent. I needed that hidden motivation.”
Parenthood is also the reason SPEAK Easy recently relocated to Atlanta. “I have two daughters and here in Georgia they can see, to put it bluntly, more African Americans in affluent, promising positions,” he says. “Being a native Milwaukeean, I’ve had to shatter too many glass ceilings, so I wanted to make sure my kids have ample opportunity to excel.”
That move could spell the end for some projects, but by now Coppafeel and SPEAK feel bonded, and they have every intention of keeping Raplords going.
“Especially with technology now, we have the opportunity to work however we want, and Milwaukee is only an hour flight away,” SPEAK says. “I look at Raplords as more like a crew than anything. Raplords doesn’t start or end with Coppa, myself and Mammyth. I think it includes anybody who’s affiliated with Uni-Fi. If you’re part of Raplords, we look at you as an upper-echelon MC.”
#Raplords arrives on Nov. 10 on Uni-Fi Records.