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“I thought I knew everything”: How Coppa stepped up with his second album Poetry In Motion

Before Berlin-based, Bradford-born MC Coppa approached AudioPorn with an idea for a second album, he had never had a track declined by any of the labels he’s worked with.

Eatbrain, Playaz, Viper, Renegade Hardware, Commercial Suicide, Mainframe and many more prominent and influential labels have all sported Coppa’s distinctive metallic storytelling staccato tones in the past and all pretty much signed them on sight. But when he set out to create his most ambitious album to date, and expand his lyrical range and sonic breadth in the process, things changed… And he felt himself developing as an artist more than he had in years as a result.

The hard work and home truths paid off; Poetry In Motion is every bit as ambitious as he wanted it to be. Commanding tracks from artists as disparate as Current Value and NCT by way of Benny L, Gydra, Nymfo, Saxxon and L 33, while covering topics ranging from mental health to terrorism, the album reveals more sides and shades to the man born Marvin Hay than we’ve heard before.

Most commonly known for his dominance in the neuro side of the dance, here he lets loose over a rich range of vibes and styles from touching liquid soul to gutter-scuffing gully rollers via cinematic halftime and raffish headbanging slammery. What’s more he does it with a consistency and a style that brings it all together, making it not just his most ambitious project to date… But his most personal one, too.

With plans to take the album live this summer and more cross-genre collaborations in the pipeline, Poetry In Motion marks the start of a brand new chapter for one of the most distinctive studio-ready MCs in drum & bass. Here’s where he’s at right now…

Poetry In Motion: Difficult second album?

Yes it was. I wanted to expand on my first album and I didn’t know where to begin. I’d covered so many different bases sound-wise and vibe-wise I was like ‘how do I top that?’ I wanted to find new people to work with and work out how to make an even bigger statement. It was a lot of self-imposed pressure, but I like to think I lived up to it.

Acts Of Aggression was on your own label Comanche. I guess working with AudioPorn opened doors to new people to work with. Or did you go to them with the album?

The main difference was for Acts Of Aggression I A&R’d everything. I was the final end-stop for the mixdowns, the selections, titles, everything. But with AudioPorn I had to get used to a whole new way of working. I honestly thought I knew everything. I had a clear idea of what I thought would make a good D&B vocal song but when I worked with Shimon I realised I didn’t know shit. It was very humbling and a new experience.

So you got a bit of a schooling?

I’d never had a tune for a project of mine rejected before! That was interesting and it took me a hot minute to get used to. But Shim knows what he’s talking about. And after the first couple of brutal edits I was like ‘yeah I see what you mean’. I embraced it and it helped me to develop artistically.

Yeah I can imagine Shimon doesn’t sugarcoat things!

Absolutely. You need that as an artist. The worst thing is to be running off your own gas. It’s so easy when people say ‘that’s amazing, you’re smashing it, you’re doing this and that’ But it’s like ‘hold on a second, there’s always room for improvement’ and learning. Reality check. Not everything you put down is as good as you think it is. But I got to a point in this process where I was able to edit myself before I brought it to the label. About a third of the way through I was delivering things I knew 100% would be thumbs up because of what I’d learnt from the feedback. It was a useful process.

How was it working with new producers in different fields that you hadn’t developed a rapport with?

I’d always written to their music but never had the opportunity to put these things down in the studio! The people I approached I was already prepared for. There was no one I reached out to I didn’t know I could deliver for and I was surprised that they were aware of what I do and had thought about working with me anyway. Guys like Dexcell, who I’ve been a big fan of for ages, that They knew about what I do. I was like ‘rah! After all this time we could have worked anyway!’ Guys like NCT told me they were planning to contact me anyway. It was like ‘perfect, let’s do this’ I was ready and I was happy to touch on topics that weren’t suitable for the music I was traditionally known for or working on.

Like Security? There’s some deep lyrics on that about mental health and supporting each other and Gydra are usually known for bangers. You’ve both gone deep on that one.

That was a big surprise. We’d done two tracks for my original concept album but they were very hard neuro and Shimon was like ‘I’m not really into that vibe.’ So I asked them for some other beats and when that instrumental came on I was like ‘okay this is the one!’ I was surprised by them and I think I surprised them too. That for me is one of my songs I’ve been dying to write for years and years.

You’ve had the lines written down for years?

For years! But never the right opportunity to put them down on a song. I needed that. Another tune was 1,000 Miles with NCT. I always wanted to write something motivational and that one was building up in me for a very long time.  was a good opportunity . The song Anything, with High Maintenance, was another one where I felt I had the opportunity to do some melodic singing, which was a real pleasure. There aren’t many opportunities to sing on tracks in the more neuro circles I was working in before.

Have you sung much on tunes ever before?

There are a few things scattered around that I’ve sung on. I’ve done my usual thing on them as well. There’s a couple where people might not know it’s me singing the hook line. There’s a track with Hallucinator called Sick Society where I sing the big hook line in the intro and I did a song with Madface for Let It Roll called Far From Paradise last year. I’d really like to explore the singing side of my range more and I feel I’m in a position to do that more now.

It’s not sung but there’s a wicked line on the opener with Benny L – Skanka – where you talk about skanking in the super market. Have you ever done that?  

Haha, there’s nowhere to hide in aisle four! I’m not sure if I actually have skanked in a supermarket but I definitely have in a news agents!

Brilliant. Benny L was on Acts Of Aggression too wasn’t he?

Yeah we’ve worked with each other few times over the years. I first collaborated with Benny and Mediks. We did a collaboration together on AudioPorn in 2014, Speakers Vibrate. Then I was on Benny’s first EP Walrus. His development has been crazy. Ross from Mediks always said to watch him, he’s in the studio dusk till dawn every day grafting. His success isn’t a surprise. I’ve watched him and heard him and over the last year he’s really shining. It was a positive thing to bring him in on this album. Especially as the sound he’s spearheading is the sound of the D&B I got into in the first place, that’s really personal for me.

The whole album concept is personal, right?  

Yes it is. It was difficult to come up with a concept immediately. I wanted to work with as many different styles and felt I might not work consistently, so the artwork and concept brings things together. It’s all my influences, all the places I’ve been, the things I’ve experienced over the last 10-20 years. It’s based around where my voice has travelled. I’m from Bradford in sunny west Yorkshire and when I first got into D&B I had no contacts in London or friends in the industry. I was basically on my own!

So for me it’s always really fascinating how me and my voice have travelled the world through music and I wanted this LP to represent the spread of myself and the vocals I’d done around the world. It’s a picture of all these different parts that make up the whole; for me as an artist and a person. The individual parts on their own might be separate, but when you put it altogether it’s a full representation of me as a person and an artist.

And now you’re taking that one step further with a Poetry In Motion live show, right?

Yeah. The experience of performing live is something that really can’t be topped. My first experience performing live in that way was in Serbia in 2015 and I was blown away at the fact that people were rapping and singing the words back to me in a country I’d never ever visited before in my life. It really showed me first hand at how far the music and my voice have actually travelled. It was a really humbling experience. So this time around I’m really looking forward to performing the songs from this LP live on the road because they all mean so much to me, like everything else in this project.

Coppa – Poetry In Motion is out now on AudioPorn

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