Sitting across the room from Hardy Caprio, I wonder if the past twelve months have truly sunk in. In 2017, the Croydon born rapper (who is also a qualified accountant) dropped two EPs ‘Hardy Season’ and ‘The Hollywood EP’, dropped a string of successful releases, broke in the The Official UK Top 50 and has amassed over 30 million streams online. But as we speak in a South London studio, it seems that he is taking it in his stride and playing it cool. But his journey is not one that can be simply broken down by numbers.
Showing a keen interest in music from the age of 13, young Hardy always flirted with the idea of making music full time but it wasn’t until he attended university when he decided to take a leap of faith. The timing worked perfectly as well – at the time, Krept & Konan were making waves across the UK and beyond with fellow Croydoner Stormzy also gathering attention within the scene; “Although we had seen Krept & Konan do it, I actually knew Stormzy and it just made it seem possible. It pushed me to try it and I gave myself a year to see how it goes. I said if I don’t progress in that year, then I would call it a day”.
While seeing people from his area “make it” inspired Hardy to give it a go, it also cast self doubt on whether or not he actually could do it, “I used to think there was an unwritten rule that if one person does it from an area that someone else can’t“. On his track ‘Up Til Now’, he addresses K&K and Stormzy personally, showing raw emotion when witnessing their come ups, while utilising that feeling and energy into his own career. With 12 months on the clock, Hardy turned up his workrate, looking to promote his name in any way possible. He networked with people online, dropped around 20 videos and looked to showcase what he could do to his new audience. With every new video, the views racked up – from 10,000 on his own official YouTube channel to 20,000 on JDZ Media, to over 100,000 on SB.TV.
Those platforms help because if you don’t know your whole image or direction, those platforms give you an audience that you can connect to.
The aforementioned Warm Up Session via SB.TV is what turned many heads in Hardy’s direction. Tackling a grime instrumental is nothing new, his ‘Soundbwoy‘ track utilised the ‘Functions on the Low’ instrumental while his JDZ Spitfire brought a whole new flavour to Ruff Squad’s ‘Together’. But now he was tackling the iconic ‘Wifey Riddim’, made famous by the 2007 Tinie Tempah track. However, what Hardy does is completely switch the vibe, using the bouncy backdrop to drop deep knowledge on knife crime, politics, love, relationships and utimatley his desire to succeed. His maturity is blended with a lyrical prowess that is representative of his background and workrate, “You should already know what I’m out to get, The sixteenth letter of the alphabet“.
“I felt like people weren’t hearing me at that point. I was dropping releases at that point and some were resonating and some were not. My grime ones have always gone down well, so I thought about what classic grime instrumentals I love and came to ‘Wifey Riddim’. But whenever I heard it, I knew I didn’t wanna do a love tune, I thought it was kinda dark. I knew no one had done it before and I wanted to showcase what I could do with the track”.
As with all of his online presence, it’s clear that Hardy wants to be recognised for being who he is and crafting his own lane. A true reflective thinker, he takes time to look back on what has come before and how he can use that moving forward. With the success of his freestyles, he looked to song making as the next logical step, a step he looks back on as being a difficult one; “It’s definitely hard because on a track, everyone wants to showcase their skill and do the best thing for the song. I think it’s a completely different skill [to a freestyle] and they should be viewed as two seperate directions“. But this barrier was not one to deter Hardy, as he pushed forward, dropping a number of notable tracks, culminating in two EP releases in 2017.
Both ‘Hardy Season’ and ‘The Hollywood EP’ were definitely a showcase of his willingness to experiment and grow within his music. While these allowed him to exhibit a range of styles and genres, it also showed gaps of where he could grow. Hardy was always been vocal of being his own biggest critic and while talking on ‘The Hollywood EP’, we revisit the way in which he approached the project; “There was a lot of experimenting and not knowing. I believe in doing what I can until I can do what I want. I didn’t have producers so I was finding beats and ways to make a song I hadn’t heard. Back then, I didn’t view song making and rapping as two different things, in contrast to how I do now. It’s always like I was running at a brick wall almost”.
This is not him making excuses. When he talks, I see a mature musician taking the time to understand his choices and in his own words, see the progression, “After that, I had the best bounce back of my career“. And bounce back he did, dropping a duo of smash hits in the form of ‘Unsigned‘ (feat. One Acen) and ‘Super Soaker‘, which accumatively have racked up 20 million YouTube views. These successes have seen Hardy’s name rise ten fold and his sound is slowing becoming synonymous with his name – a wish he had always hoped for;
[I want] to establish my own soundscape. Everything is about the experience and how they feel. I want to get to a point where there is a Hardy Caprio sound.
Feeling a certain way seems to be a crux for Hardy when it comes to tackling music. While his passion to make tracks and his process behind music is clear, it’s the situation or setting in which his music can be played which seems the most important to him. Whether it be the club friendly bangers which have propelled him into the spotlight or the thought provoking numbers which initially turned heads, Hardy cares about his fans and wants to put music out there that people can relate to and take something from, “Before I was just making songs but now I am thinking about the reasons behind the tracks and how are they meant to feel. I want to capture the mood and see if there is a purpose to the track“.
2018 is set to be a pivotal year for the young star and its clear that many are projecting big things. BBC 1Xtra have featured him on their Hot for 2018 list alongside the likes of Mahalia, Lotto Boyz and Kojo Funds while The Independent have picked him as One to Watch this year. As with many “one to watch” lists, they can seem to be a little too late to the party, a fact that has not gone unnoticed by Hardy himself, “I think I had a great year last year but no one said that I would”. But his inclusion is indicative of where he is at, coming off an amazing debut year, with all the power behind him to continue to grow. What is also clear is that Hardy is primed and focused on the task at hand, delivering music that he can be proud of.
“I don’t care about the lists – I appreciate being on every single one of them but for me, I want to just work like I’m not on any of them because it’s not going to change how the audience listens to my music”
The beginning of this year has also seen him take another big step, selling out his own headline tour, shutting down Manchester, Birmingham and a homecoming show in London in the process. A mixture of excitement and nerves only served to make the the 3 date tour even more special when thousands of fans turned out to see him perform, even surprising him with their knowledge of his back catalogue,”it went better than I thought it would and every city was taking everything in and knew my tracks. It was a sick experience and it was great to see people enjoying it“. Just like his music, Hardy is keen to throw himself in head first when it comes to his live shows, looking to give his fans something to remember.
I came from a generation of people that wanted to perform and I was touched when I went to their shows. So when I perform, I want people to feel that same way.
His live show experience is something that is only set in continue in 2018 with Hardy already being confirmed for festivals around the UK and beyond with shows at Wireless, We Are, Bass Jam, SXSW and Bristol’s Love Saves the Day. With each of these sets, there will not be a “one size fits all” approach and Hardy wants to bring something new to each stage, showing everyone another side of Hardy Caprio.
This year is also pivotal in where he goes next in music. With such a standout 2017, it could be easy to assume that whatever he delivers will be compared to his previous success. But this is clearly something that does not phase Hardy, as he looks to continue his trajectory and take his music in another direction. This will start with the release of ‘Rapper’, a slick track which tackles the stereotypes of a “typical rapper”. The track is fun, infectious but most importantly, contains that core Hardy sound. Whether or not we will see a full project this year is unclear but we will see him document his life through 12 weeks of music, released episodically with a cliff-hanger teasing the next installment. This shows his willingness to switch it up, change direction, all while remaining loyal to where he started.
“I have always said that I am never gonna be the perfect musician. I am gonna be Hardy”
Ending our conversation, I revisit my first thought, how can a 21 year old who has travelled the world, stacked up streams and views in the millions and sold out shows take it all in so easily? The answer is quite simple, his journey has made him the person sitting across the room from me. From battling self doubt to setting himself targets, he has acheived so much but also taken time to reflect and learn from what has come before. His head is truly screwed on and he looks at the next 12 months as the next chapter in his journey. With my final question, I ask him what he wants to say he has accomplished by the end of the year and his answer is both ambitious and humble in equal measures;
“I want people to look back and say, ‘Yeah, he’s done bits this year’“.
Let the #HardySeason continue.
Download or stream the new single ‘Rapper’ here – or watch the new video below;