7 questions with Apollo Brown
An ear for music like none other, Detroit based producer Apollo Brown consistently delivers album after album of that classic boom bap sound inspired largely by DJ Premier. His rapid succession of releases in the just the last 5 years prove that quality AND quantity are sometimes possible. The roster of emcees he’s worked includes some of the best in the game- O.C., Guilty Simpson, and Oddisee- among many, many others.
I was lucky enough to have a chat with Brown ahead of his Australian tour to discuss things like his earliest Hip Hop memories, underground emcees he’s been listening to and how he is able to paint a picture with mood.
I know you had a lot of different music influences growing up, what are some of your earliest memories of listening to Hip Hop?
"I'd have to say my earliest memories of listening to hip hop were when my Dad introduced me to his Sugar Hill Gang record. Rapper's Delight! I thought it was amazing. And as most did, I memorized all of the lyrics to that long ass song, lol. Then, as I grew to understand the music for what it was, my first tape was DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince's "He's The DJ, I'm The Rapper". The joint "Parents Just Don't Understand" was like my favorite song at the time. It was super innocent and carefree, kinda bubble gum. Soon after that though, I discovered that I liked a little danger in my hip hop. The DOC's "No One Can Do It Better" was the next album that I owned. Changed everything in hip hop as I knew it. Eventually I bought the tape Main Source, "Breaking Atoms", and that's when I fell in love."
In the vein of how you brought together relatively unknown emcees Red Pill and Verbal Kent for Ugly Heroes, are there any emcees you have been listening to lately who we may not have heard of yet?
"If you can catch my ear with good music, whether known, or relatively unknown, I can become a fan. Good music first, always. I've been recently listening to cats like Shirt from Brooklyn, Westside Gunn, Saga, Nolan The Ninja from back home in Detroit, Rasheed Chappell, and Dynasty, just to name name a few. These names should all be remembered."
Being from Detroit can you explain to us here the energy behind the Detroit vs Everybody movement and how it affected your city? When Sydney vs Everybody came here there was a lot of negativity surrounding it and it seemed to further divide the culture which was the opposite of the intent.
"Detroit is a city in America that has been through extremely hard times over the years. Part of the resiliency of Detroit is pride. Taking pride in who Detroit is and what it's been through is uplifting and provides an air of confidence during it's comeback. That's why Detroit Vs. Everybody is so relevant to us, and really no one else. I think the rest of America understands, hence why we don't catch a lot of flack for the reference. If we as residents don't take pride and uplift the city of Detroit, no one else will."
It’s interesting to think how a prolific producer such as yourself would view music in general. When you listen a piece of music for the first time, be it a Hip Hop track or other, what are the first things that you notice about it? And in a way does it feel like you’re always “working” when listening to music or is there a type of music that is your escape?
"The very first thing I notice about a particular song or piece of music is the feeling it gives me, or doesn't give me. I'm all about feeling when it comes to music. I'm partial to music that either makes me remember something, or makes me forget something. That's why I make the music I make. Naturally when listening to music, I tend to have have a working mind. I pick apart notes, and drums, and melodies, etc. That's just how it is for me. I'd love to just sit there and escape, and allow the music to take me to another place, and it usually does, but not until I analyze it first."
This may sound like an odd question but I’m interested in the process of how you match certain sounds and moods within your tracks and have you ever associated certain sounds or tracks with a specific colour?
"Good question actually. I've been asked before about the color of my music, and I mentioned how the color Grey would completely describe my sound. Not one side of the spectrum. A little bit of this, a little bit of that, kind of in the middle. And people associate Grey with somber and sad. I associate it with life. The sounds and moods in my music all have to do with however I'm feeling at the time, or what my original influence was for that particular track. A lot of times, the sound of my music has to do with its relatability to others. I don't make a lot of "happy" music because I don't particularly think that's what most people can relate to these days."
You’ve been to Australia previously, what do you like best about coming down here and which places do you think have been most responsive at your shows?
"Yes, I've been down under on a few occasions. I love coming down here because of the response to just good music. The beaches, the food, the climate, etc, are all nice, but I love coming to a place that appreciates good music and the hard work that goes into it. I'd probably have to say Melbourne gives the best response to shows. Most people I talk to say that it's just expected there. I've learned that it's considered to be one of the more artsy cities in Australia. I usually have a pretty good response throughout all the cities of Oz though. Music is highly respected down under."
Who are your top 5 Hip Hop artists?
"This is one of those questions that usually changes with the wind and I never really know how to answer thoroughly. I'll just name some names and hopefully that will suffice. As of right now, in no particular order; Nas, Jay Electronica, Gangstarr, Little Brother, and Royce Da 5'9."
Apollo Brown is back in Australia to launch his recently released album "Grandeur" which boasts an incredible line up of features including The Barrell Brothers, Oddisee, M.O.P., Chino XL, Finale, Evidence, Rasheed Chappell, Saga, Ty Farris, Rapper Big Pooh, Dynasty, Ras Kass, Vinnie Paz, Blacastan, Your Old Droog, Masta Ace, Wordsworth, Maffew Ragazino, Freddie Gibbs, OC, Westside Gunn, Planet Asia, Eternia, Sean Price, Reks and Ugly Heroes. Catch him at any of his Australian dates listed below.
Sat 3rd October – Gingers, Sydney Thu 8th October – Transit Bar, Canberra Fri 9th October – Boney, Melbourne Sat 10th October – Rocket Bar, Adelaide