First and foremost, if you have not yet peeped our take on Apollo Brown’s “The Reset”, please do so HERE. Secondly, you’ve read about the talented producer on these pages since 2007. Yet, if there’s one thing that I’ve noticed most about Apollo, with each release (“Skilled Trade”, “Make Do”, “The Reset” and “Gas Mask”) he keeps getting better and better. In my humble opinion, Apollo hasn’t even scratched the surface yet, as dope (one of the top 5 or so albums this year) as “The Reset” was/is, your jaw is gonna’ drop when you hear The Left’s “Gas Mask”.
Recently, I had the chance to sit down with yet another producer whom calls the “D” home. Not only is Apollo one of the hottest producers in Hip Hop, he’s just a good dude, period. It’s one thing to conduct and interview with someone and get half-assed replies, it’s another when someone like Apollo offers up a damn good read and does so promptly and graciously. Trust me, I’ve had the pleasure of enjoying some damn good Hip Hop over my 34 years (Damn..34? ShhhhIT!) and whatever the so-called “IT” factor is, this cat has it. Oh, and to the OkayPlayers of the world and blogs out there who’ve basically rated “The Reset” album a B- or C+, you need to check your headphones. Really? C’mon, really? “The Reset” is ridiculous (c) Dart Adams (ad nauseum)
Bloggerhouse: You represent Detroit to the fullest, what is it like carrying on
tradition in the Detroit hip-hop scene? Is there an added sense of
Apollo: Detroit is where it’s at right now. Detroit is where it’s always been for good music. I love the fact that I can contribute to such a great legacy and sought after sound. There is definitely pressure to carry a leg of the production torch when you have Producers like the late great J-Dilla, Black Milk, and Mr. Porter applying a soundtrack to the movie called Detroit. I just try to hold my own in a slightly different lane.
B-House: The first time I heard your free LP “Skilled Trade” (namely, “Invisible”) I was blown away by the masterful production. Who were and still are some of your production influences and why?
Apollo: My favorite producer of all time is and always will be DJ Premier. He was the ultimate influence in my music. He is the G.O.A.T to me when it comes to production. Hard drums, thick chops, static, and that timeless boom bap sound is what I gravitate towards. I also looked up to legends like Pete Rock, Dilla, Da Beatminerz, Large Professor, and DJ Muggs.
B-House: On that note, what do you consider to be your best “attribute” regarding your production talents? Why should the consumer purchase
“Make Do” or “The Reset” and what can they expect once they have?
Apollo: I think that my best attribute regarding my production is my EAR. To me, it doesn’t matter if you have $20,000 worth of equipment and software. If you don’t have an ear for the music, the outcome is probably not going to be the best. Whether you sample or you play from scratch, you got to know what you’re listening for. I naturally think that my music and/or production is considered quality hip hop.
So when I tell someone about it, they can usually hear the passion in my voice. “Make Do” is a collection of 37 instrumentals that I wanted to share with the world. It’s a variety of beats, most of which are actual songs. “The Reset” is an old school-style compilation/rework album that features some of today’s premier underground artists over soulful production.
B-House: Being that there is so much talent (lyrical and production-wise) emerging from the “D”, what do you feel truly sets you apart from the
those (producers) amongst you?
Apollo: I think the main thing that sets me apart from other Detroit producers is that I don’t actually have a Detroit sound. I don’t tend to have that Detroit swing and/or bounce to my production. I grew up listening to mainly East Coast hip hop in the early-mid 90’s, so I was all about that grimy, static-filled, hard drum, filtered sample sound. I used to eat, sleep, and breathe that shit. I STILL do. I think my sound reflects that alot.
B-House: With the All-Star lineup that is featured on “The Reset” (Rapper Big Pooh, yU, Buff 1, Oddisee, etc.) one would think, at least judging from past history that this album would come off as more of a “compilation”, yet everything seemed to piece together so effortlessly. How did you succeed in making “The Reset” play more like an “album” (the transition is effortless), then a rushed compilation?
Apollo: The album does have an old school compilation style to it but I wanted to make it gel together and like you said, play more like album. I think the key to that was having a consistent amount of soul and feeling throughout. I was trying take you places with each song. Hopefully you went there.
B-House: Of your last three albums (“Skilled Trade”, “Make Do” and “The Reset”), what is the ONE track you consider your “baby” (even though,
that’s probably ALL of them) or your all-time favorite that you’ve
Apollo: My favorite track hasn’t been in the spotlight yet. It will soon though! Ask me that question at the end of the year.
B-House: Do you listen to much “current” music nowadays? If so, what or who are some of the albums/artists that you’ve been (for lack of a better
Apollo: I listen to “current” music, it just happens to labeled underground. My favorite album right now is the Roc Marciano “Marcberg” album. That shit is nasty. It’s one of the best albums I’ve heard in years; took me straight back to ’94. I’m working on his new joint now (Eric: “Oh SHIT!!!). Jay Electronica, Diamond District, Low Budget, Black Milk, Little Brother, Guilty Simpson, and Finale are some others.
B-House: If your were making a cross-country road trip to Los Angeles, what
five albums would you take along with you for your listening pleasure?
Apollo: Black Moon – “Enta Da Stage”, Roc Marciano – “Marcberg”, Prince Paul – “A Prince Among Thieves”, Uncut Raw – “First Toke”, and Ice Cube – “Death Certificate”
B-House: With the current “technology” (read:Internet) and accessibility to
nearly every album of your choice, what are your thoughts on the
rampant downloading that takes place nowadays?
Apollo: The internet is a gift and a curse. I think the internet is a great tool for promotion, networking/connecting with other talented artists, getting your music to a broader spectrum of people, and overall making a larger audience aware of your brand. The internet can also KILL your potential career just as much as it can help it. For some shitty reason, people like to upload your album online and share it with anyone who wants to download it for free, in turn, taking the hard work and money that you spent on creating this personal “masterpiece” and throwing it in the trash. It’s definitely discouraging. If you want good, quality music, support it!
B-House: What are some of things you like to do besides the music? Married?
Apollo: Not married, No kids. Besides production, I also co-own a media company called Crush Media Group, LLC. with my business partners Kevin Davis and Quinne Lowe. I’m a photographer as much as I am a producer. I’ve shot artists like Nas, Finale, Invincible, Royce Da 5’9”, Magestik Legend, Mike Jones, etc. and I’ve been published in XXL three times among a bunch of other magazines, newspapers and websites. My business website is CrushMediaGroup.com.
B-House: With your production, the progression between “Skilled Trade” and “The Reset” (or even, “Gas Mask”) is very noticeable, how would you describe your “style” per se?
Apollo: There’s definitely a progression in the quality. I change the way I do things all the time but I try and keep the sound the same. I consider my style to be strictly boom bap.
B-House: You’ve worked with some very recognizable artists thus far (see: “The Reset”) in the underground forum. Who are some artists/acts that you’d
like to work with?
Apollo: I’d love to work with Jay Electronica, Nas, and Phonte. I’d also like to work with Dilated Peoples, Planet Asia, Jean Grae, and Cypress Hill, among others.
B-House: You’ve already got a BIG 2010 lined up with the release of “The Reset” as well as pending releases with Boog Brown (“Brown Study”), Hassaan
Mackey (“Daily Bread”) and the The Left’s “Gas Mask” LP, as busy as you’ve been, any other collaborative albums or solo joints in the works?
Apollo: There are definitely some nice things in the works for early 2011. I just can’t spill any names as of yet. Stay tuned…
B-House: Alright, I’ve heard the “Gas Mask” and I’ve mentioned to numerous
acquaintances that this album will be the best album that will drop in
2010, and I’m sure that many folks in your camp share the same opinion. Isn’t it difficult sitting on an album that would immediately elevate “Gas Mask” to “classic status”?
Apollo: Yo, I really appreciate that you feel that way! This album is a jewel and I feel that it is worthy of the wait. Just like the other albums, I had to make sure that it would get the right backing, the right push, the right promo & marketing, and the right home. MMG (Mello Music Group) really believes in my projects and my music as a whole, so I’m good. The wait is definitely hard, because I make music to put out to the people, not to sit on, but it’ll be worth it!
B-House: You’ve mentioned to me that the production of “The Reset” began
as hard and gritty, yet it evolved into more of a “life” sound, please
share the transition with us.
Apollo: I started the project with the mindset that I wanted it to be a harder sounding album. As it got under way though, the sound just kept swaying more and more to the “life” side of things. I was just letting the music and the feel do the walking and talking. I didn’t try to force anything or any certain type of sound; kept it natural. I’m very happy with the way that it turned out and the feeling that the album conveys.
B-House: When you develop a track, do you have a particular regimen that you follow each time you set out to create a beat?
Apollo: Kind of. I always start with my drums. I make sure those are hard and nasty first. Then, I find a good sample, chop it up the way I want it, including the hook change, etc. I’ll play with the sample and drums together in different ways. Get it how I want it. Then, I’ll lay or filter a bassline, depending on the sample. I’ll add some filler sounds, if need be. Then, I’ll put the beat together and mess with the levels. Whether it takes me an hour or a week to make a beat, I usually do it in somewhat that order. I’m usually working on 3-4 beats at a time and I have to have the TV on in the background and an Arizona Sweet Tea sitting next to me!
B-House: Thanks for sitting down with us Apollo and last but not least, any
shout outs, thanks, etc?
Apollo Brown: I have to give a shout to my family and friends for the support system. I want to give a shout to Mike at Mello Music Group and the rest of the MMG Family. I want to give a shout to all of the fans, radio stations, websites, and blogs like this one that support me and my music! I also have to give props to all those who still love and respect good hip hop!
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