HHS: Let’s get right into it and talk about what everyone wants to know. You’ve been signed to Atlantic for awhile now, and I’m sure this is the number one question you’re tired of fielding, but what’s the reason(s) your debut has been delayed so long?
Apathy: The reason for the delay is singles. Hit singles. I’ve recorded a lot for the album, and I’m sure everyone out there has their own opinion of what I should do, or what Atlantic should do with me… but I really have to say that Atlantic knows what they’re doing. I can’t just put out a regular club joint. Or some regular ass boom bap song. It has to be different, catchy, lyrically dope (considering that I’m adamant about maintaining my artistic integrity), and appeal to a wide variety of people. The bar has been set so fuckin’ high, that you have to come out the gate with some real different shit. Cuz off the bat, the scrutiny is gonna be overwhelming.
HHS: Any truth to these rumors so we can clear those up now. 1.) That you experienced a major case of writers block. 2.) That Atlantic wanted more commercially accessible material out of you (as any major label does) and it took you out of your comfort zone and took you a minute to grasp what they are/were looking for.
Apathy: There is truth in both of those statements.
1.) I was having writers block, off and on… but I was also getting a tremendous amount of shit recorded at the same time. I’m my own worst enemy when it comes to writing. I’m a perfectionist to the point where it drives me insane. What people don’t understand, is that through the years, all my records that were ever released, were songs that we were willing to leak… like battle rap shit. But in actuality, the shit you HAVEN’T been hearing, are my concepts, and stories that I always put aside for albums. Which I write A LOT more of, than battle raps, or braggadocios raps. So sometimes, the pressure of writing conceptual tracks, coupled with trying to make hits, can be stressful, and form writers block for a second.
2.) Of course they want commercially accessible material from me. That’s how they’re going to sell records. This is the music BUSINESS. Not music Art Foundation. It’s my job to maintain artistry. It’s their job to sell records. I was always under the assumption (being that I was Indy, and Indy is sooo anti major label), that they would want to turn me into a pop project. Like a Stagga Lee, or some other white pop rapper. My A&R (who is in charge of what goes on my album, when it comes out, and what goes on with it), Mike Caren, WANTS me to do something different. He actually WANTS me to maintain my lyrical integrity. He WANTS me to have hip-hop classics on the album. He does NOT want me to sell the fuck out with some corny shit. Cuz at first, I didn’t know what to do. So we started makin’ stereotypical club shit. And he says “No… that’s not you. Be yourself.” Which actually shocked me. Nowadays shit is different. Artists like Outkast, Eminem, Ludacris, Kanye West, Missy, Timbaland, and Alicia Keys… have made it OK and commercially viable to do some different shit. So that’s where I’m at now. Trying to make a single that’s gonna be huge… but still me.
HHS: Every artist wants to be a priority at their label and Atlantic is a huge label, with a slew of commercially successful artists. Yet, recently Atlantic signed a group that has been making allot of noise on the underground circuit—Little Brother. To many this seemed like another instance of you getting put on the back-burner and falling out of favor with the label. With all that in mind, have you ever felt slighted while at Atlantic?
Apathy: Not in the slightest. Here’s another example of being on the outside, looking in, and trying to GUESS what’s going on. Little Brother getting signed has NOTHING to do with me. We have two separate A&R’s, on two different sides of the continent. My A&R is Mike Caren, out in LA… I believe their A&R is Rob Tewlow, who’s in NYC. The label kept me. They dropped TONS of acts. But kept me. They have faith in me. They give me love, and help me out with anything I ask for pretty much. But they need singles. What can they do with me, if I don’t give them anything to work with? They don’t want to start promoting me… cuz then everyone will be like “Why can’t I buy his album?? Where is it??”. I’ll have adds, promotion, and talk, but no product. You can’t do it like that.
HHS: Looking at the situation from a glass half full perspective, the delay has also giving you an opportunity to continue growing as an artist/lyricist and to really ensure the debut is crafted and polished correct?
Apathy: Hell yeah. I thank god they didn’t release the shit that I first recorded for them. Cuz its kinda wack to me now. Maybe that’s me being crazy… but I really get to watch, and understand what works. I get to watch trends, and learn from other’s mistakes.
HHS: How far into the LP are you, who are you working with and what should we expect?
Apathy: I have about 25-30 songs done. I don’t record hundreds of songs like other artists do. Cuz 90 % of their shit is usually throw away shit anyway. I prefer quality to quantity. I know that’s an old cliche, but that’s real. I’m real picky about what I record. And if an idea is half assed, or just average, I get rid of it.
HHS: To many, at this point it seems as if your immense talents are being wasted by all of the delays. Worst case scenario, if there are further delays in the future at Atlantic, at what point do you decide to cut ties, go for self and shop for a new deal (there has to be other opportunities out there for you) and at any point have you contemplated that scenario already?
Apathy: I don’t really think my talent is being wasted. I’m working’ on multiple projects at the same time. I’m keeping myself busy, regardless. I’m not the type that can sit still. If there is a hold up, and I have to wait, I’m doing something on the side as well. And as far as contemplating things not working out with Atlantic… Oh yeah. Anything can happen. You’d be a fool not to plan for the worst. Nothing is promised or guaranteed. I’m not really sure about cutting ties, and at what point… cuz I know the label has a tremendous amount of belief in me. However… I definitely always think 10 steps ahead. It’s only logical to. So I’m not really worried about anything. I always have contingency plans. I’ll always keep it moving. No matter what.
HHS: Obviously the title of your new mixtape, Where’s Your Album, pokes fun at that much-asked question, but can the title also be taken as a fuck you to the non-believers?
Apathy: Half of it, is a “fuck you” to the non-believers. It’s meant to be read two ways. One was is the question being posed to me. “Ap, where is your album?” Then the question is fired back at people who think they can do better, or someone who thinks they are better than me… so I’m like “Where’s YOUR album!?!?”
HHS: Its amazing to me that “Checkmate” was recorded in 1997, I would assume you’ve accumulated and recorded a bunch of material at this point?
Apathy: Well… I didn’t record that in ’97. I wrote the verse in ’97. But it’s always been one of, if not my favorite verse of all time. The problem was, I was never, ever able to find a beat that I liked to fit it. Then by chance, 6 years later… I meet an 18 year old producer from Mass. named Cyrus Tha Great, who hit me with a beat CD. And for some reason, I spit that verse to this beat, and it was perfect. I never thought I was going to find a beat for it.
HHS: Can this mixtape be considered the official jump-off for the promotions of your debut, the buzz starter?
Apathy: Yeah, I think so. That was my aim. To begin all over again. I wanted to show everyone who said anything about me, that I can do it all. Stories, battle shit, introspective songs, concepts, double time, weird flows, rock shit, EVERYTHING. I’m also building a more diverse fan base now. Another thing I like about this CD is the quality. My DJ, Chum The Skrilla Guerilla, recorded and mixed it, like it was an album. Everything is on point. All the mixes, all the quality. It’s not your average mixtape. I don’t even really like calling it a mixtape… but hey….
HHS: Has Atlantic heard “Seven Nation Army” and “Personal Jesus” from Where’s Your Album? If so, they had to be pretty pleased with the results no?
Apathy: Oh yeah. Those are their favorite songs by far. They really bugged out when I did those. Cuz I didn’t just attempt to take some rock shit, and rap over it like whatever. I did it right.
HHS: Last time I spoke with you (interview for Urb’s Hot 100 for 2003), I remember a conversation we had about you working with Pete Rock and how surreal of an experience that was to where you were like “oh shit, I’m actually in Pete Rock’s lab.” Has there been anyone else that you’ve had the pleasure of working with that generated a similar feeling?
Apathy: Goin’ to Pete’s crib was incredible. I come from that era… and hip-hop has always been the biggest thing in my life. Like a religion to me. So meeting dudes like that is just beyond comprehension. I mean, no doubt, they’re just people like anyone else… but the music they did, is indelible in our lives. Sometimes if I’m trying to remember something I did, in a certain year, I’ll reference it, to what songs were out at the time. Like “Oh, that happened in 94, cuz Gravediggaz just came out”. The other thing that was a hug moment in my life was chillin’ with Rakim. Ra was madddd humble… and they had me backstage with them, makin’ sure I ate with them. Playing Playstation… they were real. Mad down to earth. Mad cool. That shit bugged me out. I met KRS-ONE at the Wake Up Show in LA. A lot of people. Met Big Pun. All of that means a lot to me.
HHS: If we looked in your CD changer right now, what LP’s would we find?
Apathy: I’m a little bit out of control with how much Jay-Z I listen to. In my opinion, he is the greatest of all time. So I constantly listen to Jay. Other than that… a lot of old shit. Gang Starr is my favorite group of all time. So a lot of Gang Starr. Nas’ Illmatic is my favorite album of all time. I listen to that probably 3 times a week, still. Older Tribe, De La, G Rap, Rakim, old Jeru, Souls of Mischief, Da King & I, Yaggfu Front, Common, Showbiz & A.G. One thing all my friends know about me is… I RARELY listen to a whole CD. I have super A.D.D. (Attention Deficit Disorder). So I’ll listen to a song, sometimes even HALF a song, and switch the CD. I’m nuts with that shit. I drive people insane, in the car.
HHS: What is the craziest rumor you’ve heard about yourself that was completely bogus?
Apathy: I’ve heard a lot of rumors. That I got dropped. Back in the day, there was a rumor that I was a big fat kid. People thought I was black. People think I’m a rich college kid. I didn’t get dropped, was never fat and I’m not black. Was never even close to rich (trying to get there now) and I never went to college.
HHS: What’s the most common misconception fans have about new artists that are on a major label?
Apathy: That the label is just gonna fly into action and press out a super star. That they’re gonna just throw you on tons of remixes. They think things happen fast. And they don’t. Things take a lot of time. This shit is NOT easy… at all… even with a major label. It’s almost damn near impossible to translate to people, what it’s like being signed. Cuz each person has a unique experience. If I had DJ Clue, co signing for me, or Dre, or Timbaland, or someone… it would happen much faster and be easier. But I have no one. I have me. I’m doin’ it on my own.
HHS: If you could have one producer produce a posse cut for you, who would it be and why?
Apathy: DJ Premier!! While Posse cuts are getting fuckin’ TIRED. I think Primo would keep it interesting. Like “Speak Ya Clout”.
HHS: And who are the two emcees that you would have join you on this hypothetical posse cut?
Apathy: Since it’s hypothetical… probably Guru and Nas. I don’t even think it would make sense. But who gives a shit. It would come out hot.
HHS: Before the release of the proper debut, are there any of projects we can expect from you after Where’s Your Album?
Apathy: Yes. Definitely… Prior to the Atlantic album coming out. I will be doin’ an Indy album. I’m going to be using the title of what my first album was supposed to be, “Eastern Philosophy”. Most of the songs for the original Eastern Philosophy were either put out already, are on the “Where’s Your Album” Mixtape, or are just long gone. But there will be two songs from the original, that I revamped, that are on there. This will be my “Reasonable Doubt”, or “Illmatic” or “Ready To Die”. I’ll talk more about it later. But this is gonna be real big. I can’t say who’s putting it out yet… (Legal shit) but it’s a huge Indy label. Atlantic kinda hooked me up with them, to help with my street buzz, prior to the major label album. Atlantic is giving me clearance to do it and it’s almost a done deal. I’ll let you guys know in the next couple weeks.
HHS: Last Words?
Apathy: I work real hard. My shit is coming out, one way or another. Respect that!! I definitely wanna thank you for doin the interview Matt. I’m so sick of the typical bullshit questions and you didn’t go that route. Good lookin’ out!! I gotta give respect to everyone who holds it down for me… Celph, Chum, all the Demigodz, Emilio, Mike Caren, James Lopez, Chris Morris, 8TH, Vertigo, Sean, Pizzo, everyone at hiphopsite.com, Natalia L, my Doe$Rakers Click, Emirc, my sisters (Alexis, Chrissy), Jean Grae and Collin… a lot more people. Look inside the album cover.
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