Throughout the years, there have been many “super-lyricists”. You know, those dudes that get on the mic and put everyone else around them to shame, every time. Whether it was Canibus stealing the spotlight on every guest appearance, Eminem lighting up the booth on the Wake Up Show, Ras Kass delivering concepts too complex for one listen, or Chino XL roasting his rap counterparts, these types of emcees always made legions of dedicated fans thanks to their incredible talents. Problem is, a lot of these types of rappers have had problems making actual songs (and it’s up for debate as to whom among the aforementioned artists suffered from this problem, if any). Sure, some of them could spit a hot 16 bars, but when it came to translating their skill into commercial success, they fell flat. Some found themselves struggling to adapt their style to a commercial market, leaving the masses scratching their heads at their complex styles, while others couldn’t touch upon anything relevant besides rapping-about-rapping.
Enter Apathy. To put it simply, the most incredible white kid to grab a mic since Eminem, and quite possibly one of the most well-rounded, technically ridiculous, and commercially viable new artists to emerge from the underground in the last five years. A&R’s at Atlantic noticed Ap’s massive talent early on, and snatched him up a couple of years back. But while fans have been eagerly awaiting his major-label debut for a couple of years now, nothing has come out. Apathy addressed this topic on 2004′s Where’s Your Album mixtape album, with front cover art that featured an army of fans all trying to get a piece of the still album-less artist. Growing impatient waiting for Atlantic to release him into the wild, Apathy cut a side deal with NYC indy imprint Babygrande, to release his official debut album, one that would allow him complete creative control, without having to worry about pleasing finicky commercial crowds and changing trends.
Weary to not fall into the trap that some of these other lyricists have fallen into, Ap’s album finally clears the line in the sand between dynamic lyricism and definitive song concepts. With its Premier-esque intro title track (“Eastern Philosophy”) and “1000 Grams”, Ap introduces himself, setting up the album with hilarious, yet technically complex braggadocio. But from there on, Ap gets more introspective, breaking down his own philosophies on subjects ranging from criminology (“It’s All About Crime”), to working vs. hustling (“9 To 5″), to his girl’s period (“One Of Those Days”), with equally balanced street and backpack appeal. “Chemical” finds Ap breaking down the effects of every drug or chemical ingested by Americans, with dynamic verses and a track that fits the concept perfectly. “The Buck Stops Here” follows the day in the life of a one-dollar bill, over a ridiculous beat and pimped Audio Two sample. “The Winter” actually brings former Wu-Tang crooner Blue Raspberry out of retirement (from Raekwon’s “Rainy Days”), who sings her heart out, while Ap poetically describes the physical and mental effects of the cold weather. Another jewel is the amazing “I Remember”, where Ap recalls his early experiences in hip-hop, while poignantly blasting the current underground and commercial scenes. Cinematic production and a perfectly timed Black Moon sample drive his points home, making anyone who lived in that era feel nostalgic and disillusioned with today’s trendy sounds.
While heavy on concepts, Ap does also take time out to have some fun, with a few posse cuts that show more playful aspects of his personality. “Can’t Leave Rap Alone” teams him up with fellow Demigodz members, Celph Titled and Ryu of Styles of Beyond, finding the trio competing for funniest verse. “Me and My Friends” instead finds Ap, Celph, and One-Two thinking back to the days of old, while “Philosophical Gangsta” teams him with NYC homies Poison Pen and Bad Seed, each displaying verses of raw skill.
In a nutshell, Eastern Philosophy is a concept record. A tribute to early 90′s east-coast hip-hop, drawing influences from the likes of the Wu-Tang Clan, The Fugees, D.I.T.C, Gang Starr, Black Moon, Biggie, Nas, Jay-Z and countless other artists from this short-lived renaissance of 1992-1995. The production is all handled in-house, by up and coming beat-smiths like Chum The Skrilla Guerilla, Exact Beats, 8th and Vertygo, Q-Tones, Cheapshot, and of course, Ap and Celph Titled. And while most of these names may be unfamiliar to virtually everyone at this point, this team of producers have crafted a beautiful record that channels the classic 90′s era, without sounding dated or retro, thanks to Ap’s rich concepts and undeniable skill.
In an age where the underground artists dare to be different, and the commercial artists dare to be stupid, Eastern Philosophy is a straight-forward HIP-HOP record that puts faith back into this artform, showing off only one of the multi-faceted aspects of Apathy’s personality. Labels and artists take note – Apathy is the future.
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