Last Monday (October 27), Detroit’s Apollo Brown and L.A.’s Ras Kass celebrated the release of their album Blasphemy among fans and friends at Libation in NYC. DJs Spinna, White Lotus, Eclipse and others paid their respects, playing select cuts off the album, along with classic hip-hop gems during their respective sets. The legendary Large Professor finished off the night with a ridiculous set of his own.
With plenty of other hip-hop royalty in the house that night, including Ice-T (and Coco), Young Guru, and Dres (of Black Sheep), the party was a perfect reflection of the hard work that went into making the album. Brooklyn Radio’s Lara Gamble was able to get some time with Apollo before the party started to learn more about how he got to where he is, working with Ras Kass, and what lies ahead for the artist.
How was the album release part in L.A. on Friday?
It was amazing. We had a great turnout. A lot of my friends, a lot of my peers, a lot of fans. L.A. is always a whole different beast when it comes to certain things, and there’s a lot of people actually from Detroit that have moved over to L.A. And L.A. and Detroit really have a connection when it comes to music.
How very Dilla-esque…
Yeah. Yeah, definitely. It was a great turnout. We had a lot of fun. It kind of just felt like a living room -a really big living room with liquor and tables. That was good. It was a good time.
Were there any surprises?
We kind of winged it, really, and let the DJs do their thing. A couple of emcees went on and did some freestyles over beats and people just having a good time. It was really comfortable. There was no pressure. It was just really comfortable.
What’s your earliest memory of hip-hop?
Probably going down into the basement and listening to my dad’s Sugar Hill Gang record.
How old were you?
I was probably seven, six, eight – somewhere around there. And I used to get in trouble every time because it was a record. It was a vinyl. My dad never wanted me to touch his turntables. He’d always tell me how expensive the stylus was, and “Don’t you ever touch that, and you better not be scratching on it either when you’re down there,” which I did. I definitely did.
But I used to go downstairs and listen to his Sugar Hill Gang record. Then, when I started getting old enough to really get into the music myself and purchase my own music – I really fell in love with hip-hop probably when Main Source dropped Breaking Atoms. “Looking Out The Front Door” – when that came out, it was just like, “What is this?”
When did you decide to make production more than a hobby?
I listened to music all my life and in my early childhood, I found myself kind of overanalyzing music and not just the music itself but the beats. I don’t know. I would take the snares apart. I would single out certain instruments on the record, and then, after a while, it was kind of just like, “I need to stop being a listener and be a participant.” And that was in 1996 when I made my first beat. And being able to manipulate sounds and do what I want to with them, it was horrible, but it was awesome the way you could just do your own thing and create something from something else or create something from nothing.
And make it your own….
And make it your own – definitely.
Were you ever a DJ?
I tried it. I bought some turntables when I was in college. This was like 1998, and I tried it for like three weeks, and I quit. I just didn’t have the patience for it. I thought I could just scratch out the box and do all these Q-Bert moves and crab scratchin’ and stuff like that out the box. You just pull them out and BOOM! You’re ready to go, you know? It just didn’t work out that way, and I couldn’t blend. I sucked. It was horrible, and I didn’t have the patience to keep going. I was already making beats and stuff, so I just kind of thought, “You know what? I’m just going to stick to this and not be a jack of all trades but kind of a master of one.”
I travel the world. I wouldn’t call myself a DJ. I do DJ, but I would never call myself a DJ and disrespect the craft like that. But I do spin records that I love to spin and play music that I love to hear myself. But I would never, ever call myself a DJ. I suck. I’m horrible.
How does your hometown of Detroit influence your style and sound?
If anyone hears the music that comes out of Detroit, there’s a lot to it when it comes to the character and when it comes to being somber or having a lot of feeling. In Detroit, you can look out your window and get inspiration. You could walk down the street. You don’t have to leave the block. Detroit is full of a lot of resilient people, and it’s full of a lot of character and characters. So, a lot of people have it tough in Detroit. It’s getting better. It’s definitely getting better.
But people have it tough there, and you can look on people’s faces and see how their day is going, or how their week or how their year is going or how their life’s going. Period. And just the inspiration. The weather – it’s gloomy. You know, the sky is grey probably 200 days a year. We have all four seasons. I mean you guys do, too.
Yeah but you guys have them to the extreme.
Yeah, ours is kind of extreme. L.A. can’t – there’s a lot of other places like down south – they don’t know what four seasons are. And making music in the fall and winter is a little different than making music in the spring and summer. You get a little different feeling with your music.
But yeah, not to mention the other artists in Detroit inspire you. Detroit’s full of hip-hop. Detroit is Motown. We have a catalog that dates back to the 40s. It’s amazing. It’s an artist’s city. It still is.
That’s a good segue to my next question. Who are you listening to right now? Or what albums are you feeling at the moment?
I always get stumped on that question because I’m so…like over the past few months, I’ve been so wrapped up in Blasphemy and listening to that over and over and over. But, I mean, I’m a big fan of Roc Marciano. I’m a big fan of Oddisee. Evidence. Dilated Peoples. Who else? Alchemist. Step Brothers. Step Brothers are dope. Obviously, everybody I’ve worked with like Guilty and O.C.
When is Guilty going to bring his ass over here?
I don’t know. I don’t know. He’s always in L.A.
Or over in Australia.
When did you and Ras Kass meet?
Actually, at the beginning of making this record. We’ve obviously known of each other, and we’re fans of each other, but we never met, never crossed paths. It was an idea that I had and something I wanted to do. We would be at the same places. We just never crossed paths though. We never came across each other. I just hit him up one day and was like, “Yo, man. Let’s work. We need to do something.” We started talking about it, started building, taking trips, hanging out. Next thing you know, we’re making a record.
Would you say you recorded the record in multiple locations?
We recorded the record in one week in L.A. We probably took about four or five months to make the album. The recording was just a week. I always give the emcee a nice amount of time to write the album and prepare themselves for recording and coming up with concepts and stuff like that. But yeah, about five months or so. But we met, yeah, right at the beginning of making the album, and then we just started building real tough, and now we’re all over the place all the time.
What was the process of getting artists like Pharoahe Monch and Xzibit to play a part in the making of the record?
I think they just felt that it was something they wanted to participate in. It was one of those things where the actual songs that we had, we reached out to those people, those features, because those are the people that we wanted on that song. It was like, we hear Pharoahe on this song. We hear Rakaa on this song. Xzibit doing the hook on this song. Like psh, come on. We had to get Royce on the record. We kind of handpicked certain people that we wanted on the record and went straight for it, and nobody turned us down. Nobody was like, “Uh, y’all suck. I don’t want to be on the record.”
Is Rakaa coming tonight?
I’m just kidding.
I doubt that very much. He was at the one in L.A. though.
I know. That’s why I asked.
What’s your favorite cut from the record and why?
I don’t have one. I do not have one. It changes every day based on my mood and based on how I feel when I wake up in the morning. I’ll probably give myself another couple of weeks to listen to the album, and then I’ll stop listening to it probably entirely. It just changes. It changes. One day it’s “H20” and one day it’s “Strawberry” another day it’s “Bon Voyage.” It just really depends on how I feel and where I’m at and my situation.
Do you have any side projects currently in the works?
Side projects. I got things going on. I got things going on. Things I can’t mention. Next year is going to be a good year. This year’s a good year. Next year is going to be a good year, as well. I’m going to change some things up. I think I’m going to switch a genre for one of these projects and do some different things.
Is there anything else you’d like to share or promote?
I’m just so into Blasphemy right now. @Apollo Brown on Twitter. @Apollo Brown on Instagram. Apollo Brown on Facebook. And Blasphemy. And anything you see the name Apollo Brown on, go get it. Anything you see the name Ras Kass on, go get it. That’s pretty much it.