Apathy: Over & Under

S o you wanna be a major label emcee? You want the big money, fast woman and fancy cars. You want to live the life you see depicted by every emcee with a video on BET. Unfortunately, its not that easy, just ask Apathy. As a member of the underground super group The Demigodz, Apathy […]


o you wanna be a major label emcee? You want the big money, fast woman and fancy cars. You want to live the life you see depicted by every emcee with a video on BET. Unfortunately, its not that easy, just ask Apathy. As a member of the underground super group The Demigodz, Apathy has been one of the most revered indy emcees in the game. Through his various 12-inch singles, guest appearances and work on the Demigodz EP, Apathy quickly built a name for himself as one of the sickest battle emcees. With a strong buzz in the underground it was only a matter of time until major labels started coming his way. While Interscope Records showed interest, Apathy decided to sign with Atlantic Records. As a major victory for the underground circuit, fans were giddy at the prospect of Apathy receiving a major label push.

However, that was three years ago. Since then Apathy has learned about the pitfalls of the industry of the hard way. With no album in sight, many wonder if Ap will ever drop his major label debut. In order to hold fans over, Apathy is dropping his new indy album Eastern Philosophy through Babygrande Records. While fans will finally get some new material from the MC, the questions still remain regarding his deal with Atlantic. Here to squash all the rumors and set the record straight, Apathy holds no punches in an honest discussion about the reality of being signed to a major label.

AllHipHop.com: Underground fans have been waiting for Eastern Philosophy and talking about it for what seems like years now. So is there any strategic reasoning to releasing it now?

Apathy: There wasn’t a strategic reason – it was more based on content. I have wanted to do Eastern Philosophy for the longest time and we have recorded so many songs that were supposed to be for the album, but something never felt right to me. So in the end, I’m very happy that I waited until now. The album would have been corny if I released it before and the formula wasn’t right. Something just didn’t sit right with me. We recorded it so many different times, but I had to take a step back from it.

AllHipHop.com: So all of this material was recorded the past year?

Apathy: It was recorded in the last year and a half. We just kept adding to it and I really sat down and put myself in the mind frame of what I wanted my album to sound like. I sat down and liked to nothing but Illmatic, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx, the first two Organized Konfusion albums, Pete Rock & CL Smooth….I’m not saying my album is supposed to be like those, but that was the mind frame I was trying to set myself in. That’s the mood I wanted to set and I literally only listened to those albums. I didn’t listen to any new s**t during that time. I wanted to make an album that produces that feeling I used to get while listening to those albums.

AllHipHop.com: Yeah, the album does remind me of like a snowy day in New York City in ’96, or something like that.

Apathy: That’s exactly what I was trying to go for. That is the exact feel!

AllHipHop.com: You stated the earlier material you recorded for the album was “corny,” so what was wrong with it?

Apathy: It was just a lot of happy-go-lucky battle s**t. There is nothing wrong with that, but my fans have been hearing that from me for a long time. I’ve done the whole thing where we did the Demigodz EP and the underground 12-inches and all of that is cool and great, but I wanted to have something with a little more substance to it. I wanted to have an album that had replay value.

AllHipHop.com: Some people who may have not followed you throughout your career may categorize you as a battle rapper. But on this album, the thing that really sticks out is the amount of conceptual tracks. Can you run down some of the concepts and issues you are touching on Eastern Philosophy?

Apathy: The first concept that I go through that sets off the whole album is the title track “Eastern Philosophy.” I’m basically going through the key points of growing up in the East. How our summers are disgustingly hot and humid and our winters are bitter and cold. I touch on all the feelings of the East. Then I have the battle and s**t-talking joints here and there, but then I got a song called “All About Crime.” When I did that I didn’t want to just do hustlers and gangstas – its been done to death. I wanted to talk about crime from the molecular level. Everything from crime back at the beginning of time to blue/white collar crime. I touch upon all of it. Then I got “9 To 5,” where I talk about how I can’t go back to working a regular job anymore. This is my lifestyle now and I’m trying to do something different.

AllHipHop.com: On “9 To 5” you have the classic Jay sample, but what was the worse job you ever had?

Apathy: There is probably two of them. My father and uncle had a painting business and that was some of the hardest f**king work I have ever done in my life. We would be out in the summer painting houses and industrial complexes. It was physically exhausting and it required crazy hours. But the most annoying was working in a Radio Shack where I was treated like s**t and I was beefing with the manager. I also worked third shift at a casino – that s**t was hell. I was a slot attendant who paid out jackpots. So I’ve had my fair share of crazy jobs.

AllHipHop.com: With you being on Atlantic the past couple of years working on your album, what does your daily grind consist of?

Apathy: I just try to do whatever I can. Everyday I am trying to do something and I don’t stop. I don’t get up and say, “I’m gonna write a major label song today.” I get up and I’ll either write what I feel or make some moves interpedently and underground. I’m working on projects with my other Demigodz crew members. I’ll try to make moves doing the Atlantic thing. I’m also working with Celph Titled. My daily grind is just trying to get whatever done I can. I usually have a list of things and I try to multitask as best as I can.

AllHipHop.com: How are you continually providing an income while waiting for your album to drop? Is it through your indie releases and touring?

Apathy: Yeah, through indy releases, touring, licensing….I’ve had some songs licensed in video games and TV. I haven’t had a day job since ’99 and I’ve been doing alright. It’s a constant hustle and grind though. I don’t recommend it right away. [Laughter] It’s crazy.

AllHipHop.com: I know you probably got this question 100 times today, but why the long wait for the album? Can you run down the process and everything you have had to go through?

Apathy: That is the hardest question to really answer because I really don’t f**king know. It’s so weird how much time has passed and how we can’t get on the same page. That gets me real frustrated and I’ll go a long time without talking or dealing with them. Then eventually we will start to work again together. All my misconceptions about labels before are gone now. When you are younger you think you get signed and they whisk you away, put you in a studio with the biggest producers and you make an album. I really thought that was how s### jumped off. But that’s not the way it is – especially nowadays with technology. They will have you two-track s**t to death until you find the proper hit. So everything I thought about majors before was just dead wrong. Being signed is cool, its an amazing thing and I’m happy for the opportunity, but all that glitters is not gold. There are other things too. I was just talking to Little Brother because we are doing some tour dates with them – they are the coolest, most humble cats – and I was telling them, “I’m so envious of you guys because you got signed to Atlantic and were allowed to do the album you wanted to do.” But with me, I keep submitting songs to my A&R and he’s like, “Uhh, yeah, it’s cool, keep recording.”

AllHipHop.com: Does it worry you that Little Brother dropped a good album that got critical acclaim from everywhere, but they still didn’t sell anything and struggled to even get their video on BET. Does that worry you that when you come out you may see the same results?

Apathy: Hell yeah, it worries me! The f**ked up thing is, nowadays kids aren’t used to buying albums. It’s not engrained in their psyche. Back in the day that is how we got our music. We were used to going into the store, tearing off the CD plastic and reading the inside. Nowadays that’s not happening. Kids are used to downloading everything now. It worries me when I heard that BET wouldn’t play De La Soul and Beatnut’s new videos. BET will break all these new artists out of nowhere, but they won’t put a De La Soul video on? What is that going to do? Is that going to hurt something if De La gets played a couple times on TV? I really don’t get it.

AllHipHop.com: I remember about four years ago the underground scene was really booming. I’m not gonna name any names, but you had tons of groups and artists releasing amazing material. And maybe its just me, but it seems as if that movement has really died down the past two years and the quality of underground releases isn’t the same. Do you think this is true and if so, why?

Apathy: It’s so true. I love that you say it because if I sit here and say, “Kids that drop s**t nowadays are wack,” it sounds like I’m a hater, which is not the case. But nowadays everybody puts s**t out, and the market is oversaturated. Anyone can press up a record today. And the funny thing is – back in the day there were wack rappers. Why do you think the term exists? Some people just don’t have skill. But nowadays, everybody feels it’s their god given right to have a shot. Anyone feels they can be an emcee and they are entitled to it.

When I came up listening to Kool G. Rap, Gang Starr, EPMD…these were dudes with dope voices and who had hard beats. Now dudes have the softest accents, the softest voices, the corniest subject matter and they are just feeling themselves! That s**t is f**king corny. Just because you do some conscious s**t doesn’t mean you got a flow like Brother J or Chuck D.

AllHipHop.com: Overall, tell us your vision for the future?

Apathy: I’m just really optimistic. I’m a relentless person, so no matter what, I’m just gonna work. My worth ethic is crazy. I’m gonna work and make something happen, so I can only hope for the best. I’m gonna try and do the biggest thing possible and try to do whatever I can to release major label albums. I’m gonna continue to push Demigodz as a project. I’m gonna keep doing what I do. There is nothing more I can do than Hip-Hop and there is nothing more I wanna do. Its what I love and it’s how I live.