Michigan has become a state synonymous for hip-hop producing some of the most iconic artists in our hip-hop generation: J.Dilla, Slum Village, Eminem, Black Milk, Phat Kat and producer Apollo Brown.
Brown entered the scene as the winner of Red Bull’s Big Tune Championship in 2009, and later signing a deal with Mello Music Group in December of 2009. After signing with Mello Music Group, Brown has gone to release several projects notably: The Reset, Gas Mask as part of the trio The Left, Clouds, and his latest release Daily Bread, along with emcee Hassaan Mackey.
Not only does the Daily Bread album have deep subject contents, but once again, Brown has created an impressive production palette combining soulful and gritty samples. I got the chance to speak with Brown about his influences, his five favorite albums ever, the 72-hour creative process for Daily Bread and etc.
Bella: So, tell people about yourself.
Apollo Brown: Well, the people call me Apollo Brown. I am from Detroit—representing Detroit. I’m a producer, been making music since 1996. But, I hadn’t really established a name for myself until four years ago so I would say 2007 is when I really came onto the scene. I graduated from Michigan State University back in 2003. I’ve done a few things with my degree, but I’ve really been into music—always been into making beats and making music. I’m 31 years old, so, yes that means that I did buy Illmatic, the tape off of the shelf originally so yeah, I’m an older head. I had a chance to live through the best era in hip-hop which to me was 1991 through 1996, which was the greatest five year span in hip-hop history as far as I’m concerned. You can’t really begin to name how many classics came out in that five year span. I represent Detroit to the fullest and I love good hip-hop. I’m not trying to reinvent the wheel. I’m not trying to come up with a new sound or create a new genre or something like that. I’m just trying to preserve the music that I’ve grown to love and my music is basically just a form of preservation of good hip-hop.
Bella: This is a random question, but what are your favorite albums of all time that are hip-hop related?
Apollo: Oh wow! Five favorite albums of all time. I would have to say off the top of my head, my favorite album of all time is Black Moon’s Enta Da Stage. Then, in no particular order I would say: Nas Illmatic. I would have to say Soul’s of Mischief 93 Til Infinity—that’s Bay Area right there. I might have to say, I’m thinking… probably Smif-N-Wessum, Dah Shinin’.
Apollo: You know it’s both—me and Hassaan together is Daily Bread. We decided to keep it self titled. You don’t really see Haasan Mackey or Apollo Brown written anywhere on there. I think it’s on the spine, and it’s definitely on the inside but on the outside we wanted to keep the cover as simple as possible and we just wrote in cursive there Daily Bread. But yes, me and him together are Daily Bread and its self-titled Daily Bread.
Bella: With the name I don’t know if I was going too far, but I thought it meant like the prayer how our food is essentially our daily bread?
Apollo: Daily Bread is basically anything that sustains your life, you know what I’m saying. It can be food or any kind of nourishment that you put in your body or your mind. It doesn’t necessarily have to be food, it can be a book, it can be music—anything that sustains or helps sustain your life is Daily Bread. That’s your daily bread, something that you can’t live without. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a religious connotation but a lot of people will take it that way. They’ll think of the Lord’s prayer and the words Daily Bread but, it doesn’t necessarily mean that at all. In the beginning of the album, in the intro, I used a Muslim version of the Lord’s prayer, but, people can take it however they want to—but it’s definitely sustenance.
Bella: As far as the project, I really, really, really like the production and I think the mesh of you two together is really dope—so what was the creative process like for this project?
Apollo: You know what’s funny; we made this project in 72 hours. A lot of people don’t know that. We made this project in a weekend. We discussed the project for a while and we went over the album for a while over the phone. We’d talk about it and I was finally like, “yo, let’s get together—come down to Detroit.” He came down to Detroit. I picked him up from the bus Station Friday morning it was like 7AM. We got to my loft, started working, and he started writing to new joints. He had some of the joints already but like half of the album is new joints that he never heard until he got here. We started writing and literally got into the studio at 4o’clock that afternoon so we were in the studio from 4’o clock to 2 o’clock in the morning—10 hours Friday night. Then, we went home, woke up in the morning, wrote some more, woke up early in the morning wrote some more. Got in the studio at 11o’clock in the morning Saturday, and we were in the studio from 11 morning to 11 at night. Then we did it again on Sunday same thing and we got in the studio from like 9’o clock in the morning to 9’o clock at night and literally, when we got out the studio, his train was leaving at 9:55, we got out the studio at 9:25 and we rushed home, got his stuff so I could take him to the train station. Like, it was literally not a leisure trip it was literally, all work. It was three 10-hour sessions, in the studio so about 30 hours in the studio. It was about 72 hours total making that album. It was kind of like how Skyzoo and 9th Wonder did for the 3 Day High—we also made this project in three days, but a lot of people don’t know that. They think it’s the cumulation of a bunch of time, because it sounds like it. It came together very well and it doesn’t sound like it was rushed. When you can make a good album, a nice classic album in three days, then you know you’ve got a little something going for you.
Apollo: One of my really good friends is a friend of his—an emcee by the name of Finale out of Detroit. Finale’s a really good friend of mine, and Finale is also a really good friend of Hassaan. We met through Finale a while back a couple of years back when Haasaan was in town for a show and we just hit it off, we were real cool right away and now he’s like a brother to me. He’s just a good dude, a good overall good dude and a friend of mine. It took us a while to decide, yo, let’s do an album together it wasn’t something that happened right off the bat—we were just kicking it as cool people. But there’s also mutual respect there for what we do. I love Haasaan as an emcee, he’s a dope emcee—he has one of the best voices in the game and he’s just a really emotional writer a really emotional emcee and that’s dope and he admires my work and he respects my work so we just got together and formed a marriage and made Daily Bread.
Bella: Some of the songs have heavy undertones that a lot of music doesn’t talk about, like “Dollar Bill Hill.” Its like the narrative that arises in a lot of neighborhoods around the bad financial state that we’re in hear in America. Also, the wealth gap between Blacks and Whites. What are you feelings on that and why did you guys choose to put a song with such a powerful message on the project?
Apollo: Well, Hassan has a very interesting story period. His life is like that of a movie–so he has a lot to say. A lot of those songs on the album are describing not only himself and his situations or his past situations, but his mom, his sister, his family, close friends. Everything on that is real and is real emotional. Its really emotional watching him spit and watching him write too, because he’s a real emotional writer. Him coming up with those concepts and what he wrote for some of those songs like “Dollar Bill Hill” or “Higher”, they’re emotional songs. There was a lot put into those songs as far his life–me speaking from a producer standpoint that makes for great music. When you can put your life on paper and have a story, that is so unfortunate, but you can spit it to the people and kind of use it as therapy. That’s what I think about that.
Bella: When I ras reading your bio, it states that every project you make you want it to be your favorite project of all time. So where does this project stand for you, is it your favorite project of all time?
Apollo: Every project I make I try to outdo the last one. Nobody wants to be stagnant, you don’t want to stay the same, and you don’t want to go down hill. You don’t want to make a really dope project and then you next one is real mediocre so every project I make I try to top the one before it. My whole mindset going into it is like, “Yo, the beats gotta be better, they rhymes gotta be better, the concept, the whole sound overall, has to be better.” My whole mindset is to put out the best album I’ve ever heard in my life. Is that the end result? I don’t know. I like all my albums. I think they’re all dope. I like every one of them. The mood changes, sometimes I like this one better than others. Sometimes I’m just in the mood where all I want to listen to is Clouds. It just all depends on my mood, but that at least is my mindset when I’m going into an album. When I’m making an album with a group or an emcee I want to outdo what I did before.
Apollo: Right now we’re just touring. We’re just trying to see the fruits of our labor. I’m doing a lot of producer showcases as well while we tour. We just got back from Canada doing a Canadian tour now we’re going to do a few spot dates, in the United States: like Minneapolis, DC, hopefully we can get out west to Cali somewhere. In September and most of October we will be in Europe for our first European tour for about ten countries in three weeks or so. That’s as far along as I can go right now. Whatever happens after that happens, hopefully more tours and then by that time Hassaan and I will start touring for Daily Bread, I’m sure we’ll start going on the road for that. Then, also by that time, my next album will be done.
Bella: Give me the rawest line you can think of from any song off the top of your head.
Apollo: I gotta think about that, they’re a lot of great lines. “It ain’t hard to tell, I excel, then prevail. The mic is contacted, I attract clientele.” Nas, good stuff right there.
Bella: If people want to get in contact with you how can they?
Apollo: Twitter, @ApolloBrown. Look up Apollo Brown on FaceBook email@example.com is my e-mail.
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