With the release of Honkey Kong, a new chapter of Apathy’s life begins. Honkey Kong will be the first album released on Apathy and long-time collaborator Celph Titled’s very own record label, Dirty Version Records, giving Ap another title to add to emcee and producer. With Honkey Kong, Apathy sticks to the hardcore hip hop that we have all come to love and respect from him. Apathy also brings a who’s who list of guests and producers to join him on the album. Apathy’s third solo effort is set to drop on August 23rd.
In anticipation of the release, I was able to chop it up with Apathy for what turned out to be an extremely entertaining and thought provoking conversation about the project as well as some subjects Apathy has an incredible passion for. Apathy is known for speaking his mind, and the sometimes misunderstood emcee did not hold back during our conversation. Along with Apathy’s thoughts on newer emcees like Action Bronson and Joell Ortiz, check out why Apathy doesn’t care what anybody thinks about his features, what he thinks about “soft” rap, what it meant to him to get DJ Premier on a track and how he was able to conquer anxiety.
Jeremiah: What’s going on fam, how you doing?
Apathy: Good brother, how you doing?
Jeremiah: Good, real good. Man, Honkey Kong is dope, I mean real dope. You made the kind of hip hop that reminds me of why I fell in love with it in the first place.
Apathy: That’s why I made that, that’s why I made that shit. I feel completely the same way.
Jeremiah: I know you were real happy with Wanna Snuggle? and at one point in time considered it your best work to date. Where does Honkey Kong fit in now that the project is coming to fruition?
Apathy: I think Honkey Kong, well you know Wanna Snuggle? is definitely more chill and fly shit. You have to think I have a whole bunch of super hardcore, you know Army of the Pharaohs music out. The thing is that I grew up loving A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, Pete Rock & C. L. Smooth… you know real super fly chill groups. So along with the hardcore hip hop that I love too, I was also influenced by that shit too, super heavily influenced. So when it comes to a point in time where I wanna make an album like Wanna Snuggle, I don’t give a fuck what people feel about it. It’s more for me; it’s more of a confirming process for me. When I did Honkey Kong, I wanted to return to that hardcore Army shit. I wanted to make a banging ass hardcore album, that’s what I set out to do from the jump. Even like the love songs on there and shit are that hardcore shit.
Jeremiah: Word. When I saw the tracklisting for Honkey Kong I was surprised, and to be honest before actually listening to it I was a little worried how the project would sound with the amount of features that you have on the joint. Now after listening to it, even after the first listen, I have to say it is more emcees complimenting each other on each track. It never feels like there were too many features. I never thought “why are all these features on here?” I did see a lot of fans making comments like “Apathy can’t hold an album anymore” or “Why does he need so many features?” How do you feel, or what do you have to say about those type of comments?
Apathy: That is honestly the most important question that I’ve heard asked so far and I think this is going to be my most important answer.
I think that everybody at first initially thinks that but it doesn’t bother me. These kids are like “somebody that needs that many appearances is insecure” and all that but what they don’t understand is, you’re just a dude from the outside looking in. You don’t understand the process of this. I’m a fan too. I’m a fan first and I NEVER questioned things like back in the day when the Wu-Tang Clan had an album and there were tons of guest appearances on it or Pete Rock’s Soul Survivor, even though Pete Rock is a producer first. That’s the type of things I like to do, that’s the type of things I like to hear. When I have guest appearances, I don’t just do gratuitous guest appearances just to have them, just to get the fucking names on there, that’s not the point. I hear a beat and I say “Yo this sounds like a perfect beat for fucking Ill Bill to be on” or “This sounds like a perfect song for Slaine to be on.” I don’t do a song randomly. When you hear a song and you see an Xzibit feature, it’s not like other artists who will have Xzibit just kick a random 16 — it’s a concept and there’s a reason for it. When I build an album, I build songs, NOT just features. I want you to write in the article that I am stressing this point and that I am not just speaking about this, I am passionate about this shit.
I don’t just do random features for no reason, like “Yo kick a 16 on my shit.” I’m like “Yo, here’s the concept, here’s what we’re doing” and I get the best people for the best sound. I’m not going to randomly put somebody on some song. Like I wouldn’t put Mad Lion just on any fucking beat, I put Mad Lion and Steele from Smif-N-Wessun on a particular beat because it sounds grimy and it compliments them. It sounds like they are from the best time period when those artists were making the utmost classic shit. That’s the most important thing, you have to make songs. It’s not just random guest appearances or random features.
Another thing that kids don’t understand is that a lot of the features on the album are fucking singers or someone will do a hook or some shit like that. So that’s what it is man. There’s a big difference between just doing shitloads of features and actually crafting an album full of songs. I do things for a fucking purpose. Yeah I could fucking rap every fucking song, I could do that all day long. That’s easy fam, that’s fucking easy! I’m not worried about that. I wanna work with people and I want to work with other people because I want to be entertained at the same time. I don’t want to just do an album just to fucking shit it out because I could have done that. That’s the reason it takes so fucking long to do albums, because I am so particular. I don’t want to just shit out an album, I don’t want to do that shit. I want to be entertained by the album too. I want to be have an album so when I listen to it I can be like, “damn this is dope, I did a song with Xzibit and this song is fucking sick” or “I did a song with Action Bronson and this shit is classic, he brought something else to the table.”
Jeremiah: Dope. Speaking of Action Bronson, for the most part the guests on Honkey Kong are basically an all-star list of artists who have been in one way or another associated with some classic albums. But then you have the relatively new to the scene Action Bronson. How did that pop off?
Apathy: Yo, when I first heard Action Bronson I was sleeping hard cause I didn’t really hear his raps like that, I just heard about him. You know, new rappers pop up every day so I was like yeah, yeah, yeah whatever. Then I heard him spit, I heard his joint… the Lecter joint, Dr. Lecter and I was just blown away. I was like this dude is incredible, including the beats he’s picking. So I started waving the Action Bronson flag super hard, I started putting everybody up on him. Everybody that I knew and every fan that hadn’t heard of him, I was trying to put them on to Action Bronson, like yo, here’s something new for us to listen to, here’s something new that’s some fly shit for us to listen to. So I wanted to reach out to Bronson, I think I hit him up on Twitter and we just built real quick. He dropped a verse for me, I produced a joint for him that isn’t out yet and that’s how it happened.
Jeremiah: You kind of touched on my next question because I thought you guys sounded dope together on “All I Think About” and was wondering about any collabs coming up.
Apathy: Well I produced the joint for him, it’s called “Shut The Shades.” I’m not sure when he’s dropping it or what he is doing with it but it’s in the chamber.
Jeremiah: You also have an all-star line up of producers on the joint including Premier and Evidence. How did those two collabs come about?
Apathy: Ev, I’m real cool with Ev. Ev and I know a lot of mutual people so we got real cool and started to build. Then last year I went out to do a quick little festival in Switzerland, Ev was there and we were in the same hotel, so I went down to his room and he was playing me beats and that was one of the beats he played. No, wait, actually, I’m sorry, he played me just that one beat. He was like “yo, listen to this shit, this would sound dope for you.” I listened to it and was like “It’s over I need that.” He had the OutKast hook in there and everything. I was like “I need that shit, that’s incredible.” As soon as I got home I wrote that shit immediately, I don’t even remember writing it; the song wrote itself and it was classic to me automatically, I loved it.
The Premo thing, DJ Eclipse, my man DJ Eclipse had a huge amount to do with facilitating that, hooking that up. He put Premo up on my records, Preem started playing my shit and Preem was like “when are we gonna do a record?” I was like “Jesus Christ, are you kidding me?” So DJ Eclipse had hooked that up. That’s crazy man because out of everybody I have ever worked with, that collaboration means the most to me because Preem is my favorite dude across the board. I’m a DJ Premier fanatic.
Jeremiah: I was hype about it when I saw it on the tracklist, then after bumping the joint, “Stop What Ya Doin” featuring Celph Titled, I was like “this shit is ridiculous!” Is there anyone not on Honkey Kong that you wish you could have gotten on the project?
Apathy: Well, I did a song with Bishop Lamont that was incredible but I could never get the right hook for it. I’m so in love with the song that I don’t want to ruin it with a rushed hook. It’s such a deep song and it’s so, so, so fucking ill, it’s like a super-duper deep song. It’s called “Better Man” and I just need to get the right hook on it. I’ve tried at least 10 different hooks already, and um, it needs the proper hook before I let it see the light of day. I’m just in love with the song. So that was supposed to be on there. Bishop’s my brother man; he’s such an amazing emcee.
I was also trying to reach out to Redman and Method Man, but there wasn’t enough time and it was just too crazy. Also Alchemist. And you know I’ve spoken with Al and we’re definitely going to work on the next album. There’s a lot of people. I’ve always wanted to work with Wu-Tang dudes so I definitely want to make that happen, whether it’s somebody like Inspectah Deck or whoever.
Jeremiah: What do think was the biggest challenge of Honkey Kong?
Apathy: Just dealing with so many people and dealing with so many people on the humble. Like when you’re stepping to somebody else like, if I’m like, “Yo Statik, let me get a beat for my album,” I have to deal. First of all, everybody was so cool with working with me, but it’s like you can’t hound people too much. But you’ve got deadlines to meet so you have to be on top of people, but at the same time be humble and realize that other people have crazy hectic fucking schedules too. One of the biggest parts with working with that many people is getting everything organized, getting all the parts from people, getting all the songs mixed and everything done in a timely fashion to where it’s not going to take you three or four years to do the album.
Jeremiah: Any touring going to happen around the release?
Apathy: Yeah, a little bit. I don’t have any crazy plans of touring right now. I’m focusing on Demigodz shit right now. I know Celph and I are gonna go hard with touring in 2012. For right now, we are just focusing on finishing shit up and handling the business cause we just started this new label, Dirty Version Records, too. So we are focusing on that.
Jeremiah: Yeah, I saw that and it was actually my next question. With Honkey Kong being the first release on you and Celph’s Dirty Version Records, how is the label coming along? What can we expect coming from the label in the near future?
Apathy: It’s so dope just having these things at our disposal, and it’s so dope to have this formula or process that we got because we have distribution, we have a publicist, press up all our own shit, and do everything ourselves. We are pretty self-contained.
For the future, we have Celph Titled’s upcoming album Fresh Prince of Hells Lair. We got my man Motive from Demigodz, his album is called DNA (Dopest Nigga Alive). I produced an entire album for Eternia. We have a Blacastan album. We’re probably going to be doing some work with Virtuoso, probably going to be working with Diabolic. Chum the Skrilla Guerilla has an album coming out called Beats You To Death, which is a producer album. So we got a lot of shit on our plate!
Jeremiah: Since you gained notable attention in 1997 with the Jedi Mind Tricks joint, how do you feel about the direction Hip Hop has gone?
Apathy: I think that some cool things happened but honestly, and I hate to sound pessimistic and I hate to sound negative, but things have taken a turn for the definite negative.
Here’s the thing — people misconstrue me. They get confused when they read my interviews and hear my statements. People are like “Oh Ap whined or Ap complained about shit.” I don’t whine or complain about anything, I’m just completely and brutally honest and uncensored. When everyone else will censor their answers, I just say exactly what the fuck is on my mind that everybody thinks anyway. So I think that the industry has definitely gotten negative because back in the day there was a process where you had to be super-duper-duper skilled and make incredible records to get recognition to get to a point of status. Now it’s all about buzz and illusion. If you can trick people into thinking you’re buzzing and you’re popping, it actually looks like you are popping. If you can somehow muster up 20,000 Twitter followers or muster up a million Youtube views, no matter how the fuck you do it, people are impressed. Its like ok, you can have 10 million Youtube views, but if your shit sucks, it fucking sucks! It’s a whole new generation of buzz, it’s all about buzz as opposed to skill. It’s fucking lame! It’s fucking lame because the quality isn’t there anymore. I definitely respect the fact, now let me make that clear… I respect the fact that they somehow hornswoggled and bamboozled people into following their shit! That’s creative as far as ingenuity and marketability. That’s cool that you can market something but yo, go sell some innovative blenders or do something else. Don’t fuck with music cause your shit sucks!
Most of these people suck, and the crazy thing about rap is, it is so hard to tell somebody that they are not a good rapper because they don’t believe it and they have some fans to back them up. It’s like, let’s take singers for example. If someone got on the TV station, if someone got on American Idol and they sang poorly, they were like (insert Apathy singing awful here) and it was horrible. You can say to them “yo, you cannot sing!” They cannot turn around and say, “Oh you’re just a hater, you don’t like my style that’s what it is.” It’s like nah, you can’t fucking sing. With rap, you can’t do the same thing for some reason. A lot of these motherfuckers have horrible voices, and here’s the thing too, some dudes can technically rap but their whole image and their voice, everything is just fucking soft and corny and bitch-ass. That’s not the essence of hip hop or real rap shit, it’s just not. You can paint it any fucking way you can but some of these dudes, the way they rap nowadays is some of the shit that used to get dissed and shitted on. It was the lower quality hip hop. People rap nowadays and it sounds like shit we used to make fun of like fucking Mi Phi Mi and fucking worse than Vanilla Ice. Vanilla Ice had more flavor than a lot of these fucking cornball kids out now. They just sound like straight fucking dorks. What it reminds me of is back in the day when I was a real emcee and somebody would come up and say, “Hey, my cousin here Gregory can rhyme too, listen to Gregory spit.” Gregory would rap and sound corny as fuck and super fucking soft and shit. I would be like “Oh God, that shit’s corny,” and that’s what kids who are on nowadays actually sound like.
Jeremiah: I feel ya! Over the past fourteen years, since your presence was felt, a lot of things have changed in the industry. From the standpoint of emcee/producer and now label owner, what do you think are some of the things that changed for the better and what do you wish never fucking happened?
Apathy: I think the internet is a gift and a curse because the internet is completely what did it and I think there is a positive because there is a lot of kids, there is a lot of newer groups that I see that are dope. But, for the most part, the internet is what fucked everything up. The internet made everything reachable; there is no sense of work, there’s no sense of accomplishment anymore. If some kid wants to know what fucking Kool Herc’s real name is they don’t have to research it or figure it out, they can Google it in .1 second. If some kid wants to know DJ Premier’s discography, they don’t have to memorize it and know it and keep it in their collection; they Google it and download it in minutes. The fact that the internet is like this just makes everything that much more disposable because when you’re just given something as opposed to having to work for it, you don’t respect it. So I don’t care what kids say about how much they love hip hop or love the music and respect it. Actions speak louder than words and most people are not acting like they respect this shit!
You know what, another issue I have too is the older heads, the legendary heads bowing down to the newer bullshit stuff just because they are afraid of getting lost in the shuffle. Like the older heads are like “Yeah, yeah, yeah this new dude, he’s dope, he’s dope though, he loves hip hop!” It’s like, nah man c’mon, stop fucking frontin! You know in your fucking heart that that shit is not real. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think everybody is wack. There’s new dudes that come out all the time that are dope like Action Bronson, like Joell Ortiz, like the fucking Dopplegangaz. There are new groups that are really fucking fresh that are coming out. There is just a flood, a ton of fucking corny shit.
Jeremiah: I know you had some medical issues a while back with some anxiety or some shit, how are you feeling these days?
Apathy: I feel fantastic man. My body has definitely run its natural course to cure itself. When I started fucking with the drugs, with the Xanax, with the anti-depressants, that’s what made it worse. Once I purged those out of my system and started getting healthy, started eating better, started exercising, started doing real shit, that’s when I started returning and feeling back to normal. Prior to that, on those drugs, those drugs are fucking horrible man. All that is, is the industry trying to profit off people with issues. Everybody’s bound to get off balance every once in a while from the way things are nowadays. The way we eat, the way people are in our lives. Once we get off balance, we search for a miracle drug and try to cure it with a quickness and that will fuck you up even worse. That’s a Pandora’s box, its one problem after another. You’re trying to get another drug to counteract another drug’s effect. It’s fucking crazy. We’ve been around since cavemen; there is a natural way for our bodies to iron the problems out.
Jeremiah: I went through a similar thing about three years ago man and was taking all these different anti-depressants from the shrink and it fucked me up man – sleeping all the time, missing work, feeling dizzy, you name it. I finally quit all of it a couple years ago and today I am more productive than I have ever been in my life.
Apathy: Yeah 1000% man and you know what’s crazy, your story, I’ve heard it from so many people now that I went public with this. That concerns me now because I feel like it’s more commonplace nowadays. I think all these psychological issues are more commonplace nowadays and that bothers me because I’m sure they were always there, but I believe it is like throwing fuel on the fire and I think that all these medications and all these things are making people more fucked up.
Jeremiah: All right fam, August 23rd, Honkey Kong, crazy album, word to the 23rd! I appreciate your time, dope interview! Any final thoughts from you?
Apathy: That’s it man. Just make sure you go cop the album and support if you like real hip hop shit. I’m already working on the next project with Celph, I’m already working on my next album. I’m gonna try to drop that next year. Yeah that’s it man. Demigodz, Army of the Pharaohs!