The idea of having one producer and one MC handle their respective duties on a project is not a new concept in Hip Hop. Quite frankly, that was the blueprint before the album-by-committee became the more accepted norm. This one-on-one formula has been making its way back into the culture with some efforts coming off forced, or contrived, and others finding the participants’ strengths melding into a cohesive offering, giving fans a project worthy of anticipation.
Apollo Brown and Ras Kass’ latest effort falls into the latter category: a project that packs edgy beats with rewind-worthy rhymes. It’s what you’d expect from two artists that continue to build their careers on consistency, forgoing the trappings of commerce and dedicating themselves to the culture. This achievement becomes even more noteworthy because they don’t self-congratulate and provide excessive commentary about the struggle; they just get in and get busy throughout their new album Blasphemy. Aside from the headliners holding it down, the guest artists are well-placed and provide just the right compliment to the thematic feel of each record. In other words, Apollo and Ras supply the listener with a well-crafted album that harkens back to the Golden Era while remaining firmly rooted in the present.
Ras Kass took the time to shed some light on his recording process and how he and Apollo crafted this latest project on Mello Music Group.
You sound so at ease with this latest project. Explain how this comfort factor was developed working with Apollo Brown.
I was at ease, man. Basically, I’m a fan of the culture and I knew who Apollo was. We came across each other whether being at events or me coming to Detroit. It may not have been extensive conversations, but there were interactions. He reached out to me and I thought it was going to be just a song, not an entire project. I’m not even sure how he got my number. [Laughs] I was like, “Hell yeah, let’s do it.” It really was that simple. Apollo would send me tracks and they began to remind me of a project that I had been conceptualizing a long time ago. I had only planned on doing five albums beginning at Soul on Ice and ending at How to Kill God. That’s kind of how I approached my initial five album deal with Priority. In terms of this latest one, Apollo and I basically recorded the album in two weeks. He came to my crib and we broke bread, went to the studio every day, and got it done.
The feel and congruency of the album is intact with each of you bringing your respective sound to the making of this project. How did this occur when marrying two seemingly disparate sounds is often a daunting task?
I wish I could tell you this was some grand calculated plan but it was natural and innate. Organic is an appropriate word. He gave me tracks to choose from and the ideas that I had fit with the feel of his music. Like the song “Drink Irish,” I conceptualized the record and I wasn’t gonna wait for Apollo; I was gonna hit the studio and get that one knocked out on my own so I could demo it for the artists I wanted on there: Sean Price, Sick Jacken and Slaine. I couldn’t just get them a beat and tell them what I wanted them to write. Instead, I was gonna record vocals to the song to help dictate the concept. There’s another record “Close Yourself” which is one of my favorite records and it’s a very personal record to me. It’s me, Sean Price and Bleu DaVinci talking shit at the end of it (Note: This record will be on a special edition).
Keep in mind: Apollo really hadn’t heard anything that I recorded yet and I was doing it and sending these records off to emcees. He’d hear everything when he came out and we kicked it. Everything was well thought out once I told him about my concept. With him doing his thing with the beats and me writing the verses, it just came together musically and conceptually when we linked up in the studio. The two of us brought our individual strengths and hustles together. We both have made it point to create lasting quality music in this industry. Also, it’s pretty easy to get Royce da 5’9” on a record when you say Apollo Brown did the beat. [Laughs] It’s not about “stardom but bar-dom.” That respect you get from your peers is special. You may not sell eight million copies of something, but the feeling you get when you can reach out to someone you respect and get them on a project is gratifying. All the guests on here gave 110%.
How did recording together in the studio contribute to the final product?
It’s very important in creating an organic sounding project. As I mentioned before, it was all organic. I appreciate ProTools and I appreciate being able to email music. When people are actually able to hang out it creates an opportunity for making something special. Dre told me this a long time ago: “Dude, do you know what you just did? You have this uncanny ability to take the conversation and gun it into a lyric.” Basically, the entire conversation that all of us had in the studio became my verse. I wasn’t aware of this before Dre mentioned it to me. This is how I process information and put them into my rhyme: the experiences become my record. Going out and drinking with Sick Jacken became a song. [Laughs] These in-person experiences contribute to overall song creation process.
One of the more controversial records you have on the project is “How to Kill God.” Is the meaning of the song blasphemous in nature or is there a deeper meaning?
It’s totally metaphorical! Where we’re at in America with our language, and probably any language in the world, is the concept of “loaded language”- certain words put together to create a certain response. The album was originally called How to Kill God and then we changed it to Blasphemy, which is awesome because if you look at the artwork with the dollar bill and George Washington with duct tape across his mouth. The art matches the concepts. “How to Kill God” can refer to people selling others into slavery when we simultaneously refer to “In God We Trust” on our currency. That’s the blasphemy, not I. In the song “How to Kill God” I basically sum it up: “Holocaust, Crusades, Zionism, Jihad – this is how to kill God.” We’re all God’s creation and I’m on the side of what’s right. What’s right is right! There is good and bad in every culture, creed, religion, gender… whatever. At the end of the day, racism, sexism and every ism is a schism, separation. Earth is only planet we live on and we keep polluting it. We need to stop messing it up. This is all God’s creation; show some respect. That’s what “How to Kill God” is all about.
Explain how an artist with your track record and longevity continues to put out music that feeds the minds of the masses.
All I ever did was function within the duality of man, to reference Descartes. For example, my lower self was the one who wanted to hit the clubs and get with every cute chick that I saw. At the same time, I juxtaposed him with the person inside me that knew better, that looked at that same girl as someone’s daughter. That’s just what I did and continue to do. It’s taking those life experiences and my vantage points and using them as the basis for my songs.