In many respects, Lord Apex with a penchant for vintage Tommy and Polo garments (hence his previous aka Tino-Vintage) has a sound not meant for platforms whose primary aim centres on releasing a high number of videos/tracks. It allows (in our estimations) a certain level of mediocrity to proliferate said publications
‘I could never do one of those platforms’ the West Londoner acknowledges when #itchysilk met up with him to discuss how his musical career has slowly but surely blossomed from an initial love of watching the process of making music to now where he has a steady and loyal fan base in the US and now the UK. ‘this is not even a hating thing. Early in my career I went on those websites but they were asking you to pay. A lot of time it’s a hustle game and it’s not that they are supporting as such. You go on there and see the amount of uploads a day and I realised the site would not benefit me (or others) as underground acts.’
Our first contact with the 24 year-old rapper came through a track called Pretty Penny discovered on an #itchysilk midnight foray. A couple of hours had been spent with the laptop. The dimmer had been set low while a warming ginger tea with lemon and honey kept the vibe chilled. At the time, Pretty Penny had a few thousand hits but nothing out of the ordinary-pressed play and with the sublime ease we were transported into the creative world of Lord Apex where names like MF Doom and albums like Stillmatic (2001)–‘Nas is one of the greatest’ are the bedrock of his individual swagger. It’s all about, laid back melodies and indeed on the night in question our ears were blessed by the productive vagaries of GRIMM Doza’s creativity while Apex dropped his tailored, sonorous verses minus ostentatious assertions and self-aggrandisement.
‘Boiler Rooms liked the track and shot a video for the track. They actually shot a video for me before for my track Spliff in the Morning,’ he states with an element of surprise, ‘and from that we kept in touch. So, when I had Pretty Penny I reached out to them because GRIMM Doza who produced the track kept saying to me to see if they would do a vid. Truce over at Boiler Rooms said ‘let’s do it’ and then started to work on a plan but in truth I was not really feeling his ideas but when we went to the studio I was like ‘yes’, it was some green screen stuff, some POV, some aliens and some stuff shot on the block.’
The Boiler Room link is of course evidence that Apex’s stock is rising. He’s an anti-commercial rapper allowing the content of his music to shine rather than a foot-wide chaps weighing down his arms. While he maybe a new name to some of us he has in fact a growing and committed fan base built on an organic process of word of mouth, cultured beats and a verbose laid back style where he meanders with energy saving swagger through subjects of normality.
‘As a teen, I was always listening to music’ He enthusiastically admits as we discuss his genesis as a rapper ‘I always had headphones on but it never really dawned on me the real love that I have music. I think it was in 2009 that I caught wind that a couple of my friends were making tracks. I remember their tracks would go around in our circles. So, I just started going studio with them to chill (because the place was a youth club as well) and I would be amazed just watching the whole process of recording and making a song.’ he adds, ‘that studio closed down in Grove but there was another one in Latimer and we all started going. It was the first time I went to that particular studio and on the way I just wrote a 16 for the first time-we were looking to drop a cipher so that was the whole motivation behind that. The verse I wrote was actually good-that was a big moment’ then as if suddenly hit by a shock wave Apex suddenly remembers an integral moment in his rap history, ‘damn I missed a major part. My friend Abdullah got us the studio link in fact. What happened is he ran into Lowkey and he rapped for him and then Lowkey said we should come to the studio. Lowkey then took us under his wing for a bit it was so crazy. I did not really know him but all the people around me showed me his Alphabet Slaughter circa (2008) which was hard. I remember he made me rap for someone and it was the first time someone actually put pressure on me to drop some bars I think he made me rap for a guy called Logic but it gave me a lot of confidence.’
That confidence along with a clear discerning choice in beats allowed Apex to garner a fan-base in America where they ‘loved his style’ and the fact that he flowed in a way that was not ‘UK’.
‘From 09 when I started my soundcloud I was on twitter one time with this live chat and everyone was freestyling and stuff. I freestyled on this beat that one guy put on..it was so bad it was rapping through the internet so it was not even in time with the beat because of the lag but they liked it and that turned into me joining this group in the states called Organic Geniuses and that is how my name started out there first. In the group was; Rakeem miles, Mike Melinoe , Matt Granpap and Yoastrum all really tight rappers.’ Further acknowledging this important stage in his career ‘I started to gain a lot of fans from there-all I would hear coming up was ‘I hate British rap’ but you are ok,’
While his involvement with the group allowed his name to grow and a loyal legion of US fans absorbed his sound it was the decision to leave which was a pivotal moment in his career, ‘It was a different time then and communication was so disjointed. People liked the collective it but it was just so disorganised it did not feel like a group project. I said to Mike that I needed to bounce I need to do my solo shit-things happen for a reason’ he adds with vindication, ‘as soon as I went solo then things really started happening for me and I had a place because I had a few fans. I put out my track, Golden Era where I rapped on Dilla and MF Doom so people started to know my direction-it was not about taking that formulaic lane. I think I followed that up with a track called Elder Blossom over a Doom beat and that kind of blew up I think at the time it was my first track to hit 10,000 and so I just kept on putting out songs’.
Putting out songs is exactly what he does think a plethora of sounds like; Seazen, Giesha, How I Met Mary, Live From Dos Santos, Rizla and Elevation. Apex seems to have a factory style output of tracks churning out beat after beat after beat without a dip in quality. He is clear that he has had to work hard to get to a point where he has a pick of beats.
‘Back then I was building connections so I was in every producer’s DM. I would contact them and be like-‘I really like your beat and I would kill it’. It then got to a point when I started getting emails and so now I do not really ask for beats’. With a veritable selection of beats coming from those brilliant producers out here in places such as Tokyo-Apex has built up a sizeable back catalogue but also a bevy of cuts waiting for release.
‘The thing is that now I am always about a year behind so all the music for 2017 is actually music from 2015/16. Honestly, I have been busy for the past years so I have to keep my folder so organised all the projects, completed files, collabs and verses, loose beats and in the main folder all the tracks I am about to record and shit. Doing it this way I expect allows me to keep my work rate up and keep dropping tracks which is the way I like to do it really’
From 2015/16 consequently there are crates of beats on his soundcloud where Apex delivers that off kilter swagger.
‘2015 April the Elevation Mediation tape just blew up and people really liked it. That was my most popular sound right now it’s just passed 100,000 and then I had bebop on that tape and that is about to hit nearly 200,000 hits and that started the movement.’
In 2016 with last year’s material coming to the fore, Apex has that quiet confidence of someone who can see that years of hard work and graft are starting to make an impact. While his stock has grown across the shores he acknowledges that the UK’s gaze is slowly turning in his direction.
‘For a long time, I felt that the UK was like ignoring me purposely sleeping on me but I instantly got out of that mode of thinking. I started to see it in other artists who started to get bitter. I remember this one guy and I have never forgot it he was just so salty.’ he adds, ‘I remember thinking that just focus on the music and don’t worry about it and that is what I have done and it seems to be paying off.’
To that effect his latest project will be Interplanetary Funk which immediately evokes images of that great esoteric leaning artist SunRa with his trippy, jazz infused psychedelic energy and it is evident that psychedelia seems to be at the fore of this project which will host some tight productive work from names from far flung Tokyo. We featured one of those producers who will feature, the classically trained beats of Aaron Choulai who, Apex states with a sudden serious look, ‘Aaron Choulai is very low key but he is about to change my life……he definitely sent me the best beats I have ever received’.
Clearly revelling in this new project, ‘It is so much pressure-pressure I put on myself because it has to be better than the last time. Each time I work on the project I have to perfect the rollouts because I don’t care, 3am my mind is ready, I am high and I want to drop it right now…this project is even more of a blood sweat and tears thing. Like with Interplanetary Funk, I started to get a lot of beats that sounded spacey Interplanetary…..listen’ continuing with a seriousness, ‘I have sounds from space there will be a lot of frequencies from space, weird sounds and lots of it will sound distorted- I have at least three or four visuals lined up for this’.
He then proceeds to allow us a sneak aural taster. It’s safe to say that it is a sound definitely not one accustomed to the UK. In truth the marriage of Apex and the sound work like oil on cogs it’s a smooth cultured sound that’s cool for chilling as it is for genuine deep strenuous hip-hop nods of appreciation. While it might not be the break out cut for Apex it sounds like it will once again make people here and across the water take more notice of Apex. Importantly with its rather left field edge it continues to indicate that he is less a product of the trends of now but rather a rapper who seems at any rate to be directed by his own general path which in the scheme of things is something to commend.
‘I am now at a point where if it does not happen organically then I will just say ‘no’
Main image by Chika Nnaemeka