“I think consistency leads to longevity in this game. Stay consistent, and you don’t alienate your fan base. Don’t try to trend-hop, just stay consistent.”
With a laundry list of solo albums and coveted collaborations underneath his belt, to say that Apollo Brown is merely “just a producer” is a bit of an insult. Brown has dedicated and continues to devote an infinite amount of time to creating music, even consider his beats to be like babies. Fiercely protective of his beats and rightfully so, the Detroit native strays from synths and keyboards opting for more organic and natural sounding instruments – a staple for him. For Brown, it was an easy decision, to work with Brooklyn emcee Skyzoo on their album The Easy Truth, out later this month. He credits his Twitter followers for being the catalyst behind the project.
As I’ve stated before, Apollo Brown isn’t “just a producer” he’s a family man as well. The joys of fatherhood and as a newly wedded husband reflects back into his music, even acknowledging that his style sonically has changed a bit after the birth of his daughter. I had the chance to sit and speak with Apollo Brown and chat about the creation process of The Easy Truth to life now as a family man. If there is one thing that I learned from my conversation with Apollo it is that he’s an incredibly humble, down to earth dude with no hint of an ego. Wanting to be remembered as a person who delivered nothing but consistency to his fans time after time.
What I first want to know is, how did the collaboration with you and Skyzoo come about? I was on Twitter, and all of Twitter seemed to be pretty excited when the news broke that you guys were working together.
Well like you just said, it came about on Twitter. We toured Europe a couple of times, and we’ve known each other for a while. After we’d done work together, and after we had come off tour, we saw a lot of fans on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, talking about the music we make together. They were saying that we should go ahead and make an album, or more songs; just continue to work together. So I hit him up like, “I know you see Twitter” and all these people talking about is working together. Because the fans wanted it, it’s something we wanted. So we came together, I sent him beats, he started conceptualising, and I flew him out to Detroit, stayed out for ten days, and we knocked the album out.
You two have such a close work relationship and friendship, is that collaboration different than any of the other collaborations you’ve worked on?
I wouldn’t say so necessarily because I don’t just work with anybody. I have to know or try to know you; I don’t just give you my beats. My beats are my babies. That’s like giving my children over to some babysitter that I never met, or letting somebody watch my kids who I didn’t interview or try to get to know first. That’s how I feel about my music. So it wasn’t different, but it’s good to go into a project like this with somebody you already know.
Okay, so you flew him out to Detroit, and you guys spent ten days working on this project. What was the process like during those ten days?
We did everything in ten days, aside from making the beats. I had most of the beats made already, even the ones I made while he was there. But the writing and recording process, me making a few beats, and just vibing out, and response and reaction – something that you need when you’re making an album is to get together in the studio and vibe, no email records, or sending this and sending that — no. Let’s get in the studio, make this album together, vibe out, natural, organic. And that was the process. We did everything; he went home, and then it was up to me to remix, mix, and master.
So it’s pretty important for you when doing collaborative projects to be in the same space with the artist?
Absolutely. You know with today’s technology you can do anything you want to without being in the same space, but one thing that we should keep intact with hip hop is the organic and natural part of it.
When you were creating the instrumentals for Skyzoo, were there certain things you kept in mind, things you know he would like, or wouldn’t like?
Absolutely. Skyzoo is a certain caliber artist and MC, and he’s used to a certain caliber of producers that have huge sounds; very orchestral, producers like Illmind. Me, I’m a very minimal producer. My sounds are simple, so what I wanted to do was take Sky out of his comfort zone, and give him something that his fan base is not necessarily used to. I also wanted to give him something that fits him more; I went out of my way to make certain types of beats I wouldn’t normally make, and I was curious as to how my fanbase was going to take it. I pulled out the 808 drum kit, went ahead and made some stuff I’m not accustomed to making, but it came out amazing. We have a little bit of everything on this album.
You said that you’re very simple when it comes to your beats. Do you prefer the use of actual instruments to synthesisers and keyboards?
In my style of music, absolutely. I’m not a big synth or keyboard person, never have been and probably never will be. It sounds generic, and I don’t know – I’m just not big into it. I’m more into real drums, and amazing horns, strong sections, and if I can get organs in there on every beat that I make, I will. Certain sounds I gravitate towards, because of the feeling. I’m a very melody driven producer, and I’m a stickler for feeling. The music has to take me to other places when I listen to it. So I try to make music that either makes you forget something or remember something, and that’s kind of what I go by.
Do you think that being from Detroit and living there, that’s influenced your music at all?
Yeah, I would say so. I mean Detroit is a city with a lot of character and influence. But, you look outside and usually it’s pretty gloomy. It’s probably gloomy 250 days out of the year. You look outside and see everything that’s going on; people walk past, you might drive past certain neighborhoods and buildings, and there’s a lot of hardship that goes on. So it’s a big influence.
Who are some of the people that have influenced your music?
Other artists like James Brown, producers like DJ Premier, DJ Muggs, groups like Journey, and the Isley Brothers. I like music from all genres, though. My parents, my wife, and my kids are an incredible influence. It seemed like my music changed a little bit when my daughter was born; I don’t make music as grimy, gritty, and hard as I used to. I’ve been more on the life stuff now — I mean, I’ve always been, but now I’m a grown man in my mid-30s, I have a family, I’m married. Things change.
So personally, what were you listening to throughout creating The Easy Truth?
You know what, I was listening to the beat for The Easy Truth. When I’m making an album, I’m not listening to other music; it’s hard to. I don’t want to be influenced in the wrong way. Now that the album is done, I can listen to other people’s music all day. But while making an album, I stay honed into that album, no distractions.
So I’m going to switch gears a little. A sample of your song appeared on Luke Cage, Netflix’s new show. How do you feel about that?
I’m cool with it. It’s a behind the scenes thing that we did with that song last year, and I see it in a lot more places than I thought I would, but it’s cool. It’s promotion and exposure for me, and everybody who knows that song knows I made and produced it, so I’m happy about it. I do want to watch the series now.
You just got married – congrats! How was the wedding?
My wedding was amazing, and I couldn’t ask for a better day. It was an amazing day, March 26th, and it turned out to be a beautiful day outside, everyone who I wanted to come came, and my bride was the most beautiful bride in the world. My kids walked down the aisle; my daughter was only one, but she still walked down the aisle, it was incredible. I couldn’t ask for a better day, I got married to my best friend, and all is well, happily ever after.
Was it emotional for you? I know I’ve seen videos where grooms see their brides walking down, and they just burst into tears – or were you calm and cool?
We did a first look, which is when you see the bride before the wedding. It was emotional. When I first saw her, I burst into tears immediately. Ever since my daughter was born, I’ve been super emotional. Movies, those videos when soldiers come home from war and surprise them at the basketball game, all that stuff, or father daughter instances, I get emotional. I’m human. I saw my beautiful bride and busted out into tears.
I know your daughter might be a little too young to listen to your music, but what about your son? Is he a big fan?
He’s not really into music right now, and I wouldn’t push that on him either. He’s into monster trucks right now; that’s what it’s all about — monster trucks and nanobots, and those are his things right now. He’s just not into music yet, but even if he was, I don’t think it’s an age to understand music yet, at seven years old. You can listen to it, but I don’t think you can hear it, you know what I’m saying? If it sounds cool, whatever, but you don’t hear the messages or what’s going on in the music, you just listen to it. So when he gets a little bit older, I’ll school him on some things.
At what age did you start to take an interest in music?
I would say probably about nine. My first album that I ever owned was DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince, He’s The DJ I’m The Rapper. That was in 1989. I got that album based off the song “Parents Just Don’t Understand,” it was all over the TV, it was all over Yo MTV Raps, and it was just a good song, so my parents bought me that album. And you know it was Will Smith, he was funny, and it was harmless for a kid. So that was my first album in 1989; I listened to the album, but I don’t think I really heard the album until later on.
Who are some artists you hope to work with before the year is over?
Well, my year’s pretty planned out, so I probably won’t work with any more artists before the year is over, other than the next album that I have coming, which I can’t say the name of. But one artist I want to work with is Jay Electronica. I’m a big fan, and I would love to make a song with that dude.
So right now, what are three songs that are on repeat for you?
I would have to say, Nas, “New York State of Mind,” a song by the group Daughter, called “Love,” and probably Tame Impala, “New Person Same Old Mistakes.”
So before we go, what do you want people to remember about your music? When people are talking about Apollo Brown, what do you want them to say?
‘Damn, that dude was super consistent. Apollo Brown, maybe he didn’t sell, or get as big as he wanted to, or people thought he should have, but one thing about that producer, his music was super consistent, his albums were super consistent.’ Like everything about me, that’s what I live by, consistency. I think consistency leads to longevity in this game. Stay consistent, and you don’t alienate your fan base. Don’t try to trend-hop, just stay consistent, and make the music you want to make, stay true to you, and I think your fan base will always be there. Be consistent and it will lead to longevity in the game.