Apathy & Mike Shinoda
Apathy is a very busy man in his least favorite season, the winter but regardless he looks to get even busier. I caught up with him in the middle of hefty press day for his new album ‘Eastern Philosophy’. Which he was doing on the road while nearing the end of the Fort Minor tour, which he is a part of along with the aforementioned-Fort Minor, Styles of Beyond, and Little Brother. Don’t worry, he can hold his weight. When I got to talk to him, he just finished eating a 10 minute lunch. It was 4pm. As he chilled next to his partner in crime Celph-Titled, I talked to the Connecticut (see: complete opposite of Greenwich Village) rapper about everything from his new album to books. I was very hyped to speak to him after hearing some of his solo indie work, records with the Demigodz, and most recently, tracks on the Green Lantern + Fort Minor’s We Major Mixtape (which by the way was one of the best in 2005, and pretty much redeemed GL’s 2005 after the Shady Records fall out.).
ML: What’s up, man, are you are pretty busy right now on tour with Fort Minor and promoting the album?
Apathy: Yeah, I’m on tour right now with Fort Minor, and Styles of Beyond and Celph [Titled].
ML: How was it working with Fort Minor?
Apathy: It’s cool man, Mike Shinoda is the fucking man, he’s mad humble, he’s a homie, he’s a good dude, he looks out for us, its a real good experience.
ML: How did you meet up with him?
Apathy: Well, Styles of Beyond is a part of Demigodz, which is a part of our crew, and they’ve known Mike for a long time. They used to do a lot of work with Mike and shit. So Mike hit them up and wanted to sign them, and then they played Mike the shit we were all doing together, and put him on to us, and he was a fan immediately. He loved our shit, so that’s how that whole thing went down.
ML: How has the tour experience been so far?
Apathy: The tour is fucking bananas; we started out in a lot of markets that we don’t usually play. We went to Minnesota, we went to Detroit, to Chicago, to Toronto. That is my first time in all those places right there. It was dope, the fans were crazy, most of the fans were Fort Minor fans, but there was a huge amount of our fans there too, it really bugged me out. A lot of people came and were like “Yo, I just came just to see you guys,” it really bugged me out; it was an amazing thing to hear, for our fans to come out for us like that.
ML: Do you have any special or crazy stories from the tour so far?
Apathy: Not really, we’ve been so busy; nothing really crazy has jumped off yet. The craziest thing is how nuts the Fort Minor fans are. They draw these pictures and shit, draw our names out and try to give us presents. It’s really nuts compared to the regular underground hip-hop crowds we’ve been used to. They are really wild, devoted crazy fans.
ML: So just the whole experience as a whole?
Apathy: Exactly, just the whole experience has been fucking berserk.
ML: What do you think sets you apart as an MC from other MCs that are out right now?
Apathy: Well I mean there is a lot of MCs out there, I don’t know how they do their shit, but I’m a perfectionist no matter what I do. If you hear a song, you can guarantee that song has been scrutinized a billion times, or I’ve agonized over it or been crazy about it. And I think that’s the thing.
ML: Even the title of your debut album [Eastern Philosophy], I read that you came up with that in 1998! So you know it’s been scrutinized…
Apathy: That album has gone through so many changes. When I first started that album, when I first came up with that title, when I first recorded the songs for it, they were completely different songs, there was not one song on there that was the same, I was just unhappy with it. And I knew what I wanted the album to sound like and it just wasn’t there. I kept recording, I kept tweaking things, [and] it still wasn’t the same thing. Then all of the sudden like about a year and a half ago, I sat down and I was like you know what? I want this album to be my Reasonable Doubt, my Ready to Die, or my Illmatic. I’m not saying its on the level of those, those can’t be topped, but what I wanted to do was I wanted to present listeners that type of vibe, that type of shit from that era. So I sat down and I listened to only the classics and I crafted it that way.
ML: What’s the most amount of time that you’ve spent to redo a single song? Is there a song that you kept changing and changing?
Apathy: Yea, definitely, I think ‘The Buck Stops Here’ was one of the longest songs. It’s this song I did about the dollar bill, and it’s gone through like 5 beat changes. There is another song too called ‘Chemical’, we changed the beat on it like 3 or 4 times. Had like 7 different people remix it, 3 of them we were definitely going to use, then we kept changing out mind at the last minute every time. ‘The Buck Stops Here’ is a song about the travels of a dollar bill, I changed that shit so many times, I changed the verses, I flipped my ideas of what I wanted to do. That song really went through it in terms of constantly being switched up.
ML: What are your favorite albums of all time that are timeless and inspiring to you? Do you have albums like that?
Apathy: Yeah, definitely Illmatic and Only Built 4 Cuban Linx, but Illmatic is the perfect album to me ,that’s my favorite album of all time hands down. If I had to pick my top 10 albums, that [single] album occupies like the first 4 spaces, that’s how big of a deal that album is to me.
ML: It’s interesting that you brought up Only Built 4 Cuban Linx, because it has [Wu-Tang Clan songstress] Blue Raspberry and you have her on your single. How did you come up with the idea to have her on the record?
Apathy: Well. like I was saying before, during that time when we were recording the Eastern Philosophy album, like within the past year and half, I was only listening to classic albums. I would only listen to Illmatic, Reasonable Doubt, Organized Konfusion’s Stress:The Extinction Agenda and Only Built 4 Cuban Linx is like one of the biggest albums of all time, that’s a huge fucking deal. What happened was I did ‘The Winter’ song, and once I did ‘The Winter’ song I really listened to it. We were originally going to do cuts on that song, but we couldn’t find any cuts that really were good, and then I’m like. ‘You know what, we’ve got so many songs on this albums with cuts for hooks, that I want to do something different.’ So I drove around with the song for a couple days and listened to it in my car. I started to piece together the hook in my head, and I really thought about the hook, and I wanted something real powerful. You know on ‘Glaciers Of Ice’ when Blue Raspberry sings real high? It’s crazy, OH SHIT. That’s the feeling that I wanted on that song, I wanted loud, screaming, yelling hook.
ML: So you could feel the emotion?
Apathy: Exactly, so I wrote that hook out with her in mind. But in the back of my head I’m like “Yo, I’m never going to find her, I’m never going to get her”. So when I was talking to Chum about it, I’m like “Yo, how hot would that be if we got her?” and he was like “Oh my god, that would be incredible” but you know in our minds, we were both like “Yeah, whatever”. So I interviewed a whole bunch of singers, I interviewed and had like 6 or 7 different singers try to sing the thing , it just did not work, it wasn’t what I wanted it to be. I was damn near ready to give up, I was almost ready to be like “Whatever, we’ll just find whoever to do the song”. Then my home girl Carmalita who helps organize and run The [World Famous] Wake Up Show over in LA. She is a very good friend of mine, and I said “Yo, aren’t you friends with RZA?” and she’s like “Yeah, I’m real good friends with RZA”, and I said can you ask him if by any chance if he knows how to get a hold of Blue Raspberry? So she called up RZA, and almost immediately hit me back, and goes “Yeah, here is her number” and I was like “WHAT!! Are you fucking kidding me?”. So I called up Blue immediately and Blue and I hit it off like right off the bat, and we became just real good friends.
ML: Do you have a favorite album of the moment right now?
Apathy: I mean, not for nothing but the only thing I’ve been listening to recently is my album, I don’t know if it’s cause I’m scrutinizing but I’m also a fan of my album. I know that sounds arrogant but it’s a big deal to me because my other CDs that I’ve put out, anything I’ve ever been on, I don’t listen to it, like I’m not a fan of it, I don’t love it, I like it and it’s cool but I can’t sit there and listen to it but my album I can listen to, and sit around and listen to. Basically recently the biggest thing I’ve been listening to is just mine. But I mean I’m anticipating Ghostface’s Fishscale that’s the only thing I’m really looking forward to right now.
ML: And the new Raekwon album too?
Apathy: Oh hell yeah, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx 2, hell yeah!
ML: What was your favorite part of the long process of making your debut album?
Apathy: My favorite part of it was when we were about 75% done with it. Cause at first we’re just recording here and there and songs were still up in the air, I was still trying to figure out what’s going where. You’re kind of indecisive about shit; you are just trying to feel it out. But when we got about 75-85% done with the album, I kind of like smiled, like yo, this is going to be hot; I see what we’re doing now. So I started writing a couple new songs and when I started writing those couple new songs they really fell into place. And I was like yo this is exactly the direction I wanted to go in, this is exactly I wanted to hear, this is exactly how I wanted to do it and I’m real comfortable with how its coming out right now.
ML: I was wondering how you managed the joint venture to release your album through Babygrande and Atlantic? Because it’s pretty rare that an indie label works with a major label.
Apathy: Well, I told Atlantic, that this process is taking forever, and my A&R is cool, and I told him my fans need material, I need to put out material. I want to put out this Indie album, do I have your permission to do it? And he’s like yeah, definitely, 100%, keep your buzz going, keep everything going on and I’ll support you in that. Babygrande stepped to me and gave me a great offer. They said a lot of things that they wanted to do, like do the video, and they wanted to be real passionate about the marketing and just doing everything and really get behind the project. So I was like hell yeah, let’s go. From the time that we started talking and figuring out things until it actually popped off, it took like 9 months. This is the fucked up thing, everyone was in agreement, everyone was down to do it, Atlantic was like , ‘Yeah, defintely, we’re allowing you to do it.’ But it still took mad long just because you know all the red tape to process and procedure so it still took literally 9 or 10 months just to get the paperwork done for Atlantic to get all the things that they wanted, and for everybody to be happy. So going back forth between my lawyers, Atlantic’s lawyers, Babygrande’s lawyers, it was just a big mess for a long time, that was the most frustrating aspect about the whole entire shit. There was a lot times where I was just like fuck it, this isn’t even going to happen we are just going to put it out ourselves. Everything ended up working out and really poppin’ off.
ML: Do you have any hobbies you like to do?
Apathy: Music pretty much consumes all my time, I really don’t have any hobbies. I sit around watching movies pretty much whenever I have spare time. [Laughs] When I’m not doing music, I try to not think about music as much as possible. It is so overwhelming and takes up so much of my much time. I do it all the time, I love doing it. A hobby though that I consider [that I do] is I’m an MC so when I make beats, so that is a hobby to me, that is something I love, I’m not really known as much for.
ML: Do you follow any sports teams?
Apathy: I’ve always been a Yankees fan, I noticed that within the last 5-6 years, Yankees are bandwagon, huge, everybody jumped on. But I’ve been a Yankees fan since I was a little kid, my grandfather brought me up as a Yankees fan. I used to follow football and basketball, I used to play basketball. But I just don’t have time anymore, so I really don’t follow it all, like I have no idea who won the Super Bowl, I don’t care, I spent the whole super bowl shooting my video.
ML: You said you played sports growing up, but what role did music play in your upbringing?
Apathy: Oh, it was a huge thing; all my parents would do was listen to music. Whether it was funk shit, a lot of classic rock, they listened to a lot of rock, but my father listened to everything, he tried to keep it well rounded even though predominately he listened to rock the most, he listened to jazz, he listened to classical, he listened to everything, my father really listened to a lot of different shit.
ML: You said you liked movies, any particular ones that you are a big fan of?
Apathy: Yeah man, I’m a real big movie fanatic so it’s hard to pinpoint, but I got a whole list. I’m a big fan of the dude Wes Anderson [who] makes Rushmore, The Royal Tennebaums, The Life Aquatic, he makes real bugged out movies. Then I like old 80s classics like Red Dawn, and Commando, one of my favorite movies of all times is Juice, Juice is a classic. I even watch weird shit like right here, I’m on tour and I got my little mini DVD player with me, but I got The Ten Commandments, that movie is incredible, I got things like The Sopranos. I’m a real big movie head, everything here and there and everything in between, ‘City of God’, Napoleon Dynamite, you know what I mean?
ML: That can be your hobby right there, collecting DVDs!
Apathy: [Laughs] Yeah, slightly, I go to all the movies that come out and shit.
ML: I read in a previous interview that you’ve read about a book about communism, so it seems like you would be up to date with political things, what do you think is the state of the US government?
Apathy: Well, when I was talking about reading the book about communism, before it wasn’t modern day communism. I wasn’t reading it because it had to do with communism; I was just reading it because it was my favorite author. It’s just she just happened to be writing about communism. It was this lady Ayn Rand, she writes about philosophical objectivism, and basically that’s just putting a twist on reality, and looking at things from a different perspective. It was a book called We The Living and it took place in communist Russia back in early 1900s, and it was just a really really profound ill book. I really try not to get too involved in politics now and days because I used to be so gung-ho about it when I was younger. I used to be a part of Zulu nation, and this other crew Alien Nation and really be all about metaphysics, spirituality, religion, politics, conspiracies, new world order shit, everything, all of that, that was my life, I lived it. And the older I got, the more I realized, how much of your life you can waste sitting around worrying about that type of shit as to opposed to just living life. Life is short man, and to sit there and to waste time dwelling on what some other person is doing. I’m sure there are other people out there where it makes them happier in life to have a mindset where they want to change the world, or do something here and there, or have a cause or a purpose. And that’s good for them as individuals, but for me as an individual, I personally would like to focus more on my friends and family, and my life and learning other things. There is so much to learn and to deal with in life; you just can’t do it all, so I’d rather do something else, me personally. But politics is cool and it’s interesting for other people to be involved with but I just don’t waste my time holding interest with it anymore.
ML: You’d rather try to put all that energy toward something else?
Apathy: Exactly, something more positive, ’cause politics is a negative and it’s fucking crazy.
ML: Any other books you are reading at the moment?
Apathy: Nah, I have not had a chance to read in a long time and that disappoints me, I really wish I had more time. There is a book that I always read : Tuesdays with Morrie. It’s a real dope book. It’s one of my favorite books, and I’ve read it twice already, and I just keep it around and just skim through it and read my highlighted notes in it I have.
ML: I know Celph-Titled was a big part of your album, but do you think there is going to be an album in the future with you guys as a duo?
Apathy: Celph and I are always going to be doing stuff, so it’s inevitable. He is standing like 2 feet from me right now. Celph and I talk together everyday on the phone, so you know?
ML: What do you think the future holds for Demigodz?
Apathy: We’re trying to get Demigodz to do major label shit right now, we want to bring back the feeling of that old Wu-Tang type feel, that Wu-Tang gave to us when we were young as far as a crew hitting the mainstream and blowing up but still being grimy and still being hip hop and still being real. Everybody’s got a crew; we want a crew of individuals, not just a dude and his crew.
ML: So a family where everyone contributes?
Apathy: Exactly, all their own personalities.
ML: I wanted to go through the track listing of your album, and you tell me a sentence or two about each track, is that cool?
Apathy: Yeah, hell yeah.
ML: “Eastern Philosophy”.
Apathy: That’s the title track, that sets it off and sets the whole mood for the album that talks about living life on the east and just little details about it. It’s just basically the preface and the intro for the album.
ML: “1,000 Grams.”
Apathy: That’s just some shit talk shit. Just real braggadocio, ill shit.
ML: “All About Crime.”
Apathy: “All about Crime” is literary about all aspects of crime, not just gangster, gangster, hustler, hustler shit, street shit. It’s about every aspect of crime even from white collar, blue collar to Martha Stewart doing the crazy stock market shit. It’s everything, talking about crime from the beginning of time.
ML: “9 to 5.”
Apathy: “9 to 5″ is about striving for something better. When I have a 9 to 5 job I feel trapped and I feel claustrophobic and crazy. It’s about me striving as a person to do something better because I really can’t work 9 to 5′s anymore and it’s just the stress and the pressure of having a 9 to 5 and just trying to do something big.
ML: “Here Come The Gangstas.”
Apathy: “Here Come The Gangstas” is talking about peoples misconceptions about some of the shit that I talk about. And its about fake gangster dudes, I mean as cliche as that is, but I really talk about it. If people first hear that hook and they think oh he is talking about he is a gangster, that’s not it at all. The best line that I say in one of my verses is “You swear to god you gangster gangster/but reality will rearrange ya”.
ML: “Can’t Leave Rap Alone.”
Apathy: “Can’t Leave Rap Alone” that’s a posse cut with me, Celph Titled and Ryu. That just another shit talk joint, just another posse cut battle rap joint about rapping.
ML: “One of Those Days.”
Apathy: “One of Those Days” is about stress and drama with the females. Whether she is on her period, or she’s being possessive and jealous and shit. And then the 3rd verse is about a girl who is materialistic, a gold digger type chick. So it’s just the stress and drama of females.
ML: “Me and My Friends.”
Apathy: “Me and My Friends” is a throwback track that’s got me, One-Two and Celph on it, and we’re all talking about a mixture of things that reminded us of the early 90s, late 80s, and also I told them both to put in where we reminisce about hip hop and reminisce about actual friends and actual events that happened to us. The names we say in there are really old memories and old friends that we have.
Apathy: I’m surprised I wrote that in one day, that song really surprised me when I finished it, and that’s one of my favorite songs on the album. That’s talking about all of the chemicals that’s our daily dependency, whether it’s through food, or through the products that we use, through the water, through the air, through everything. All of the chemicals that are introduced into our body , and how normal that is in our society, how chemical we are just because of all these things that we live with every single day.
ML: “Do Raker Check.”
Apathy: “Do Raker Check” that’s just another shit talking joint, I got a Clique called Do Rakers, and Motive who is in the Demigodz as well, Mo and I are part of another clique called Do Rakers. That is just basically a shit talking joint, crazy, show off rap shit.
ML: “Philosophical Gangster.”
Apathy: Philosophical Gangster once again was talking about being in a mind state where everybody overuses the term gangster now and days. And when Nas said on that ‘Thief’s Theme’ song, philosophical gangster, that really stood out to me. I thought that was a real ill duality, that was a ill balance, an intellectual person whose down to do whatever they got to do by any means.
ML: “I Remember.”
Apathy: “I Remember” was one of the last songs we added to the album. That song right there is one of the most personal songs on the album to me. It starts off with a little skit where my mother is trying to get me to go to school or get a job or help out somehow. That was actually happening, my mother was kind of yelling at me, like you better find something to do, either get a job or finish school or do something, I don’t know what you think you are going to do living this life like this, just running around rapping doing nothing. It starts off and I talk about Connecticut, where in Connecticut I’m from. People have big misconception about Connecticut. They thing that shit is plush and nice, Connecticut is grimy, Connecticut is shitty, Connecticut is desolate, Connecticut is trash, and there’s nice spots too. So I’m talking all about Connecticut and everything I went through and reminiscing about my hip hop experiences in my life. That’s a big introspective song right there for me.
ML: “The Buck Stops Here.”
Apathy: The Buck Stops Here follows the path of a single dollar bill. It’s like seeing life through the eyes of a dollar bill and from person to person. Just imagine what a dollar bill sees. That’s one object that gets to be shared from person to person, all different types of lives, and crosses all different [things].
ML: “The Winter.”
Apathy: “The Winter” is like the hell that winter is. I think if anything would be hell, it’s not fire and brimstone it’s fucking freezing cold, everything is dead, everything is grimy, everything is shitty. The winter is just a time that always bothers me, I say in rhymes ‘something in my soul dies every single time/ that it’s winter time”. Like I said it’s like a parallel hell with Satan freezing, the winter hurts.
ML: I know what you mean, being in Buffalo right now.
Apathy: Yeah and you know this winter has been mild, this has been the nicest winter, global warming whatever [laughs], that shit hurts emotionally.
ML: Last thing I’m going to ask you is, you said gangster is an overused term, what else do you think is overused in hip hop?
Apathy: I can sit here all day long and say hustler, people talk about hustling, people wanting to be involved in that whole hustling aspect. People popping shit about how ill they are, or the violent shit, all that is just overkill. Especially all that hustler shit, everybody wants to be a hustler, everybody thinks they are a hustler, whether it’s drug shit or hustling the business that they do. Just kill the term.
A big thank you goes out to Apathy for spending his very busy time talking to us & Matt at Movement Marketing for hooking it up!!
Eastern Philosophy comes out via Babygrande/Atlantic on March 21st.
MORE ON APATHY: (ALL IN MP3 FORMAT)
The Winter Ft. Blue Raspberry [Play]
Lead Single off Eastern Philosophy
It Takes a Seven Nation Army to Hold Us Back Ft. Emilio Lopez [Play]
off Where’s Your Album
Bloc Party Ft. Mike Shinoda & TAK of SOB [Play]
off We Major
Personal Jesus [Play]
off Where’s Your Album
All Night Ft. TAK of SOB & Celph Titled [Play]
off We Major