Apollo Brown is a Detroit-based producer and beat-maker, he is 1/3 of the group The Left. In his guest blog, he discusses the history of Detroit's music scene, where he fits in and how he continues the legacy of mid-90s hip hop.

Guest Blog: Apollo Brown

Apollo Brown is a rising producer that’s catching a lot of ears. As part of The Left, along with Journalist 103 and DJ Soko, Apollo has crafted a multitude of beautiful, grimy soundscapes that have served as beds for some of Detroit’s most-revered MCs. In this guest blog, he discusses the ups and downs of coming from D, dealing with the lingering shadows of the legendary J Dilla, and clinging to the golden-age sound of mid-90s-style boom bap.

Believe it or not, being a producer that represents the city of Detroit is a hard task. There is definitely pressure carrying a leg of the production torch when you have producers like the late, great J-Dilla, Black Milk, and Mr. Porter applying a soundtrack to the city. But, it’s also considered a large privilege.

It’s exciting to be a contributing part of a hip hop community that has such a sought-after sound, not to mention a community that the whole world keeps a close watch on. I love hip hop with a passion, and I enjoy making music that provokes feelings through all those who listen to it. It’s no coincidence that my life’s most influential ages, 11-16, coincided with the years between 1991-1996 the single greatest five-year span in hip hop history, in my opinion.

Those were the days when I could turn on the radio and hear Gang Starr, followed by A Tribe Called Quest, mixed in with the likes of Stone Temple Pilots and Janet Jackson; the days I could turn on the TV and watch a Wu Tang video in the same ten minute block as Smashing Pumpkins. There was a chance you could hear the best mixtape of your life in the form of a great radio show. It seems as though back then, everyone had a chance to be seen and heard on one of the big stages. Nowadays, good quality music of all genres — including that good ol’, timeless hip hop — is something that real music lovers have to dig for. You literally have to own a shovel, some gloves, and a coalminer’s hat to be prepared. Can we, the “underground” artist(s), get some radio play and/or some television exposure along side everyone else? Digging gets tiring, and most times the only thing I really want to dig for is old, dusty vinyl.

Here in Detroit, there’s a vast variety of good hip hop to dig for, if you pay attention. From prominent emcees like Finale and Guilty Simpson, to groups like Street Justice and The Regiment; from lyricists like Elzhi and Royce Da 5’9” to hard-working producers like Mark Byrd and Ohkang, there’s really no excuse to not be a fan of Detroit hip hop. This place is where it’s at right now, and where it’s always been for good music.

While everyone else merges and follows the traffic jam on that nicely-paved 4-lane highway to the right, you’ll always have those few who prefer to follow that narrow, dirt road to The Left, curious to see where it leads. In this case, The Left leads you straight to Detroit. This collective (The Left) is comprised of myself, Journalist 103, and DJ Soko, and got it’s start back in early 2009. It began as a simple phone conversation between 2 artists displaying mutual respect for each other’s craft and throwing around the idea of doing a couple songs together. The chemistry was immediate and we soon turned the prospect of a just couple random songs into an entire 17-joint album called Gas Mask, considered by most to be the best hip hop album of 2010.

Shortly after starting the album, DJ Soko was brought aboard to not only provide the cuts for the album, but be the official DJ for The Left. We wanted to make an album that had a grimy feel, lots of static, and substance that everyone can relate to. We also wanted to put together a quality project that we personally would listen to from beginning to end — with a sore neck, of course.

When we finished the album, it was unbelievable. We sat on it for a while trying to find the perfect home, somewhere that would give this album the attention that it deserves, and the backing that it needs to take off. I was already signed to Mello Music Group with a production deal and was prepping the release of The Reset before we decided that MMG, who’s been putting out quality material since inception, would be the best place for it. It just fit the sound. The hard drums and dirty static-filled sample chops coupled with Journalist’s rugged, politically-charged flow, and DJ Soko’s raw, timeless cuts provides a mid-nineties nostalgia. Not to mention a priceless cast of features to help balance out the album.

It’s not really an album that I can explain or even talk about too much. All I can really say is that this highly-anticipated album is nothing short of classic, rugged quality. You would just have to listen and decide for yourself which song you don’t like; good luck.

The Left’s debut album, Gas Mask, is out now via Mello Music Group. The disc is available through UGHH.com and iTunes.

Category: Culture


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