Apathy :: Eastern Philosophy
Author: Andrew Matson
Apathy is the king of Connecticut, the leader of the Demigodz rap crew, and the illest white rapper currently making music. He's not an abstract rapper, form or content-wise, but offers technically flawless verses consistently delivered with the force of a guy who knows he's the shit. He's a mic ripper, a savage, a beast, an unstoppable force. Unlike Canibus, another egomaniac super-MC, Apathy is not lost in redundant self-mythologizing. He is not an enigma. He is not shrouded in mystery high atop a rap fortress. He's a man. A man with a plan.
That plan, it seems, is to become the best rapper alive. Eastern Philosophy is his exhibition of fundamental rap mastery, and it succeeds as Ap runs the gamut from bragging about mic skills, everyman storytelling, and clever conceptual pieces. Directed rhymes are hard to write, harder even if you have the skills to simply rant and rave and still be considered one of the best. What I love about Apathy is he's not content to kill verses and impress people. Although he's got nuclear weapons in his arsenal, he's not out to merely shock and awe. He's in it for the war, the long haul: he wants to make a solid album, through and through.
Such an aspiration is unfashionable these days, unprofitable even if that first single isn't the right crack for the public pipe. Signed to Atlantic Records, Apathy has had to deal with people that want to market him as a hitmaker, a potential pop crossover. He certainly has the power convert a large audience, but he appeals most to people that really love hiphop music. The public, as we all know, doesn't really love anything. Pop audiences are fickle. They fiend for the flavor of the week. Apathy has nothing in common with the record buying public: he's a rap head that loves classic albums. So instead of waiting around for Atlantic to figure out a marketing angle, he's sub-contracted Babygrande to release Eastern Philosophy.
Apathy told HipHopSite.com that he listened to a lot of classic East Coast albums while recording this disc. Inspired by what made Golden-era East Coast rap so ill (great samples and lyrical grit), the lyrics and backdrops on Eastern Philosophy wear their influences prominently. The verse/scratched snippet chorus/verse formula is working to full effect here, and is executed well almost exclusively by in-house Demigod Chum the Skrilla Guerilla. I'm guessing that Atlantic helped pay for the rights to classic Jay-Z, Biggie, Guru, Lauryn Hill and Black Moon samples (I guess major labels aren't completely worthless), and the legendary samples let classic ghosts hover over the tracks; rap history serves as the context within which Apathy operates, psychologically and sonically. The beats complement each other to evoke the Golden East without imitating it or ripping off specific producers wholesale, but DJ Premier, Lord Finesse, Large Professor and the like loom heavy in the album's subconscious.
"9 to 5" features Emilio Lopez, who you might know from Ap's "Where's Your Album?" mixtape. He shines with Ap as they rap around Reasonable Doubt era Jay-Z
Emilio: "Never liked school
College? I don't want to do that
Niggas told me I was nice
Figured that I'd do rap
Still live amongst fiends
So I think I might move that
Swallow pride, nine to five, I ain't gonna do that"
Apathy: "There's something about knowing my mother is still working
And it's certain that her back hurtin' will probably worsen
That lengthens my hustle, strengthens my struggle
Stackin' up dough until the banks are in trouble
So call me a capitalist, consider us savages
Because we rob and kill to live life's lavishness
Broke mindstate'll only get me mad
I'd rather be a sugar daddy then a dead-beat dad"
"No matter how hard it gets, I won't stop 'till I'm getting it
I keep tellin' myself:
'Nine to five is how you survive, I ain't tryin' to survive
I'm trying to live it to the limit and love it a lot.'" [Jay-Z]
If Jay-Z wasn't sampled on the hook, the track would have fit well on "Reasonable Doubt" itself. I wonder if Hova will ever hear it.
Apathy gets conceptually intricate on songs like "Chemical" and "The Buck Stops Here." The former is ultra specific as Ap invites you to "Creep with me as I crawl through your bloodstream/ Dirty as the bathroom in New York club scenes." He raps about American-made drugs, chemicals in foods, chemicals babies get from their moms, chemicals in your drinking water, Ritalin, even deodorant. The purpose of the song is just to make you think about all the shit we put in the world that we don't think about or even realize. Ap's got no agenda but to make you think. Likewise on "The Buck Stops Here", Apathy chronicles all the places the dollar in your pocket might have been before and where it may go in the future for no revelatory purpose other than to make you slow down, think about what he's saying, and then think about life. Both songs are kind of paranoid ruminations on simple ways that all people are connected to bad things. Apathy, in his prickly kind of way, wants us all to stop and smell the dead roses.
All the songs on this CD have a purpose and all of them are effective. "Me & My Friends" is supposed to evoke feelings of nostalgia as Ap describes listening to Nas and Das Efx, drinking forties and smoking blunts with his homies, causing trouble and having fun. The song works. "I Rememberů" is all about making the break from living a "normal" life to a full-time rap life, making moves early in his career. Ap clearly communicates that he was always different from everyone else, maybe more observant, and proceeds to talk about how he got into the rap game, making moves from CT to NY and PA, doing early tours, etc. The song exists to show people he knows how he got in the situation he's in. The song works.
The album ends on a defiantly bleak note as Wu-Tang alum Blue Raspberry sings her ass off over Chum the Skrilla Guerilla's best beat, a kind of smoothed out frosty RZA. The track is all mood-setting, from Blue Raspberry's wailing to the sounds of freezing cold winds. Apathy makes you feel cold as he describes the prolonged mental effects a season of ice in the air brings. Even though this album dropped in the Spring, he brings the winter right back to your bones.
Apathy is on top of his game on Eastern Philosophy. It remains to be seen exactly how hard Atlantic will push when they re-release it; I'm curious to see what happens. Ap's made a great album, a complete album, and I hope he gets recognized with some dollars.
Music Vibes: 8 of 10
Lyric Vibes: 9 of 10
TOTAL Vibes: 8.5 of 10
Originally posted: April 25, 2006