“Yo everybody wanna rap, but nobody wanna work
Want they face on a shirt, wanna make the b***ches twerk
Want to take over the earth but they’re afraid of dirt
And they scared of criticism and gettin they feelings hurt
Everybody want results and they want it real quick
Want to spit and have a label tell ’em that it’s a hit
They want a whip, want a chick with some big fake tits
Want ‘Back to the Future’ kicks, hoverboard spaceships
Want to be J. Cole, or maybe Kendrick Lamar
You can’t duplicate or replicate the makeup of a star
But they copy they bars, no blood sweet and tears
Frustrated they’ve been doin this s**t for two years…”
– “Pay Your Dues”

Chad Bromley b/k/a Apathy has paid more than his share of dues over the last 20+ years. Even though he’d been rolling with the Demigodz for years, it was his appearances on the first full length album from Jedi Mind Tricks that brought him wider recognition and sent him down the road to UPS — not United Parcel Service dunn — I’m talking about Underground Popularity and Stardom. You may not find him headlining tours with Jay no hyphen Z or dropping albums with Drake but you will find him dropping critically acclaimed albums every few years. One gets the feeling that at 37 years old he’s only just getting started.

That leads us to a depressing note in this review. It has been almost exactly a year since Robert Diaz b/k/a Pumpkinhead passed away at only 39 years old. He should have been recording albums for many more years to come but the universe had other plans, and much like the ghost of Sean Price he keeps coming back to haunt us with posthumous verses recorded before he departed. As Apathy says in the outro of “Amon RAW” they had been friends for 20 years, rapping together in ciphers at the Nuyorican Cafe, coming up in the underground paying those same dues he laments nobody wants to pay any more to be a star. You can hear those years of skill level in PH’s verse built up like a gamer levels up HP. It even sounds like he’s fulfilling his own prophecy to come back. Kinda unnerving to be honest.

“I’m the epitome of underground – I spit maggots and worms
I’m a heat wave, so your ass gettin burned
And if I ever get burned, watch my ashes return
to flesh and bone — then I jump my ass out the urn
Grab the microphone from you and start to rap out of turn
And when your crew start to get amped I make ’em relax like a perm
I’m fast with my hands, sorta like Hagler and Hearns
I beat that ass so fast I revert that ass back to sperm”

It’s rare that you can spit bars on the same track as Celph Titled and Apathy and still walk away with the trophy as the dopest, but at the very least it’s a three way tie and at the worst the star of this album comes in third. (Honorable mention to calling himself a “comic book nerd who got a loaded Mossberg.”) Given his friend is dearly departed I don’t think he’d even be dishonored by that, especially given there’s 40 more minutes of music for him to shine on for “Handshakes With Snakes.” There are collaborations that caught me by surprise though. I honestly never thought he’d be rapping with Bun B and Twista on the same song, but you have to love the Chicago to Port Arthur to Willimantic connection on “Moses.”

The part that’s NOT unexpected is Apathy dropping another gem for his long time fans with the tracks on this album. That’s not just the bars mind you – the entirety of “Handshakes With Snakes” is self-produced. That mellow head nod track on the entirely non-mellow “Blow Ya Head Off” featuring Blacastan and Marvaless? Thank Ap for that, and nice touch with the Redman samples on the hook. Public Enemy may have already done Mandrill’s “Two Sisters of Mystery” on the hip-hop classic “By the Time I Get to Arizona,” but I think after 25 years it’s fair to jack it again on “Run For Your Life” since we haven’t reached “Nautilus” territory with it yet. Man though – O.C.’s vocals sound like they aged 25 years too. It’s not like he’s suddenly bad, it’s just that the fiery exuberance of “Time’s Up” isn’t the same any more – see also “Don’t Touch That Dial.” Ras Kass’ verse on the latter feels like “Nature of the Threat” though. Have I mentioned guest features yet? Oh yes they’re abundant on “Handshakes With Snakes.” Even the title track features B-Real and Sick Jacken.

Good news/bad news about “Charlie Brown.” The bad news is that it’s not a Leaders of the New School throwback. The good news is that it’s a fun nod to those old animated specials that aired every holiday, complete with references to Snoopy and Woodstock and samples of Chuck’s mush-mouthed unintelligible teacher. Ain’t nothing wrong with Kappa Gamma and Oh No on this joint either. In fact the only thing you can really dig into Ap for on “Handshakes” is that he just don’t get enough of the spotlight to himself. He’s always been a guy who is down for the crew and modest enough to let fam and friends get theirs too, but when he really takes over on both sides of the board for a track like “Rap Is Not Pop” that’s when you see why like the UPS he is he always delivers.

“Was raised in the greatest generation to do it
And you can hear it in my music now that rap is polluted
I’m like the druid, a human removin all of the sewage
that y’all are spewin and stewin in dirty bodily fluids
I’m like the Brita to get rid of the s**t they put in the water
They started to poison the people, the people they alter
Floridating sedating the brain and breakin they will
The same s**t happened to rap, they extracted the skill
It’s like pop is a poison in the form of a pill
And you understand the risk, but you takin it still”

Word up.

Apathy :: Handshakes With Snakes
8Overall Score