Opening for hip-hop heavyweights Joell Ortiz and Freeway and heís only 21ÖThatís simply talent that canít be denied. His lyrics speak true life and his energy is contagious. Apollo The Great started rapping a few short years ago and already his career has blossomed on print, on stage and on speakers in that short time. He was born to do this.
With three mixtapes under his belt already and one to come--Apollo 21--Apollo obviously lives to share his talent with hip-hop aficionados. Itís only right that this golden kid rhyme in the style of the golden era. While Apollo doesnít like to define his sound, but itís got elaborate metaphors, complex wordplay and a smooth flow that keeps your heart racing.
Letís go back to the beginning of when you started getting your interest in music and when things started to come together for youÖ
Iíve always been surrounded by hip-hop. My older cousin raps, so I started getting serious in my senior year and when I graduated high school.
Did you always like to write?
Oh yeah. I was always writing. Thatís the only class I paid attention to in school. It really started with that and just gravitated towards music.
How did things start to come together--from having an interest to actually doing it?
I got in the studio, learned the craft of making a song and shit and from there, the response I got from the people around me led me to take it serious. I put together a CD and mixtapes and all that. Once I saw how people responded to it, I started going harder. Plus, I didnít have too many optionsÖI was interested in doing.
Youíre 21, so youngÖ
My number is young [laughs].
How many years have you been doing this?
Iíve been writing songs and stuff since I was 14. I started taking it serious a few years ago.
I know a lot of people are hating on you right now. Just a few years doing this and youíve already had opportunities to open up for Joell Ortiz and FreewayÖthatís crazy!
I guess it is. They were hating me in elementary school. [laughs] It gets like that.
Iíve heard three of your mixtapes. What is the biggest difference between History is Made (H.I.M.) and H.I.M. 2?
The first one was written more so from a childís mindstate. It was a situation that came from being a kid and growing up. Those were things I carried with me from being a kid up until that point. H.I.M. 2 was me expressing things that I didnít express in the first one. On H.I.M., I have a song called, ďOn My Own,Ē and I was basically explaining how my life played out. My father passed away when I was six. I explained how that affected my life. I have four older brothers who I donít really know. I felt as though for some sh*t like that to happen, family should be family. It didnít happen that way.
Thereís another joint on there called ďValley of DarknessĒ where I was talking about [certain] femalesÖThe woman I was dealing with at that time, she wasnít a good influence to her daughter. Thereís a lot of personal stuff in H.I.M. that I was getting off my chest.
What about H.I.M. 2?
I developed more as an artist. All of my music comes from personal experience, but I was able to illustrate it on a different level.
How have you been able to see yourself personally grow as an artist over the few years that youíve been at it?
[At first], it was just rap and knowing how to. Now, I look at my performances and get my live show together. I think thatís a big part of being an artist. Thatís what people want to see. They want it to be just as good as the record. I see a lot of changes in my performance since I started.
Born and raised in Jersey. Does your sound rep the east coast or do you feel thereís a different sound coming from youÖ?
I donít have a sound. I can make any kind of music and do it as good as the people that make that kinda of music will do it. I try to stay as east coast as I can because thatís the kind of music I like to listen to. For the most part, thatís where I keep it. I can go in different lanes if I wanted to.
Why donít you?
I prefer the east coast, New York 90ís sound. Thatís just the music I like. At the same time, I try to make it kind of new but still keep that 90ís hip-hop essence.
Who are some of the people you consider an influence when it comes to your music?
Besides my cousin, I have to say him first--his name is Verb Spielberg. Then, Nas. He definitely is a big influence. I listen to Jay, Wu Tang--all the good stuff man, legends.
Who is someone that people would be surprised to know you listen to?
Hmmm... Roscoe Dash. I like that. I donít know too many people in my circle that like him. [laughs]
How do you feel about the way hip-hop is right now?
People say itís dead. I donít feel like itís dead. I feel like pure hip-hop is dead though because all the live shit is underground--like myself. I consider Joell Ortiz to be underground in a sense. When youíre an artist and youíre not getting the recognition you deserve, itís like they try to bury you and keep you from the potential you could reach. At the same time, you canít be mad. If you want good music, you can easily find it. Itís getting better though, with artists like J. Cole coming out. It will change within this next decade.
Sometimes I feel the listeners donít know how much power they have. Essentially weíre the ones buying the music and going to the shows. Obviously thereís a place for not-so hip-hop because you have success stories like Souljah Boy. Itís interesting to know that hip-hop can be so widely interpreted and accepted. Hip-hop is a culture more so than it is music. Do you feel as an artist, youíd ever get to the point where the artistry is taken out of your music and youíre just producing ďhits?Ē
Nah, I donít think so. Not at all.
Not even if they paycheck was looking real serious [laughs]?
The paycheck [laughs] is going to be what itís going to be. At the same time, if I make something, itís because I want to make it, regardless of what it is. If I do it, it will be because I want to do it and it is going to be my way.
I know you have another mixtape coming up--Apollo 21. When is that coming and what can we expect to hear?
Iím probably going to release that in late January 2011. People can expect to hear the same old me--lyrics and all that. Itís a lot of new sounds on this mixtape too. Thereís a lot less samples than there was on the previous two.
Do you feel thereís a difference between mixtapes and albums?
To me, mixtapes are when you rap on other peopleís beats, but now the definition has changed. H.I.M. 2 is all original music. To me, itís an album but people call it a mixtape for whatever reason--maybe because I gave it away free. Apollo 21 will be an album as well. There will be all original music and DJ Omega is hosting it. Iím giving you me, not just rapping over someone elseís beats. These are songs. Itís going to be real crazy. I have some features I canít speak about. [laughs] Thereís some ill production. Itís going to be real exciting.
What do you have going on now?
Right now, Iím working on finishing up Apollo 21. Iím doing some shows and staying on my grind right now.
Do you feel that not being signed to a major is beneficial for artists these days?
I feel like for the most part, an artist in the situation Iím in right now, to be signed is not even a goal. The goal is to independently build my own fanbase. At the end of the day, those are the people putting money in your pocket, not the labels. They donít give deals to people that donít have a fanbase. People arenít buying CDs like the used to. Being independent is a plus, especially when you get to a point when youíre in demand. Iím definitely not looking for a deal, Iím just looking for fans.
Why do you feel this is what youíre supposed to do with your life?
I hate to give you the cocky answer, but Iím better than a lot of people, so I might as well do it. [laughs] Itís honest too. [There are] a lot of people that do music because they think itís cool or a way to get girls because they canít do anything else. I donít know what the reasons are. [There are] a lot of people doing music that arenít musically inclined at all. For me to not do it would just be a waste of talent. I donít know what else I would be doing--nothing positive.
Is there [anything] that you want to add?
Check out the website www.ApolloisHIM.com and follow me on Twitter @Apollo_TheGreat.