Words By Zoe Zorka
In an industry overshadowed by one-hit wonders or short-career artists, few have managed to not just sustain a 20-year legacy, but to get better with each album dropped. Yet Apathy remains one of East Coast underground’s biggest hip-hop artists of the last two decades, partnering with some of the biggest names in the genre and dropping some of the most mind-glowingly intense lyrics in the industry.
And he’s just getting started.
As Apathy prepares for the March 2 release of his highly-anticipated album, The Widow’s Son, as well as a 20-city tour, we sat down to chat with the artist about what it takes to build long-term success not only in the underground world of hip-hop, but also in the mainstream.
A highly successful and versatile lyricist and rapper, Apathy, a Connecticut native, got his start over 20 years ago in a rap collective that included Louis Logic, Celph Titled, 7L & Esoteric, EL Fudge, and more. In the years to come, he would release a number of hit singles with his debut album, Eastern Philosophy, dropping in 2006 to much praise. In 2014, Connecticut Casual, his fourth studio album, reached #41 in the R&B/Hip Hop Albums charts.
This is especially evident on one of his most recent songs, “Pay your Dues,” in which he raps: Yo everybody wanna rap but nobody wanna work/Wanna take over the earth but they’re afraid of the dirt/And they’re scared of criticism and getting their feelings hurt/Everybody want results and they want it real quick/Like a rap career appears quicker than fast food.
Apathy knows that a major rap career doesn’t happen as “quickly as fast food.” His success isn’t an overnight one- the type that appears with a bright flash and then is gone as quickly as it appears, yet rather is one of a slow simmer, gradually building up to a boiling point and inevitably spilling over into the mainstream.
Despite his incredibly humble attitude, it’s clear that he’s passionate about his craft. In his thick Connecticut accent, he ascribes his success to “being relentless in making perfect music and not sacrificing his sound,” he says, adding that he understands the importance of keeping his music updated as trends change- or as he puts it, “keeping the music as true to form as possible, but updating the music as well. I just keep fine-tuning my craft and what I do. I keep elevating while a lot of guys fall off. A lot of guys just get redundant and I think I kind of keep kicking it up a little bit on each album.”
While some artists struggle to come up with new material, Gage Luce of 12G Agency, Apathy’s booking agent, tells us that he has “a ton of music stored away. Like literally albums and albums worth.” So how does the multitalented artist decide what to release and what to keep shelved?
“I don’t know,” he says, pausing to think. “It’s a type of discerning ability that I’ve developed over the years. Just certain things fit. I’ll be working on an album and think that this fits or that doesn’t. A lot of it has to do with sequencing. There’s a lot of songs that I fully intended to be on albums, but once I started sequencing the album and fleshing it out, I realized that it wasn’t flowing- or isn’t the same energy. So there’s definitely times that I’ve taken songs off of albums and put them on different albums or releases a songs separately from everything else.”
As the conversation turns to ‘The Widow’s Son,’ Apathy’s excitement is clearly contagious and his thick Connecticut accent grows even more pronounced as he talks about what he thinks makes his upcoming album different than his previous ones. “I think people digesting the lyrics because there’s a lot of deep material in there- there’s a lot about alchemy, religion, philosophy, metaphysics, and stuff like that- all mixed in with hip hop. The reaction is what I’m most excited about- how people will react to it and perceive it.”
One thing that sets Apathy apart from pretty much all of his peers is his strong affiliation with the Masonic brotherhood. An active freemason, Apathy points out that his music isn’t meant to persuade anyone about his Masonic views, but rather to educate.
“I think that the big difference too is there’s a lot of masonic knowledge that I drop on there. It’s not a masonic album. You don’t have to be a fucking Freemason to hear it, but it’s got a lot of gems in there. I’m talking about the stuff that I’ve studied and it’s cool to introduce people in the hip hop realm into freemasonry- to guys who might be interested. But I don’t care if people get into it or not. Freemasonry is about a self-mission. It’s about yourself.”
As the conversation turns to his upcoming tour, it’s clear that Apathy has had to lean on himself- or as he eloquently puts it in his song “Dead in the Middle:” I am my own hype man.
His hype man’s clearly earning his keep as excitement for both the album and tour are at all-time highs on social media.
Yet social media isn’t how Apathy measures his success. As he raps in “Pay your Dues”
“I wanna drop vinyl you’d rather go viral.”
If there’s one artist that can do both, it’s Apathy.
Apathy tour dates are as follows. More information can be found at: https://madmimi.com/s/b7f6bb.
March 02 – Albuquerque, NM @ Sister
March 03 – Las Vegas, NV @ Beauty Bar
March 07 – Long Beach, CA @ Dipiazza’s
March 08 – Los Angeles, CA @ Los Globos
March 09 – San Jose, CA @ Back Bar
March 15 – Bend, OR @ Astro Lounge
March 16 – Portland, OR @ Star Theater
March 18 – Seattle, WA @ The Crocodile
March 21 – Missoula, MT @ Monks Bar
March 22 – Bozeman, MT @ Zebra Lounge
March 23 – Salt Lake City, UT @ Metro Music Hall
March 24 – Denver, CO @ The Roxy
March 25 – Colorado Springs, CO @ Black Sheep
March 27 – Greeley, CO @ Moxi Theater
March 28 – Flagstaff, AZ @ The Green Room
March 29 – Phoenix/Mesa, AZ @ Club Red