Veteran Connecticut MC Apathy, the main producer and head of underground supergroup Demigodz, has been entrenched in the rap game — alongside his fellow group members Celph Titled, Esoteric, Ryu (of Styles Of Beyond), Motive and Blacastan — for the past 20 years. After a long hiatus, the collective have finally reunited to finish their official debut LP, KILLmatic, which hit stores recently.
Ap took time out of his busy schedule to talk to us about goings-on with the group, future projects, details concerning the new album, and much more.
Tell me about your new album, KILLmatic. What was the process you underwent making the album?
That album, I mean, I’ve been with Demigodz since 1993, and we’ve always toyed around with doing stuff here and there. We made an EP back in the day, and we had never really set out to make an official album and the crew changed rosters quite a bit, you know? People came in and came out, whether it was on good terms or bad terms, or some people had real life catch up with them, you know? They’d go on and do real life stuff, as far as business and family and not having time for music. So, it’s kind of a revolving door of people who’ve been involved with Demigodz. And, we never really sat down and decided to make a full-length LP.
The first project that we had was the Godz Must Be Crazy EP, and we had yet to make an album form of anything that concrete. So, Celph and I decided that we were gonna set out to do a Demigodz album, and we took a core member of the main emcees at the time — which was myself, Celph Titled, Esoteric, Ryu (of Styles Of Beyond), Blacastan, who is our newest member, and Motive who has been down with me forever, since the ’90s. We started recording songs in about 2007 for this, and we recorded two songs and then other things came up, other albums came up, other projects got in the way, and finally, it came to the point where I was like “Alright, I’ve got to finish this album immediately.” So, I just really buckled down, and as far as the technical aspect of making songs, I’m the one who produces most of the stuff. I mix most of the albums, put things together and come up with the concepts for the songs, so I do most of the stuff as far as that goes. I started building this album with beats of my own and then we got beats from [DJ] Premier, we got beats from Marco Polo, Snowgoons… I sent everybody the beats, everybody recorded, and that’s pretty much what happened.
What was it like working with the featured artists?
It was dope. I mean, I’m always to the point where I try to keep it with people who I really, really am feeling at the time, musically. Or, people who are close fans. On this one, it was just people who we’re down with, like Termanology’s on there. Termanology’s been down with us forever, he’s one of the dopest emcees there is right now. I got my brother Panchi (of NYG’z), he’s a beast. R.A. The Rugged Man is one of the best rappers of all time, and Eternia’s on there, Eternia’s down with us. Open Mic raps on there; Open Mic was the founder of Demigodz back in the day, so we just really try to keep it family-oriented and just people we’re really down with and deal with on a regular basis. The only regret I do have is a person who should’ve been on this Demigodz album who was not on it was Vinnie Paz, because he was touring and working on other stuff at the time. Our schedules never clicked up. Vinnie should have definitely been on the album, he’s been down with us since day one, you know? He helped start my career.
Any favorite songs on KILLmatic in particular?
Yeah, I think my favorite song is “Tomax & Xamot,” which is me and Esoteric when we go back and forth. It’s like some old school, G.I. Joe type of sh**. I like that. I like the Premier joint, I love every time we work with Premier. I got a lot of joints that I love on there, but yeah, “Tomax & Xamot” has got to be one of my favorites.
What was it like working with different producers, like DJ Premier?
It’s different nowadays with technology because the producers will just send you beats to choose from. You pick the beat, and then they have you send them a session, and you sequence everything and do everything, so it’s not really hands-on. It’s more efficient nowadays, but there’s not too much of an experience involved. It’s just people send you stuff. The only one that we were really hands-on with was Premier, because Premier tailor-makes everything specifically for the artist. We went back and forth and he’s like “Okay, I’ll send you this idea”, and I’m like “Nah, that’s not really the direction we wanna go in.” He’ll be like “Alright, what about this?” and we’ll be like “Alright, that’s perfect.” Then, he’ll do the cuts or we’ll express to him an idea for doing the cuts. I love doing beats with Premier, I think he’s the greatest DJ in hip-hop history and he’s a good friend, too. Working with him is unreal, it’s an absolute dream come true as far as being a fan.
On the track “Demigodz is Back”, whose idea was it to use “Gonna Fly Now” from the original Rocky soundtrack and why?
Originally, we recorded that to a beat that was produced by Shuko, he’s an Australian producer. He makes beats where he produced a clean sample and the way he had it coming back, it was real repetitive, but we weren’t able to use the beat. I think Cypress Hill had taken it. So, I was like “Damn, well the song’s gonna be ruined ’cause it needs that same exact vibe of that real repetitive first part.” So, I was thinking let me try and mess around and remix this. I was trying to remix it with a few things and then I was just screwing around and just really jumping around with the “Rocky” thing. Then when I kept bringing back those really repetitive horns, it started to work out. I was like “Holy sh**, I’m onto something!” Then, once I came to the hook part, we didn’t even know it was gonna be called “Demigodz is Back”. We were gonna call it something else at that point, but I was like “Yo, this sounds triumphant, like a big return,” so that’s why I gave it the name “Demigodz is Back”.
On the track “Dead in the Middle”, whose idea was it to use music from the Scooby Doo cartoon? Why? Was it similar to the Rocky thing?
It was different from the Rocky thing. That just kind of came about because the younger generation always says “Oh, MF Doom did that before.” Yeah, but you gotta realize, I was already older by the time MF Doom did that, so that wasn’t my influence. The first rapper I heard flip that sample was Lord Finesse off the Trespass soundtrack. He flipped Scooby Doo and it was just dope, and I grew up with Scooby Doo all my life, so I was just f***in’ around with that sample and I didn’t intend for it to be a song at first. I was just screwing around and then I threw the Kool G Rap “Road to Riches” drums over it and I was like “Yo, this is fire!” And then it just sounded evil and it sounded dark and I always wanted to sample that Pun sample — that’s my favorite Pun line — and it all came together.
Since you guys formed in the 1990s, what have been your biggest accomplishments thus far, both individually and as a group?
I’m really proud of everything we’ve accomplished up to this point. I think it’s really cool that we started out as underground, super hip-hop fan rappers and been able to do things and accomplish things that most underground artists haven’t been able to do. I’ve been signed to a major label, we worked with major label artists, we toured all over the world with groups like Linkin Park and worked with artists like Xzibit, Snoop Dogg, Cypress Hill, DJ Premier, Nas… We worked with all these people and coming from the beginnings that we did, I just think it’s a pretty cool thing. I’m pretty excited about how much we accomplished. Celph has worked with a ton of artists and we built our reputation, and we’ve kept our stronghold with our crews, Army of the Pharaohs, and it’s ill because I feel like Demigodz, Army of the Pharaohs, La Coka Nostra… we’re all like a little inner circle and us group of homies have accomplished so much stuff. You got Slaine, who’s been in big motion picture Hollywood movies. Ill Bill and Vinnie are the kings of this underground stuff and father to a lot of styles, so I think it’s pretty dope how much stuff we’ve accomplished over the years.
How have you all spent your time since then, individually and as a group?
Make no mistake about it; there is no more in-studio process of recording these days. It’s not done like that. I’ll make a beat; email it to Celph who lives in Florida. I’ll be like “What do you think of this?” And, he’ll be like “That’s cool” and I’ll record my verse and send it to Celph and I’ll be like “Yo, drop a verse for this.” He’ll record, Ryu will record where he’s at, Esoteric records in Boston, and so, it’s basically just emailing each other. Once in a while we’ll get together and record stuff like when we did Celph Titled’s Nineteen Ninety Now album. I went down there to record it with him [in Florida] and help him sequence out the whole album and work on it with him, but for the most part, it’s just bouncing around emails and it makes it a lot easier and saves a ton of money and a ton of time and we’re all adults with families and stuff going on, so it’s not like we just cypher in a f***in’ basement anymore.
What inspired this album to come to fruition, aside from your guys’ reunion?
It just had to come out. We knew we were sitting on material and we wanted it to be out there, you know? The fans wanted it the most and the fans were really crazy about it. We kept telling them “Okay, it’s this year, it’s this year, it’s this year” and it just kept getting pushed back. So, we finally got to the point where we were like “Alright, let’s drop it, we’re ready to put this out.” It’s just a long overdue album.
How have you all grown since you guys first formed Demigodz?
Oh man, you know when we came up, we grew up in the ’90s and we idolized a lot of, you know, f***in’ ’90s-style sh**, whether it was like Big L, hung and cheap-type slick, punny punch lines and joking ass sh**, or Black Sheep with their humorous style of rap, and a lot of jazzy production. So, when we first came out as Demigodz, there was a lot of happy-go-lucky, f***in’ jazzy, f***in’ happy, upbeat sh**, and that was coming from an era of we were still trying to resurrect the ’90s very hard in a different kind of way. Plus, in the ’90s, that’s what a lot of independent hip-hop was. And then, as the years went by, we got into darker sounding sh** , which is what we all listened to anyway, whether we listened to Wu-Tang Clan or whatever. You know, when you get older, you get more jaded and sh** looks a little more grimier and you’re tired, you lose your happy ass bouncy, boisterous f***in’ bullsh**, and you settle into a little bit of a darker place or at least more of a chill place — I think that’s what happened with a lot of us, you know?
Over the years, certain things have changed; we’ve learned to function on a more professional level. Esoteric has done a lot of stuff like experimental sounding sh** that was really dope, and we try to do all that we can and not get stagnant and bored by doing the same sh** every album. I understand it from a fan’s perspective ’cause I used to want to hear monster, rip-your-head-off type music every single album, but you know, at some point, artists move on to do other sh**. It’s funny ’cause I still see kids who say sh** like “I wish Ap would do an old style.” I’m 33 years old now — I was 18 or 19 with the sh** you’re talking about. Times are different, you know, I’m not trying to rap over no happy ass f***in’ jazzy funk favorite anymore, it’s just not in me.
What brought Demigodz back together?
We’ve always been down with each other; we’ve always functioned as a crew. It’s just a matter of this album coming out and bringing it like that, but it’s not like we broke up. It’s not like we quit at any point. We’ve always been there, we’ve always been Demigodz. It’s just a matter of we’re all doing solo sh**. It’s like Wu-Tang Clan, they’ll do a song and it takes them a little while to do an album. They’re all doing their own thing, but then once every so often they’ll do an album together. That’s just what happened.
How has the industry changed in your eyes and what’s your outlook on things? How have you responded/adapted to it?
Well, back in the day, it was a lot more exclusive. Now, all the kids are artists and they have this cocky, false sense of entitlement and think they don’t have to pay their dues. They talk sh**, they’re a lot more disrespectful. Back in the day, even if there were groups, I wasn’t really a big fan of, like I wasn’t the biggest Spice 1 fan. I didn’t really listen to that, but that motherf***er is a legend and I give him his props. I pay him that respect. I wasn’t like “Man, f*** Spice 1, he ain’t that dope.” I never said no sh** like that. That’s the way kids are nowadays. Kids have a false sense of entitlement and also because they can access you easier and contact you on the Internet, they f***in’ talk to you — like if you don’t talk to them with the same equal respect like a peer, then they’re angry and upset about it. It’s like “Yo, you know who I am. I don’t know who the f*** you are.” I’m not a d***head to fans. No, I’m not a dickhead to people, but some people are off the bat, way too comfortable and act real funny style about sh**. So, that’s one thing that changed. There’s a lot more artists out nowadays because of technology, a lot of people who have no f***in’ business rapping. Because of the Internet, any asshole who sounds horrible can, at least, find 40 or 50 people who will give them a pat on the back somewhere in the world and that’s just a false sense to go on. Anyone nowadays can buy verses, you know, you can buy a verse from anyone you want — you can buy a verse from me, I don’t give a f***. It sucks, but it’s whatever and there’s no stopping it.
How have you responded/adapted to it?
Just learn to roll with the punches. I know that’s vague and simple, but there’s nothing you can do. You gotta wake up every day. You can’t have a master plan, because there’s no way to forecast or predict what’s gonna happen next. You just gotta wake up and be like “Okay, they’re not doing this anymore? Eh, f*** it, let’s move on to the next thing” Or, “This is happening? Alright, f*** it.” There’s really no way to forecast or predict what’s gonna happen next. You just gotta be vigilant and on-point and just roll with the punches.
What’s your take on independent versus major labels?
I have zero interest in major labels these days, and major labels just are doing a lot of stuff that is just so far removed from hip-hop that it’s irrelevant. Like the artists that they wanna sign or the music they want them to make is more like pop music nowadays more so than ever. Like, I could’ve said that 10 years ago, but it’s even more so true now. I mean, there’s bullsh** you go through with any label, like you can go with an independent label and get f***ed over and it doesn’t really matter. That’s why we put our sh** out ourselves. Try to get distribution and plan our own outlet. Someone who’s in independent can take more of their fair share than they need to, so labels are labels. They’re gonna try to make money, it’s gonna be that tug-of-war, it’s all the same sh**.
Most memorable experiences in your career thus far?
Definitely gotta be chillin’ in the studio with Premier, working with Premier or chillin’ in the studio with Busta Rhymes or getting’ love from guys like Bun-B. Just gettin’ that love, I have to say that’s another big thing too, because it’s not like one specific thing. It’s the fact that these guys have given me props and co-signed to music that I’m working on, and guys like DJ Premier have given me that love and that means more to me than anything. It’s like nobody can tell me sh** anymore, you know? I don’t owe anybody anything because I’ve gotten to a level where I’ve gotten respect. I’ve gotten respect from Rakim and DJ Premier and Busta and all these guys, so it’s like “You can’t tell me anything, you can’t critique my sh** anymore.” Like you can, anybody can, but I don’t give a f*** what they say because I know I work hard as f*** and I know that these guys, these legends, say that I’m doing the right thing. So, I’m comfortable where I am and that’s gotta be the biggest, dopest thing for me, that these guys show that love.
What are your long-term and short-term goals now that you’ve reunited as a group? Future projects in the works?
Just touring, I got a whole bunch of sh** set in. There’s an Apathy and Celph Titled album, produced by my DJ Chumzilla, and the entire album is produced by Chum. It’s gonna be called Will Sing For Vengeance. We got that comin’ out. We got a Motive album; we got Blacastan’s solo album; we got a Celph Titled solo album that’s gonna be comin’ out soon; another Apathy solo album comin’ out soon; and a free Apathy EP I’m givin’ out.