Remixing The Industry, Part 2 11.04.09: Apathy
Let’s examine the case of an artist who was part of the major label system at one point – only to walk away willingly.
Chad Bromley, more colloquially known as Apathy, was a member of the Atlantic Records roster. Yet, no record came of it and now he’s a free man. As we talked in an exclusive interview in October, the air had to be cleared as we got to the bottom of what exactly happened between he and Atlantic. The response from Apathy was somewhat amusing:
“Nothing. That’s the point – that’s the reason why I left. There was really nothing going on and we couldn’t come to terms. We couldn’t decide on what to do. That wanted me to do a whole bunch of funny shit that I wasn’t willing to do, they weren’t giving me answers, and there was no definitive timeline, so I was tired of spinning my wheels and dealing with them. Eventually, I asked for a release and got off the label.”
Many lamented what a damn shame it was that Atlantic – a major label with major resources that’s able to get virtually anything done for their artists after 50-plus years in existence – could be so stupid as to let one of the hottest, and arguably best, rappers actively in the game today simply walk away from them.
Studying at the sonic temples of the masters since he was young, Apathy understands the true spirit and style of the art of the rhyme. Born of that knowledge and infatuation of the genre, Apathy combines a razor-sharp flow with a commanding voice and sense of urgency not heard since the days of Chuck D, Rakim, and KRS-One. To describe his style in detail—well, yes, this has been done before, but it bears repeating since it’s the most effective demonstration:
Whether that’s a freestyle or not is immaterial. Three different speeds, zero mistakes. Perfection on a mic. More evidence is presented to the jury when I bring up to Apathy how I first heard of him and subsequently became a fan almost instantly: the “Personal Jesus” freestyle off of Where’s Your Album?! (the title, a direct reference to the Atlantic debacle). To that, Apathy chuckles, “I love that ‘Personal Jesus’ one, too. That was important for me to really kill it with the flow on that beat, too. That’s one of the ones where you hear it and you want to go crazy. When you get a beat with a dope pattern like that, that’s like catnip for rappers. Just makes you want to go on there and attack and kill.” More proof that radio rappers and other Hip-Hop artists at the service of VH1 and other corporate outlets that want to boast about “real Hip-Hop” need look no further than Apathy before they check themselves in a mirror and try again. Maybe.
As Eazy-E would have put it, It’s all about makin’ that GTA. And Apathy is far from lazy in that respect. In addition to his newest album, Wanna Snuggle? hitting the stores (and getting a ton of rave reviews since its release, with many – including this site – calling it the best Hip-Hop album of 2009), Ap has followed that right up with the new album from Get Busy Committee, featuring he and Ryu (Styles Of Beyond). There is also a new one due before year’s end from Army Of The Pharoahs. Early next year should see new albums from Ap’s main crew Demigodz as well as solo material from fellow Demigod Celph Titled. This is also doing a ton of production work, including a spot on Cypress Hill’s album due next year. And did we mention Ap is already working on his next solo album to boot? In giving us all this info, Apathy laughs at his near-suicidal work schedule. “I stay busy, man! I’m constantly working all the time.”
Under the control of a larger label – or most any label, for that matter – Ap’s output would be about one-fifth of what’s listed above. However, Ap has a system in place to take getting his name out there to a whole new level. “I wouldn’t say [Demigodz Records] is necessarily a label,” explains Ap, referring to the umbrella that newest album, Wanna Snuggle? was released under (with most of the aforementioned projects to follow). “It’s just a means of us putting it out – Demigodz Enterprises. We have a digital account so we can put things on iTunes, we have a distribution route with traffic, so it’s just a way of us putting it out. We don’t really take it seriously, like ‘we’re gonna have our own label’; under that name, we might start one in the future.”
Ap continues, “The thing that’s great about that is that we can put out whatever we want. We’re in charge of whatever we want. We only have to answer to ourselves; we’re our own bosses. And if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself. That’s always been the best thing for us – it’s always been the most lucrative. When you’re in control of your own business and you’re in control of things, you have no one to blame but yourself. It also motivates you to work harder.”
He’s even kind enough to offer some thoughts on the state of the industry, including a little advice: “Labels are dead. They have terminal cancer – it’s only a matter of time. Labels might be good for somebody that doesn’t know how to do a Goddam thing, but if you can do it yourself and you have the ability and you can manage that, you should definitely be putting out records by yourself. You make more money, you have more creative control, and nobody’s trying to micro-manage you.”
On the other side of that coin, however, is the fans’ involvement. Apathy states, “It’s very important for people to understand that this is a crucial time for fans to support the artists. If you’re a fan of these artists, this is the time for the artists to prove themselves. If you’re not supporting them, you’re proving to the world that these artists are no good. You’re saying, “Hey, I’m not gonna buy these guys’ stuff. I’m not gonna support them.’ You can’t download and say, ‘Yeah, the album’s hot, I love it – I download everything you’ve got’. There’s no proof of incentive for us to continue to do it. That’s why a lot of people would quit. It’s a time where it is definitely more important than ever to support artists that you feel. Even when people say, ‘Ap, I’d rather buy the CD from you at the show than in the store so you can get the money’ – no, I get the money anyway! It’s very important for the stores to see that this guy sells because, if you don’t buy the CDs in the stores, they’re gonna be like, ‘we’re not gonna carry your CDs in the store because they don’t sell. No one’s buying them!’ ”
If his ever-growing reputation as one of the finest around – both in front of the mic and behind the boards – is any indication, then Apathy is certainly handling his business the right way. Once again, he’s another artist that does this for a living without having a corporate sponsor, boss, or thief to answer to. Because, as his own theory states, he simply can. It’s that easy anymore. And his fans are behind him enough to make it work, like others still that have walked their own path.
Special Thanks to Matt Conaway and Grimmy Acosta for their help in putting this feature together.