West London is no longer a region that finds itself on the fringes of UK rap, many of the artists that are now the leaders of the new school, in fact hail from this once musically desolate part of the capital. That isn’t to say that hyperlocal musical heroes weren’t in abundance, but many of them never rose above provincial popularity.
Tempting fate with his namesake, Lord Apex has bucked the trend of his West London forebears, and ascended into the upper echelons of rap. Gorging himself on his way there with a strict musical diet of MF Doom, J Dilla, to greats of the mixtape era like Lil Wayne, Soulja Boy and Lil B; it’s clear Lord Apex was raised by artists who were never afraid to colour outside the lines. It’s inside the margins, where Lord Apex really excelled, providing sharp, honest and reflective stoner music, that has won him hordes of fans the world over. So much so that he is in fact embarking on a tour of Brazil.
It’s clear that one of AP’s secrets to success has been the industrious work rate that he fostered during his days as a prolific Soundcloud rapper, under the now defunct sobriquet Tino Vintage, a portmanteau of his middle name, and his love of the well aged things in life. We caught up to discuss this love in more detail, his discovery of fashion, new music & his new collaboration with New Balance and Foot Locker.
You were invited to the studio by Lowkey back in year nine, talk to us a bit about your first experience of getting in the studio and how it came about?
“It was literally the beginning of my whole career, cause he was the first guy to give us an opportunity. Me and a group of friends used to rap in high school during lunch times and all of that stuff, and then that kind of translated into us rapping for Lowkey one time, cause Lowkey was one of my friend’s favourite rappers, and Lowkey just invited us down to the studio off the back of that.
“Once we started going there, he started mentoring all of us, and he’d push us and give us the means we needed to become actual rappers. So there would be certain rappers coming into the studio, and he’d make us freestyle for them and project, and make sure we’re doing everything correctly, and he’d even give us feedback and some of the stuff we were working on.
“He also took me to my first ever rap show, he took me to an Immortal Technique show. It was just a blessing, the first rap show I ever went to was an Immortal Technique show. It was such a culture shock for me, being such a rap fan and going to a rap show for the first time, but then we’re in VIP with Lowkey at like 16, before I’m even allowed to be in the club, it was eye opening. It really was such a pivotal moment cause it helped me realise that it was a reality that I could have.”
What First Drew you to music as a means of expressing yourself?
“Growing up I was always a person where I always had a lot of angst towards the world, and very into my own emotions and stuff, I was never content with the world, or like, shit was never cool you know what I mean? A lot of my earlier life, Primary school and early high school, I spent like purposely like just not speaking. Like I’d really have days where I’d wake up and I’m just think I’m not gonna say a word in school today. Like I’m so drained from this shit, but then like my natural energy, like I’d get around people and I’m a people person and I open up.
“I spent half of my life before any of this music, being an observer. And like observing life, and like taking in things. Where I feel like we have one mouth and like two eyes for a reason. So I do a lot more observing than I do speaking, I speak half the time because I feel like all my words are valuable. So I spent the first half of my life observing, so by the time I started rapping, everything that I’d been observing I can talk about with conviction, and that’s why the writing came across so vivid.
“Plus everyone in my life is big into music, my dad he produces, and he was doing his stuff when he was my age as well. I come from a long line of talented people, regardless of whether or not they excelled into like some sort of stardom or not.”
How Do you continually keep your childlike creativity and imagination alive?
“I realised growing up the ploy was to make you lose your childlike imagination, cause its the most creative thing about you. So way back to even 05, when I was like a Micheal Jackson super stan, I understood how powerful it is to have your childlikeness. I could explain the source of how I don’t lose that, but all in all, I’m a big child bro. I’m a big arse kid.
“I’ve always been a late bloomer in life you know. I’m a kid bro, I used to watch just anime straight and just nothing else. There was a period, where I watched like no real life TV shows, no nothing. It was like straight cartoons, and imagination. So it just made my shit just vast as hell, so when it comes to thinking, like out of the box is easy for me, cause we lived outside the box.”
How do you feel having such a vivid imagination and still being in touch with that elusive childlike creativity helps your music?
“It helps because you never see me go on Twitter asking people: “Guys what sort of song do you want from me, when do you want this video, guys when do you want this mixtape”; you know why? Cause I’m an artist and I know what I want to do. You feel me? That is one of my biggest pet peeves cause I hate it when artists go online and ask the fans what they should do. For me, every artist that I listened to growing up never went online and asked what they should do. If Lil Wayne went online and asked people should I drop A Mili, its not that. he just dropped A Mili, he gave us greatness.
“I like to give greatness, I don’t like to ask. Because you look unsure, you look uncertain of your own future, if you don’t know what music to give me then why should I even invest in your music? I might as well do it myself if you’re gonna ask me what you should do with your career, its your career! The art is always going to be a bigger part for me cause like I essentially want to ascend to like Spielberg or Scorsese.”
Historically West London has been a marginalised region musically, but now many of the top artists are from West. What do you think has changed since then?
“I couldn’t tell you. I could not tell you. Growing up there was a few man from West, where it was like local, if you’re local you know who these man are. One of my favourite rappers from West is Shack Man, Shack man was one of the hardest. I used to watch this guy freestyle till like 4 in the morning and never miss a word. West has always had them dudes, even Angel bro, Angel is another one, he’s on his singing bag, but he still came from the heart of West and its like thats what it was, Sheppards Bush you know what I’m saying? That’s where I was born and raised, so for me, the sauce has always been there, the vibes have always been there but we didn’t have the platforms.
“It’s always gonna take that one to push through, you know what I’m saying? You know being from West, we’re very stylish, we’re very cool, everyone’s laid back. In my eyes, I feel like we’re tastemakers, whether we’re always on top or claim to be number one at the moment or whatever it is, we’ve always been the tastemakers to me. Cause thats where I see the flyest N*****, thats where I see the coolest shit. But then I also hear the best flows coming out of there, in my personal opinion init. So I don’t know bro, we’re similar to West Coast in a sense, we’re more laid back, so the music is just more vibey over here bro.
“I need Shack Man to get that mention, Cause I grew up seeing these lot on the block, and then seeing Jamal come to the blocks, because my cousin who grew up in Acton used to go to school with Jamal, same year and all of that. So all of these things are pivotal moments in my history, before I even got into music. There were so many artists that came from that era, obviously not all of them made it.”
Were you influenced musically at all by these local heroes?
“Not really, because again I was still the silent one, and I know these lot I went to school with them, I was on the blocks with these lot. But even then, I didn’t listen to no UK shit. I would listen to UK shit in a sense because of high school, and feeling like I gotta be a part of this, right now I can tell you like Sneakbo lyrics, because me in high school I was running that, I was listening to Johnny Gunz and stuff.
“But when I go home, I’m listening to 50, I’m listening to Snoop, I’m listening to Dre, I’m listening to J Dilla, I’m listening to all of that. I’m like I wanna make this shit! If anything, I was listening to Soulja Boy mixtapes, I was a Soulja Boy stan, I’ve heard every mixtape. He taught me how to manoeuvre the internet, so I’ve been tapped into Soulja boy since I was a kid. Since Crank That dropped, I was consistently checking for his shit after that. I subscribed to the Youtube, I’m watching him do vlogs, I’m watching him show you how to make a website, how to do this, how to do that; he broke it all down on his Youtube bro. On some bants when he did start saying, I was the first, I was the first, I’m like yeah. He started bantsing with it, but a lot the shit he said he was the first for, he was actually the first for.”
“I was a Datpiff kid, I just grew up listening to mixtapes so as a mixtape listener I’d go on DatPiff every day I’m looking at like who’s dropped this week, who got the 25 diamonds, who got the 50k Diamonds, who got 100k diamonds. That’s all I cared about. I listened to all my Wayne mixtapes on DatPiff, I listened to all my Wiz mixtapes on Datpiff, I listened to all my French, Max B and Mac Miller tapes on DatPiff; so that was like a staple for me.
“I kinda try and make sure I explain that, cause for me growing up, I grew up with a whole bunch of VHS tapes that had MTV base’s top ten music videos from the 90s. I didn’t chose to be into American music, the music found me in my house because my mum listened to that shit. When I grew up saying I like Wu Tang more than anyone else, that’s cause in my house I had the Wu Tang tapes, I had Busta Rhymes’ Genesis album in my house. So if I’m listening to Busta Rhymes Genesis, and then like no disrespect to no one, I’m just using an example, I go listen to like JME, its not gonna hit the same, cause I’m not used to none of these beats. I’m not used to this tempo. if anything, because of my older sister, I was a So Solid fan. Like outside of So solid, it was only D Double. It was no one else, It wasn’t really Giggs until high school for me. And before all that, I grew up on Reggae, so you guys were so far away from what I was listening to and what I was taking in.
“I feel like a lot of people went home and they didn’t have parents, that was like music heads. Whereas I wake up and theres music banging, I go home there’s music banging, we wake up Sunday morning music is blasting, we’re cleaning the house. So I’ve always been around music before it was a choice of mine, so by the time I got into it, I couldn’t relate to none of the UK shit still.”
How Did you decide that the New Balance/Foot Locker Collaboration was right for you? How Did it come about?
“You know what man, I was just watching the fashion game how it is, and being honest with it. I’m also a big sneaker head, that still goes back into the Global sports stuff, but i’ve seen them personally grind, and fight for their spot, and reclaim their spot and then create a new spot and now ive never seen this much amount of New Balance on feet ever in my life. For me in the beginning what happened was I wasn’t a big fan of like, all of the 540s and all of the smaller rounder ones, and I’m a big fan of the DMV scene. That area, I was listening to a lot of Yung Gleesh growing up, I started listening to him in like 2015, and because he’s like a heavy trendsetter in the DMV, he was putting me on to 900s. So I would like how these hood dudes wear them, so I was like I damn I didnt even used to fuck with New Balance, but how these guys wear the 900s they look cozy, so used to always tell myself like if I did get into New Balance, it would have to be around that silhouette. Then the 2002’s they’re literally like the same realm, but I like the sole even more than the 900, its just like the more they advanced, and the more they’re going into their archive I’m seeing shoes like oh this is me. And as fashion is advancing, and everything advances, this shit is making way more sense.”
“New Balance are in a beautiful spot right now, when the shoe came about and the colourway, it was just ticking all the boxes. Meeting the guys, everyone on the team because I met them at a few shows, i think it was a show I done in Brighton, or the show I done in Liverpool. I got to meet some of the team beforehand, and everyone I met was lovely, all of them are great guys, really friendly energy and still in the same token, you guys were just the cool kids growing up and now you’re in your business bag, but you’re still the cool guys. And real big hip hop heads, everyone on the New Balance team is amazing to work with. They made me feel real comfortable, shout out to Mad Bad Ting, she’s the DJ I did the campaign with, she was really cool as well, we met at a show we did together at Paris fashion week. So even that, damn we met, and we had a great connection the first time we met and then we got to make some bread together, like oh look at life man! Life’s beautiful still. They were real comfortable with me, some people make me feel like a billboard, and I don’t like feeling like a billboard NASCAR driver, I’m not Jeff Gordon, I don’t like feeling like that.”
The 90s was a very influential decade for you obviously, but what was so influential about the noughties for your style and music?
“I’ll tell you what made it better for me, was I grew up in that era. Fabulous Street Dreams just dropped, I was there. Kiss of Death, I was there, the 90s shit, I couldn’t tell you I was there for Illmatic, but guess what? I was born the year it came out! So everything that came before me I could appreciate it but I wasn’t there you know? Its like any kid that is gonna talk about Corteiz a few years from now, like I personally haven’t gone to all of the tings that all of the kids are running together, but they’re gonna say 10 years from now, if you weren’t there you’re not gonna get it. Like Doggy Style, is one of the best albums of all time, but I wasn’t there when it dropped, so I don’t know how the people reacted.
“Whereas because I was there for a lot of these 2000s drops, even though I was like only five by the time the 2000s came around, I was still tapped in. So it was like I got to see more pivotal albums drop, and beat wise I loved club rap( The Jiggy Era) from the early 2000s, I feel like thats missing. I feel like it was a big pocket that was like there because everyone was in the club having a good time, there was so many records about being in the club and having a good time, i feel like we dont have that no more. I like classic rap. Another thing, when the 2000s hit we thought we were in the future bro, everyone for the first time started making these futuristic sounding shits, and thats all my favourite type of production. The millennium is special bro, we’ve seen it go 2000s, they not gonna get that for another thousand years bro, we’re so blessed. And what happened is the whole art world simultaneously said damn, we gonna make these futuristic type of concepts in art, movies, Matrix, 1999-2001, everyone tried to make what does the future look like? Thats why its my favourite era bro. Cause I’m big into futurism.”
You got a track record of collaborating with producers and doing whole projects with single producers – what is the process behind this? How do you decide who you’re going to do these projects with. how does that come about?
“It really varies, its so easy to get one. But I feel like it looks harder to other people. For me bro, if someone sent me a pack of eight beats today, and I liked all eight Im sending him eight tracks back, thats just how I work. Thats how I work, so anyone I’ve worked with it has probably been boom, oh you sent a pack, oh there’s eight in a pack? My brain already starts thinking of a project. Because a lot of that comes down to paying homage to Doom and Madlib. And Now that Doom is not here, I feel even more of an urgency and a need to keep giving that to people. Like we got Viktor Vaughn, We got Danger Doom, We got Madvillainy, we got JJ Doom. There was so many of those that, that is my favourite rapper growing up, of course Im always gonna pay homage to creating a sound with one producer.
“You can never tell me all of Dooms albums sound the same. Cause they dont, they all sound totally different, and thats what I love about it being one producer. I found this producer that nobody knows and we made a whole new sound, that sounds so different I can make an album and it might not be appreciated for 50 years, thats why being a visionary and making a sound is so much cooler than, damn he just done a song DJ Premier, I would love to do that, we know he’s a legend. On the possibility scale of how good the song is gonna be, we know its probably gonna be good right this guy is a legend. Bring me a producer that you never heard of before, and guess what he gives you the greatest beats you ever heard, now lets add another branch to the tree of rap, and now he’s got a journey. I wanna make the next pioneers, you know what Im saying? I wanna rap with the next Dilla’s and Madlibs, I wanna rap with them guys, and I’m gonna rap with them guys, but I wanna rap with the next ones, I wanna find the next ones and be responsible for giving them a platform.”
What are some of your highlight on Jogo Bonito?
“Change I really love the outro cause I did some Cudi hums on there. I just like how the vibration hits on the track, it just hits different, its real chanty. For me, my favourite on there is mission statement. Because its an actual mission statement, like if you read it its an actual mission statement, what I’m rapping on in that song iI’m really touching on the basis of life. I’m talking about all the patterns and behaviours that we have that we use to react to everything in life, how all of these come from half of the traumas that we grew up with but we underestimated how deep the traumas was at the time, you know what im saying, patterns and behaviours growing up.
“This is the first album where I didn’t get to listen to all the masters till the album came out. And I remember putting it in the headphones, and me personally, I pulled back Mission Statement like six times. I’m doing the adlibs, the falsettos in the back, I’m like nah bro, them songs get me going like stop playing with me bruv!I love that song, Mission statement makes me go crazy bro.”
Are there any UK producers that we can expect to see you working with in the near future?
“Yeah, the next project. Me and Dre The Ski Mask. This is another one, that is one of my favourite albums of all time. I’ve been working on this album for five years, Dre The Ski Mask, underground goat, underground legend. He’s been cooling off in LA for like two years now, but that is one of my favourite dudes in this shit. Me and Black Josh performed at his Birthday party together you know what I mean? This is my dude, and when it comes to sounds, I’ll tell you off the bat, I never make an album on purpose, like yo, lets try and make an album like this and gives this feeling. But this was the first time where both of us collectively was like you know what? Lets make a UK madvillainy bro, and like really take it there and make it abstract as fuck, but then speak my heart and soul out. So for me, thats why its one of my most favourites because production aside, where production is already beautiful, the bag im in with my pen is probably the meanest i’ve ever been in. Its the pen for, the pen is going stupid on that one, I got some real abstract shit on that one, I got a song called Sonnet 76. Sonnet 76 is the poem, that Shakespeare wrote and it was believed that he wrote it while he was on weed. When they were excavating his back garden they found some pipes in his back garden that had extracts of weed in. So I was like my boy Shakespeare, hes a gas head, alright bet, let me write this song dedicated to Shakespeare.”
You’ve been prolific with your output since the beginning, its obviously a big advantage, especially in todays market with the way people consume music so fast. Was it intentional that you were gonna be prolific with your releases? Or did it happen organically.
“It came out like that, but both. I also gotta give him my props, i always forget to give my props, this is the reason why I got two features with the man, Lil B. Lil B, his work rate inspired me, out of everything. In Lil B’s heyday, Lil B was doing like 300,000 a video we talking 2010, but he dropped a video two weeks, that he shot himself. He would drop a mixtape every month, pink flame, blue flame, 05 fuck em. And then the tapes would be 3 hours long, 05 fuck em was legendary moment in rap, for the underground, he dropped a mixtape with 500 songs. Of course I listened to every fucking song bro! you feel me? Cause that’s a legend. People are like quality/ quantity. Okay, guess what he’s automatically in his own realm cause no one else had dropped 500 track tape that you can compare it to. Regardless of whether or not the music is good, who else has done it?”
Do you ever worry about over saturating the market by dropping too much music?
“Nope. I don’t believe it, I’m going to fight my hardest to change that. I don’t believe it for one second. I don’t rap worse, every song I make is better than my last so, if I start putting out more music, when no one else is dropping anything great, how can I be over- saturating? If i got everything prepared to go along with the project, videos are there, everything’s there to the quality and the quality is not being sacrificed. How can you over-saturate? Bro I dont believe in it, cause who is over saturating right now? You know what I mean?
“If Kendrick dropped every two months you think people would be like bro you’re over saturating? Or would they be like, yo he’s in his bag again. I been listening to Larry June since 2015, Larry has never missed, Larry dropped like three-four projects a year, but he never missed to me. So again, its about the ones who can actually do that on a consistent basis. I dont believe in the market being saturated, I believe in let me put my foot on you lots necks, same way, when Lil wayne was dropping a remix to every hot song that came out, did anyone ever say Yo Lil Wayne can you chill out with these remixes? Because you’re doing too much, or did he body half of those and make the song his.
We can never know till its been tried and done, till I over saturate, and we know what that feeling feels like I dont believe in it. I believe I can drop 6 tapes, why cause I done that in like 2016, and it was no over saturation, it was the year of the AP, thats what happened, we took over, I flooded the market.”
What can we expect from the next album?
“Greatness. Some of the beats I’m sitting on, they’re legendary. On paper its out the water, we’re out the park. Blending the Andre with the Denaglo, Deangelo 3000 thats the bag Im trying to be in for this album with a hint of snoop, Doom and Nate too. Doom is always gonna be in there, hint of Dilla Raps, Thats the bag that I’m gonna be on for the album. All the genres that I make, that people haven’t heard yet, ill put maybe one or two of those, I got one house beat that I’m working on right now. I wanna put one beat that I made myself last year in Berlin, I wanna put that on the tape. Another one of my goals is to just have one of my own beats on there, just one. It would be a big dream of mine to have one of my own beats on my first album, because it would inspire me to get more on the next one, and just make more in general.
Im just gonna make greatness, Im just gonna make everyone proud, everyone that’s heard me speak my bullshit, thats heard me speak my cocky mike tyson energy, we gone show and prove, like here you go, fuck you guys! I made greatness.”
Words: Seth Pereira
Photography: Ian Wilkinson
Video: Luke Boland