I hate to invoke Eminem‘s name whenever discussing a white emcee, but his supreme talent and his gift/curse to pen pop hits has, for better or worse, changed hip-hop’s landscape. Oftentimes white emcees only break onto the scene after they’re cosigned by a respected black artist. But in the case of Apathy, founding member of the Demigodz (a crew that also includes Styles of Beyond, Celph Titled and 7L & Esoteric), it seems raw skill may again be the determining factor in a white emcee’s success.
He already has one foot in the door. Atlantic signed Apathy, but a release date for this Connecticut resident’s major-label debut hasn’t yet been set. He’s been flipping mixtapes to keep his name bubbling in the underground circuit, and the Eastern Philosophy full-length is a return to his indie roots. If anything, it should reaffirm Atlantic’s people that they have invested their money wisely.
In the purest sense, Apathy is a lyricist — and a dope one at that — who’s well versed in the East Coast school of thought. Primarily known as a battle rapper, Apathy proves he can roll down the conceptual route with everyone’s favorite drug on “Chemical,” and he paints a picture through the eyes of a dollar bill on “The Buck Stops Here.” Using a sample from the classic “Top Billin’ ” to cover the chorus, Apathy spits “Everybody touched one, whether rich or poor/ you probably got a dollar in your birthday card before/ but days before it could have been used to pay for whores.”
The production attempts to invoke the spirits of the golden era, sampling the East Coast gods Jay-Z, B.I.G. and Nas. The nostalgia factor is both a plus and a target for criticism. We all like to rap along to our favorite lyrics of yesteryear, but Apathy blurs the line between paying homage to the past and defining himself as an artist. Unfortunately, tracks such as the Jay-Z-assisted “9 to 5” is much like Cassidy’s “I’m a Hustla”: The song’s appeal has less to do with Apathy and more to do with the infectious use of Hova’s vocals.
There is little doubt that Apathy can spit, but the transition from battle rapper/freestyler to major-label artist has put many heads to bed. It is even more difficult to balance the true principals of hip-hop and, as Apathy puts it on “Here Come the Gangstas,” to “write the right song that will get me rich.” Ultimately, Apathy’s words foreshadow Eastern Philosophy‘s persisting flaw, but I can only hope the pressure to find that “hit” won’t prevent the real Apathy from standing up on his Atlantic Records debut.