Friday, March 5, 2010

APEX Interview

APEX is a Pittsburgh rap duo that has been skyrocketing through the local hip-hop scene. Based on their rhyming and performance skills, it's evident that Aris and Pre-Sense have put in the time and effort required to develop one's craft. But these aren't your average here today, gone tomorrow MC's. Their hip-hop education dates back to the late 1980's, as it should, and their resumes show more than a decade of experience in destroying microphones.

Rory Webb: How were you introduced to hip-hop?

Aris: Believe it or not my mom influenced me very much with the music she listen to. She used to enjoy a lot of Rnb/Hip Hop infused music. I remember her listening to Michael Jackson, Will Smith, New Edition, Prince and others. My Dad was more into Billy Joel and Frank Sinatra type artists. All music has had some kind of impression on me though. I was also introduced to hip hop through Mtv and other sources of media I guess. The first Hip Hop albums I remember getting were Public Enemy - Fear of a Black Planet, Redman - Whut Thee Album, 3rd Base - The Cactus Album. and LL Cool J - Mama Said Knock You Out. Was a huge fan of those artist growing up among others.

Pre-Sense: I am four years younger than Aris, so when I was ten years old, he was fourteen. If you think about how much you grew in maturity and experience from the time you were ten years old to fourteen, it becomes a big age gap. Four years younger or older doesn’t mean much at the age we are now, but when you’re young, it really is a huge gap. I was the little kid who looked up to the older brother, or in this case, cousin, Aris. He was the one who really introduced me to a lot of hip-hop. Of course there was MTV and radio, which was totally awesome back then, but Aris would introduce me to so much more than media outlets ever did. And moreover, it was the experience of listening to it with your crew and watching the effect it had on everyone. I can remember listening to NWA, Public Enemy, DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince, and so many more, all of these were introduced to me by Aris, he always seemed to have all the cassettes and CD’s. He introduced a lot to me at an early age, some good, some bad. (haha)

RW: What inspired each of you to be an MC?

Aris: The culture itself…I loved the message, break dancing (although I was never good at it), the beats, the style, and I thought the artist were cool as hell! I could relate to some, not all, but some of the things they’d talk about more than any other genre. I just love the music…it’s what I grew up on. New Castle actually produced these Artists by the name of “Slo Motion”. I remember hearing them for the first time and seeing they had a legit CD printed up…they sounded pretty good. That also influenced me and made me understand that it was possible for us to do the same.

Pre-Sense: I think I just always had a want to be heard. I would listen to albums so thoroughly that I literally knew every word to every song. I would place myself in these artist shoes and really try to portray the effect that they were having on their fans. I was so taken in by the music, I felt like it defined me, it’s something that separated me from my other friends, I was the one who rapped. It was my passion, and like any passion, you try to put your passion into motion, so that’s what I did. Some people just listen to music, though I don’t have a word to describe it, but what I did with music was much more than just listen. I really dove in and sometimes envisioned myself being that artist and how the world would react to me, I glorified it. I wanted to be it, so that’s what I did.

RW: You’ve been doing live performances for about 12 years now. Can you talk about any particularly memorable shows that you were a part of?

Aris: For me…it was just starting out. I’m originally from New Castle (I currently reside in Ambridge, Pa) and in New Castle there was never much of a Hip Hop scene. There are Hip Hop artists but nowhere really for us to display our talents. Anyway, when we started out, we’d do shows where we were opening for rock cover bands. The Live Animals was the first group to let us open up for them. We performed at a venue called the BOMB SHELTER (no longer in business). We were playing for people who were older than us for the most part and not that much into what we were doing. Bikers and shit! But we grew and we got to hone our performing skills in the process.

Pre-Sense: There is nothing more memorable to me than what we are doing right now. These shows that we have been doing with all these artists, such as Common Wealth Family, Ayatollah Jaxx, Divine Seven, Verbs, Vaig, and the list goes on, it’s just awesome to me. To be a part of a movement and tear down these venues week after week, it’s just something I will never forget. It’s going to be such a memorable part of my life, because right now, I feel like we are all really making an impact, right now I could walk off stage and stand in the crowd as a fan and watch these other Pittsburgh artists and be a true fan, not just a fan “because,” but a true fan. We are in these venues week after week, sometimes day after day, in the light shows, fog machines, and huge sounds, it’s a great feeling. So right now, these are the most memorable shows I have been a part of. Pittsburgh is in the building, literally!

RW: During the 18 months between the releases of Face the Musik and Struggle City, what elements of your music did you strive to improve on most?

Aris: Me personally…everything. I just feel that you can never stop improving as an individual, or at your craft, so I’m always trying to better myself in some way. I always feel I can improve my writing, be more lyrical, my cadence, delivery, and at the same time give the people, our fans, something they can relate to or enjoy at any point in time in their lives.

Pre-Sense: EVERYTHING, from the shows, the beats, the lyrics, the content, the arrangement, the vocals, the hustle, so on and so on. I feel like we did a pretty good job at it too. I was really trying to improve on the way I put words together. Throughout the “Face The Musik” album, I did 99% of the writing for that album in my head. But with this “Struggle City” album I actually sat down to pen these verses except in the earlier stages of recording for this album, so I’d say 3 to 4 songs were written in my head, without paper, but I’m really enjoying the actual writing as of late. The thing I would like to work on most is trying to get out everything I feel in my heart into a song, I do a good job of it, but when I sit down and listen to some of these great artists, they seem to do it with so much ease. I’m getting there, but I think that’s my biggest weakness, maybe because I have so much in my heart and in my head, that it gets tough to sift through all these thoughts and feelings, I’m getting there though, you watch and listen to our next project!

RW: Your producer of choice has been Czientist, of Germany. How has the partnership developed since the first collaboration?

Aris: Well…I located Czi through Myspace and he was a cool kat right out the gate. He’s just good people. He’s always had our backs 100%. Our relationship I guess has developed as much as it can when your conversation consists of nothing but text but we’d obviously love to meet him in person someday and just throw back some Beck‘s, let him try some Iron City and shoot the shit. I do think we’ve all improved in some way or another as artists. Czientist is an incredible, inspiring producer and we hope to continue working with him for years to come.

Pre-Sense: Czientist, Czientist, Czientist, two words…ill producer! There aren’t too many producers that make me want to write, not just want to write, but need to write. Some of Czientists production, when I listen to it, I need to write. Aside from production, he is an awesome dude. Though we haven’t met face to face yet, we talk through this worldwide connection called the internet all the time. He has become a friend, he does a lot to help us out too. You can get beats from anywhere, but I know that Czientist actually believes in us and will do his best to promote us. Aris actually found Czientist on MySpace, he digs hard to find great producers and great ways to get our music out there, so props to Aris, his hustle is extremely intense. So from the first song that we recorded on a Czientist beat, which I believe it was “The City,” it has transformed into a great friendship and respect for each others talents.

RW: In the past, hip-hop duo’s have had commercial success – EPMD, Mobb Deep, OutKast, UGK. Why do you think groups are such a rarity in mainstream hip-hop today?

Aris: I think it’s hard to maintain any kind of a group relationship. Egos get in the way, differences of opinion, money, what have you. People also want to explore themselves and maybe take their careers in a different direction than the other individual. I’m not sure if mainstream, underground, or whatever the case, plays any kind of direct role in why the group entity is such a rarity.
By the way, I'm a huge fan of all the artists you mentioned. They inspire us every day to do what we do.

Pre-Sense: I miss groups. Some of my favorite artists were groups. Mobb Deep, A Tribe Called Quest, Wu-Tang Clan, The Roots, Outkast I just miss it. I don’t know if it has to do with greed or not, or maybe the struggle of working with a group, because it can get tough when everybody has different ideas and directions they want to head. But nobody seems to be in groups anymore. I think it’s a great thing when people can work together. Apex is not without its struggles and fights, Aris has ideas, and I may have different, sometimes his ideas are better, sometimes mine may be better. Whatever the case is, we always seem to work it out and get out what needs to be out. I always hear in my head what I want to hear before a song is recorded, Aris may hear something different. It frustrates us sometimes, but at the end of the day, I think it adds a lot to our music. I couldn’t imagine doing this by myself, it wouldn’t be nearly as fun. I encourage groups. Bring back the groups! (I’m going to listen to Mobb Deeps “Murda Musik” now.)

Real quick, I just wanna say thanks to you for doing what you’re doing for the Pittsburgh Hip Hop scene. Its greatly appreciated. We also wanna thank everyone, fans, friends, and family, who’ve been supporting us throughout the years and everyone who continues to support this hip hop movement. Thanks to all the artists who are part of this movement for contributing your art and inspiring us to move forward and chase our dream. We’re extremely grateful to all of you.

Struggle City is now available on iTunes and

Their debut album, Face the Musik, can also be found on iTunes or

APEX featuring Ayatollah Jaxx - "Bullet In My Heart," from the album Face the Musik

APEX - "Get Ready," from the album Struggle City

APEX featuring Beedie & Mac Miller - "Going Underground, from the album Struggle City

1 comment:

donnie gould said...

Yo luv the interview! Y'all speak from the heart and I luv that! Keep keepin on, and keep making that fire!!!! Luv y'all