The Main Rock Records owner and artists talks in great detail about his political concept album in the making, the scenes reaction to his debut EP release and industry politics that get on his tits.
For those that don't know, who are you and how did you get into making hip-hop?
My names Apocraphe the Unstoppable Don, aka Apoc the Main Rock. I got into hiphop originally, like a lot of people, through graf, and just naturally kinda gravitated towards the music and culture that was attached to it. Art has never been my strong point tho, so I kinda slowly started moving towards the emceeing side – I've always been good with words and emcee friends of mine would ask me for rhyming words and stuff so I just ended up starting to write my own rhymes, and it just went from there.
What have you released so far and what are you working on to drop next?
As an artist I'm two releases in – my first 3 track single 'The Many Lives of Apoc the Main Rock' and my new EP 'Long Don Spilverbs'. I'm just drawing together all the bits and pieces to start seriously working on my first album now, a concept album entitled 'Prison Earth' but for me it's about progression from piece to piece so I'm not pressuring myself on it – I want the album to happen at its own pace so as to really do each track and the album as a whole justice.
How did you find the reaction of the UK hip-hop community to your EP 'Long Don Spilverbs'?
It was definitely split and there didn't seem to be any middle ground – people either loved it, thought it was really amazing and something real fresh and original, or just didn't get it at all and didn't feel it all, but then again that's hiphop for ya – it amazes me what some people think is super-dope, and what other people hate on and I know that's the same throughout the community worldwide – different strokes and all that.
There's a track called 'Peace Through War' on there. Is there any other politically focused tracks in your vault and who'd you say was the most articulate 'conscious rapper'?
Look out for a re-lick of Hijack's 'The Badman is Robbin' I've just done for Reality? from Realbeats called 'The Bushman is Robbin' – I'm real pleased with that – plus the whole album is gonna be about the way we're giving up our civil liberties on a constant day-to-day level and where that's gonna lead us to so you can expect plenty more material talking about the social situations and political bullshit from me trust. As for who is the most articulate 'conscious rapper', that seems like a crazily hard question to answer. Probably Chuck D cus he embodied the political arm of hiphop at its most powerful and prominent but with a style clear and simple enough to be easily accessible and easy to grasp. I think Pharoahs track 'Agent Orange' is an incredibly powerful and motivating example of music with a message – I'm still bumping that track hard and it still makes me want to take it to the streets every time I hear it!
What do you think of the domestic scene in general and what's been your favourite release of 2004?
I hate this question! The domestic scene is simply an enclosed representation of the scene worldwide – there are some incredibly talented people not getting an inch of the shine they deserve, some incredibly mediocre people getting far more shine than they should, some people getting just what they deserve, positive or negative.
It's just the shine that's being fought over is much smaller, know what I mean? I think there are some people putting in incredible amounts of work for love and I hope that pays off but I'm not holding my breath for the day when all those deserving to be are eating off this – I hope it happens but we'll wait and see. As for favourite UK release this year, it's gotta be the Lewis Parker and Yungun EP just for the funky fresh cover alone.
Who's your favourite rappers and producers from either side of the pond?
I know it sounds obvious but all the artists on the label – I feel blessed to be around so much talent and I mean that without a doubt. Outside of that people like Troy Scalpels, Jehst, Hard-Livin, Ghost, Skeptic, Foreign Beggers, The Colony, Associated Minds, Hard-Livin, The Last Skeptik and enough others I'm bound to have forgotten. From the US people like Aceyalone, Pharoah Monch, Ghostface, Ill Bill, Madlib, Doom, Grimm, Nas, and the new Sabac Red album is pure fire! I can see that growing and growing on me.
Are you just an artist on Main Rock Records of are you one of the top doggs?
I run the label – I originally was setting it up to release my own material but when I looked around and saw the number of quality artists who weren't getting the exposure and breaks, and decent treatment on top, that they deserved I decided to enlarge the operation and move it outside of just being about me, so I got the cash together, put together a proper company, and it's all grown from there.
I really liked what I read of the mission statement on the label websites. Got any examples of hiphop politics you guys prefer to avoid?
Definitely this whole black/white hiphop thing that's going on which is just so ridiculous I aint even prepared to talk about it. Other than that I guess the delight people seem to take in labelling the music into sub-genres that they can then cuss, all that kind of thing.
It really degrades hiphop as a culture and movement – it really gets to me sometimes, gets me down, but I just look at all the positive moves that are being made, all the incredible music I see being crafted with love all around me, and it lifts me back up.
Who generally handles the production of your tracks?
My main producer is DJ Dise who, trust me, you are gonna be hearing big things from – expect him to be holding down a good ¾ of the new album. Guests-wise it's all about people like Mr Serve, Cappo, Zero Theory, plus maybe a couple of others too.
What's usually the process of getting a track completed? Do your lyrics come first or do you start with a beat?
When I first started I just wrote rhymes all the time, I mean literally all the time – I was always writing. Then I'd just fit it over beats. These days though I don't wanna just be doing random verses over beats, linking em with a chorus – I wanna be crafting songs, making something whole and
complete so I almost always get the beat then write over that.
I've got a couple of the tunes for the album done but I'm not writing anything more for it until I've got all the beats together and sorted out their order on the album – linked the track concepts to beats. The album's gonna be a story as a whole and the beats have to be able to tell the bones of that before I even start fleshing it out.
When I heard the flow on some of the EP tracks it caught my attention pretty quickly. How'd you describe it and is that how you naturally rap words or did you work on a particular style?
When I set out in this game I set out to create a totally unique style, something fresh and original and I really feel I've done that. I don't think people can point at me and say 'you sound like this cat' or 'you sound like a mixture of this guy and this guy' cos I just don't – I sound like me and I'm real pleased to have achieved that. I definitely crafted my flow and my style – in fact I'm still crafting it now, and I'll be shaping it and moulding it for as long as I'm rhyming. I don't know how to describe it – it's something too integral to me, something I'm too much a part of to step outside of – I hope it's original and fresh, different but in tune with the culture still. That's what I'm aiming to achieve, and what I'll keep striving for.