Apollo Brown is a critically acclaimed underground Detroit hip hop producer. Apollo's credo is simple: "Everything I make, I try to make it my favorite album of all time."
Apollo Brown

Apollo Brown & Ugly Heroes

Lectures : Panels : Workshops
Lisa Maxfield


It was the mid-2000s, and the upstart producer saw no future for his work- work he had dedicated his life to -in an industry where radio was setting a formulaic pattern for mainstream music. But he eventually began to miss the creativity in his craft and began producing once again, releasing the instrumental albums Skilled Trade (2007) and Make Do (2009). Apollo was soon in high demand, collaborating with Detroiters Finale, MaGestiK LeGenD, Danny Brown, Paradime, and Kam Moye aka Supastition. He went on in 2009 to win the Detroit Red Bull Big Tune Championships and competed in the national finals. Apollo then signed as a producer with the Mello Music Group in December of 2009, just a week after signing, he was laid off from his job.

"Beautiful," was Apollo's reaction, as he viewed the layoff as a blessing and prepared for what he terms his "one-year plan." Things started off with The Reset, a series of reworked tracks in true remix tradition, with new music and arrangements for verses by Rapper Big Pooh of Little Brother, Black Milk, MED, Grap Luva, label-mates Kenn Starr, Oddisee and Diamond District, along with a host of others. Next up was Brown Study (Lp) with Boog Brown which features Miz Korona, Invincible, Kam Moye, and Kenn Starr.  When the long-awaited Gas Mask LP (The Left) took the stage in late October 2010 Apollo cemented his place as one of the games best new producers. Then early in 2011 Apollo released his first MMG instrumental album, Clouds, and dominated best of lists at the end of the year.  2011 also saw the release of the album from Daily Bread with Rochester, New York MC Hassaan Mackey.

Apollo Brown, Verbal Kent, and Red Pill are UGLY HEROES. An Ugly Hero is considered a myth. Growing up, the heroes we saw in cartoons and movies were perfectly chiseled, intelligent, and had senses none of us possess. An UGLY HERO is the everyday blue collar individual that makes the world go 'round. These are the heroes that work hard all day, everyday to help ensure that the lives around them are taken care of, and do it all without recognition. They wear themselves into the ground and sacrifice vanity for family. May 28, 2013 release - Mello Music Group

Someone once said that life's a gamble. Kinda like shootin dice in an alley. The risk is high but the gain is higher, and when it's all said and done, you hold your breath and collect your dues. With lyrics that grip like a handful of ones, and beats that hit like ivory on cement, this album is just that, a Dice Game. November 13, 2012 release - Mello Music Group

2013 Ugly Heroes (Apollo Brown, Verbal Kent, Red Pill)
2012 Apollo Brown & Guilty Simpson – Dice Game
2012 Apollo Brown & O.C. – Trophies
2011 Hassaan Mackey & Apollo Brown – Daily Bread
2011 Apollo Brown – Clouds
2010 The Left – Gas Mask
2010 Boog Brown & Apollo Brown – Brown Study
2010 Apollo Brown – The Reset
2009 Apollo Brown – Make Do
2007 Apollo Brown – Skilled Trade

11.13.12 ihiphop.com - Album Review: Apollo Brown & Guilty Simpson “Dice Game"
Not wasting any time with campy skits or frilly hooks, Dice Game offers up the kind of thoughtful, raw, enlightened album that true hip-hop consumers yearn for. Record player crackle can be heard throughout Dice Game, reminding us that Apollo Brown has not abandoned his affection for gritty, soulful nostalgia. Combined with lean, hard-hitting beats and Guilty Simpson’s confident and often solemn lyrics, this Motor City duo will undoubtedly receive the underground recognition it deserves but not much in the way of commercial success.

Albums like Trophies (Apollo Brown & OC) and OJ Simpson (Madlib & Guilty Simpson) garnered praise for both Apollo and Guilty, and here we see them come together successfully. Apollo’s production is so powerful, though, that it tends to overpower Guilty at times. This is not to say that Guilty’s vocals aren’t strong (“I heard you rappers don't like me but I bet a grand won’t fight me / I might blackout, pull a mack out, clap out, and swiss cheese your little trap out”), it’s just sometimes feels more like a tug of war than a collaboration. So inspired and thought-provoking is the production, it feels like I have to choose between the music and the rhymes, especially on “Wrong Hand” and “Nasty [ft. Planet Asia],” which are some of Brown’s best. It’s also just loud and cacophonous at times, causing the vocal on the hook to get lost slightly, which may or may not be intentional.

That said, having these two come together is impressive and full of the type of creative angst we see come out of Detroit. The album kicks off with “Reputation”, a nod to the city where Guilty spits “I’m from where you gotta earn as far as the block’s concerned, the rubber they burn in Cadillac whips / Been through more shit than catfish, home of the amazon big body black chicks.” “The Cook Up” is another street banger and arguably one of the best cuts on the album. Brown, who came up with Bronze Nazareth, is clearly Wu-inspired on tracks like “Let’s Play” (an effortlessly sexy joint about getting busy), “Potatoes” (featuring Torae), and “I Can Do No Wrong,” which has a mellow feel with deliberate and wise rhymes like “Experience speaks volumes to those that try hearin’ it / Chill and burn something, you might learn somethin”. Wisdom seems to be a recurring theme, as displayed on “Neverending Story” and “Lose You” (“We don’t deal in deception / We share truth through reflection”), a strong track where Guilty spits extra lean verses on top of a beautiful piano instrumental and deep, moving choir vocals. Another common theme – change – is explored on “Truth Be Told”, “How Will I Go”, “Change”, and “Dear Jane”, with the latter two specifically addressing struggles with addiction.

It’s refreshing and impressive that Brown and Simpson carefully chose only two MCs to feature briefly on the album, neither of which is very well known in the mainstream, further crediting their dedication to the art of hip-hop over the pursuit of fame and fortune. Apollo fans first heard the instrumental for “Potatoes” in 2011, but Simpson and Brooklyn-bred Torae add new elements that tighten this track up perfectly. “Nasty” features another welcome appearance, this time from underground mastermind Planet Asia. Again, this beat might be the album’s best, but it does overpower the lyricists at time, which is unfortunate for obvious reasons. It’s worth a careful listen, though, because PA delivers as usual.

Presence of the tambourine, flute, organ, violin, cello, piano, and throwback samples like the Temptations’ “Let Your Hair Down” indicate this album is as underground as they come. They just don’t make ‘em like this much anymore, because most of today’s artists follow a very specific and disappointing formula that is a complete departure from what hip-hop used to be – music for and from the heart of the street. After a hiatus a few years ago, Apollo decided to rededicate himself to producing music, and aspired to become a household name in the realm of hip-hop. I’m not sure if that dream will come true, but teaming up with Simpson, who “wants to make the consumer care about the music again,” is definitely a win for them as well as us.

01.08.13 HIPHOPDX.COM DJ Premier Names His Top 20 Albums Of 2012
DJ Premier has kept his annual tradition alive by releasing a year-end list of his top 20 favorite albums of 2012. For this year's shortlist, Primo includes a handful of records for which he produced - Vinnie Paz's God of the Serengeti, Bumpy Knuckles' KoleXXXion, Lil Fame & Termanology's Fizzyology - as well as a handful of others. Making the cut are Roc Marciano's Reloaded, Kendrick Lamar's good kid, m.A.A.d city, Rick Ross' God Forgives, I Don't and more.
01. O.C. & Apollo Brown – Trophies
02. DJ Premier & Bumpy Knuckles – Kolexxxion
03. Nas – Life Is Good
04. Showbiz & A.G. – Mugshot Music (Preloaded)
05. Wu-Block – Wu-Block
06. Sean Price – Mic Tyson
07. 9th Wonder & Murs – The Final Adventure
08. Action Bronson & Alchemist – Rare Chandeliers
09. Kendrick Lamar – good kid, m.A.A.d. city
10. Rick Ross – God Forgives, I Don’t
11. Lil Fame & Termanology – Fizzyology
12. Vinnie Paz – Gods Of The Serengeti
13. Public Enemy – Most Of My Heroes Still Don’t Appear On No Stamp
14. 9th Wonder & Buckshot – The Solution
15. Roc Marciano – Reloaded
16. Masta Ace & MF DOOM – MA_DOOM: Son Of Yvonne
17. Skyzoo – A Dream Deferred
18. Slaughterhouse – Welcome To Our House
19. Saigon – Greatest Story Never Told Pt. 2: Breads And Circuses
20. Torae – Off The Record 
Honorable Mentioning: Mayhem Lauren “Mandatory Brunch Meetings”, Fresh Vetz “The Tape Effect”, Killer Mike “R.A.P. Music”, Nutso “Behind These Bars”, Craig G. “Ramblings Of An Angry Old Man”, Big Shug “I.M.4Eva”, La Coka Nostra “Masters Of The Dark Arts”, Ice Water (aka WOADAH) “Holy Water”, Bishop Lamont “The Layover”, 1982 “2012″, Apollo Brown & Guilty Simpson “Dice Game”, Large Professor “Professor @ Large”.
Lisa Maxfield