Lord Apex talks inspirations, touring with Freddie Gibbs and fusing New York and UK Hip-Hop
By Evelyn White
‘Apex’ is a word meaning ‘the highest point of achievement’, according to the Oxford dictionary. Evidently, Lord Apex intends to live up to his name. Already on a UK tour and set to support Freddie Gibbs in Europe, the West London-born artist is gaining recognition from renowned musicians across the globe (his song ‘Em3’ boasts a feature on Frank Ocean’s ‘blonded’ playlist on Spotify).
Initially utilising free streaming platforms, Apex has racked up more than 7 million views on his Youtube channel alone. He wants me to know that his music is as heartfelt and honest as it is unique.
“No two projects sound like the last,” he tells me in his East End flat that’s dotted with some of his favourite vinyl, childhood photos and an impressive streetwear clothing collection. At one point, AP’s cat Nudy (named after rapper Young Nudy) jumps up and sits on his record player, curiously observing Apex testing out bass samples for a beat he’s started making.
A nostalgia reminiscent of J Dilla and MF Doom unifies his sound: “Those are the goats, man. They were some early influences I remember from my teens.” Proving an unparalleled personal style through freestyles and improvisations, Apex explains that ‘Speak for Yourself’ from Smoke Sessions 3 was completely improvised. “I just put the mic on and the phrase was just the first thing that came to mind.”
“Whether you think it is or not: everything is a competition… If we’re on stage together, then it's a competition”
The Kanye West documentary jeen-yuhs plays on mute in the background. “I’m not stopping, I’m going to take over everything. I’ve been watching too much Kanye!” he tells me.
It’s clear that Lord Apex values artistic independence, praising D Double E for his unique style, carrying this admiration into his own work. Exuding pride in his first self-released album Smoke Sessions 3 (2021) and an expressed focus on perfecting his own production skills means we should expect new music produced by Apex himself. Visibly delighted at my observation of his quest to become a producer/rapper in the opposite way to how Kanye West started his career, he agrees, “Exactly! I'm on my reverse Ye. That's how my story is going right now.”
Do you see yourself as a kind of bridge between New York and UK Hip-Hop?
LA: “I'm definitely the bridge between the UK and the States … I kinda realised it one day. I was like, ‘You know what, I'm gonna be the bridge guy!’ It really started with a box of video tapes that I had in my room as a kid. When [my mum] was in her teens, she would record the MTV top ten music videos. So I had a whole bunch of these 90s videos and I remember seeing Big L ‘Put it On’ aged four or five years old.A lot of my early influences came from videotapes that I found in my house and then it just birthed a love of rap. My mum was a Wu-Tang, Busta Rhymes, Mos Def and Missy Elliot fan, so she’d play a lot of that. Outside of that it was reggae - it was the first music I heard before the UK stuff. I didn't really hear [any] UK shit ‘til, like, So Solid [Crew].”
What was it like growing up in West London as a young kid into music?
LA: “Growing up in West London doing music was different because what I was doing there no one [else] doing was. But I kind of had an advantage using Soundcloud because not everyone was using it, and [it was] a universal [music platform]. I had a lot of American followers on there so I could go about my day and not tell people in my hood. Then it slowly started to pick up. People would come up to me like, ‘Yo Sham, you doing music?’. It was just a snowball effect, but it was cool because I could stay out of the way. Props to MF Doom - seeing how you can just put music out but not have your image out there just yet. I like that.
Tell me a bit about how it was to work with producers like Cookin Soul, V Don and The Kount …
LA: “What’s beautiful about working with The Kount is that he’s gotten really crazy right now. I'm super proud of him and all the progress he’s made in his career. He was the first producer where when he sends me beats, everything is done. Every time he sends me something it’s done - full production, mixed and mastered. I’ve gotta give a lot of props to him because he’s the second person to get me in my singing bag. ‘Sunny Daze’ definitely did a lot for me and we got another album on the way. V Don was sick, he’s used to working with more street guys. I kinda opened his mind to a more conscious approach.”
“I'm definitely the bridge between the UK and the States … I kinda realised it one day. I was like: ‘You know what, I'm gonna be the bridge guy!’”
Congratulations on the EU tour with Freddie Gibbs! Is there anything we can expect from the upcoming shows?
LA: “Freddie Gibbs was already one of my favourite rappers. He’s been one of my favourites. I heard Gunna is dissing Freddie and we ain't even gone on tour yet! Life doesn't even seem too real right now. I’m hoping that this tour [will] put it on for the whole of the UK and let him know as well as anyone else ‘We can really be on stage with you lot.’ He might have to be careful when I come on at the end of my sets because I get moshy in my shows. I’m called Apex, everything is competition. Whether you think it is or not, everything is a competition… If we’re on stage together, then it's a competition.”
What are some of your proudest moments as an artist?
LA: “I really have a hard time enjoying my success… There's definitely times I could pinpoint, but I feel like even in the moment I didn't really celebrate them how I wanted to. A big one was putting out my first independent album. Shit, what else was a proud moment? Everything I'm doing just looks miniscule in the grand scheme of where I’m tryna take this. I ain’t even got time to celebrate right now, we’re still moving! I got 15 projects locked and loaded, I got four more coming this year. I might drop a beat tape this year and we’re not stopping!
Lord Apex’s joint album with Cookin’ Soul ‘Off the Strength’ is available on all major streaming platforms.
Book tickets to see Lord Apex on his UK tour: https://tix.to/LordApex