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Apollo Brown

Apollo Brown is different than most producers. He grew up on the Seals and Crofts—not the Isley Brothers—version of “Summer Breeze.” Born into a bi-racial family in Grand Rapids, Michigan, his early influences skewed more toward the music of Journey and The Carpenters than the urban genres his peers often cite as inspiration. This is not to say that once hip-hop came into play, Apollo wasn’t all in. Just as easily as he can praise the virtues of yacht rock, the 29-year-old beatsmith can name personal heroes—Gang Starr, Wu-Tang, Mobb Deep, M.O.P., Nas, and Black Moon—from the early 90s period in which, for him, beats and rhymes became life.

Apollo began making his own music in 1996 using now-archaic Voyetra audio software, then upgraded to Cool Edit 2000 in becoming a self-described bedroom beat-maker for roughly the next eight years. After graduating from Michigan State University with a degree in business administration, he moved to the west side of Detroit and immersed himself in the local hip-hop community, forming the Black Day in July production crew with high school classmate and Wu-Tang affiliate Bronze Nazareth. When the pair branched off into individual work, Apollo relocated to the east side of the Motor City and continued to build before becoming disenchanted with music and stepping away from production for two years.

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, having left Michigan in late 2007 to take a position as a property inspector in Cleveland, Ohio. 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.” Starting things off was 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, labelmates Kenn Starr, Oddisee and Diamond District, along with a host of others. It earned him a spot on About.com's top 10 of 2010 List. He then dropped the 2010 collaboration Brown Study album as half of the group Brown Study with Boog Brown which also garned top 10 talk from numerous blogs such as Kevin Nottingham and Bloggerhouse. Finally, in October 2010, the long-awaited Gas Mask LP was released with Apollo Brown as one-third of The Left with DJ SoKo and MC Journalist 103. The critical acclaim was tremendous and the album landed on Top 10 lists everywhere. The Apollo Brown & MMG plan had worked beautifully.

Apollo’s credo is simple: “Everything I make, I try to make it my favorite album of all time.” He is building on the foundation laid down by Nas’ Illmatic and Black Moon’s Enta Da Stage in hopes of taking it one step further, and most important, is past the trepidation felt in the past. Radio is good, but Apollo’s music is for the children of the underground. 2010 is the year in which he staked his claim and made Apollo Brown a household name.

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