SOTBMusic: Catching Up with Shokus Apollo

Continuing with the interview energy has had since the calendar turned over to 2019, I decided to link back up with Shokus Apollo to talk about his music and his life. Apollo has always been one of those artists who’s very laid back, but still lyrically sound. He doesn’t stress about the perplexities of life as much–but he’s still able to talk to you about them, and at great length. I wanted to let readers know more about Apollo since it’s been a few years since our last conversation on the site. We kept this one short to give readers a glimpse into what makes Apollo who he is, but also whet collective appetites for what’s to come.

Speed: Can you tell me a bit more about the thought process behind your latest release, The Sun in Scorpio? It’s been a few months since the album dropped and it’s been in one of my long-ass playlists since its release.

Apollo: Well, It’d just dropped Tresvant in the summer of 2018. It was a collection of music left in the vault from previous sessions that I wanted to get out [there]. I thought to myself, “I need to get the juices flowing again and do new music that focuses on where I am mentally.” So, we started working at a new studio and got the mojo going again.

Quick backstory: I had just gotten out of a four-year-long relationship at the beginning of 2018 and found new love shortly after that. Most importantly, I was expecting my first child, so there were lots of emotions in me. As a father yourself, you know what I mean.

Speed: Oh, yeah. Definitely.

Apollo: Through 2018, I was also dealing with having turned 30. So, I had to commemorate that as well. Plus, Drake and I have the same birthday and he stole my Scorpion idea. So, I had to have something with “Scorpio” in the title. Shallow, I know.

Speed: Fair enough. The album is a mix of various sounds. Did you ever worry about losing focus on the project by blending so much?

Apollo: No, not really. I get bored musically and I’m always looking for different sounds to match my mood, whether that be trap, soul, emo, celestial rap, or otherwise. I love hitting people with different sounds. It’s challenging.

Speed: Now, True mentioned that HS is doing more R&B-sounding songs on the upcoming Less Is More project. That’s along with the Future/Gunna/Young Thug-type shit. Are we seeing the beginning of the long-discussed, oft-joked-about DAR&B?

Apollo: Yeah, man. We’ve got some smooth stuff, R&B stuff, on the new HS album. We’re branching out with more contemporary stuff on this one. Songs about love and sex–songs for women and whatnot–have always been a strength of the DAR catalog. We know what they want. And, yeah, the DAR&B project is in its infancy stages. “R U Up” is a nice introduction to that sound.

Speed: When I first heard that, I was like “alright, bet. This is slightly uncharted waters for HS and DAR as a whole.” Not really, though. We’ve always played around with melodies–plus, we all used to sing at some point in our lives.

Apollo: Yes, exactly. We have loads of music knowledge and tastes, so it’s only right. We’re naturals, bro. Everyone has a song in their heart.

Speed: So, are we getting more singing on the new Apollo album?

Apollo: Well, it’ll be about the same as I always do. On the new LP, called Baptism, I’m exploring cleansing myself from all that happened to me in 2018 and starting anew. I’m taking a real minimalistic approach this go-round. Not too glossy. A lot of memorable, strong, and solid melodies. Groovy basslines. All that. I’ve got a song called “Medicine Man,” where you can really hear and feel the vulnerability sung on the hook. I definitely have some things up my sleeve.

I’m in more of an alternative rap phase. There will be more envelope-pushing–within reason. I want to push myself, but not get unfocused musically. I find myself driven to melodies more than ever, so expect more of that moving forward.

Speed: So, what would cause “unfocus?”

Apollo: Well, I don’t want to steer too much further from my core, hip-hop. Me being unfocused would come from trying so many other sounds [to the point] I feel like I’m not being myself. Simply put, it would come from me trying too hard to make something different than what was done previously.

Speed: How do you avoid making the same music, then? Like I discussed with True, as artists, we have a specific well of knowledge we can draw from. However, it’s somewhat finite in terms of what we can talk about without sounding like a complete jackass.

Apollo: I take time off. I take a break from music that influences my creativity. I step back and allow my life experiences to inspire what’s next. Look at my discography, for example.

Apollovelli was an ambitious debut. It was my most “commercial” project, honestly. Full of singles and chart-topping sounds. Survive the Horror, my favorite project–one I call my magnum opus–it’s very dark, forlorn psychedelic trap. Mythos is dark, mythological soul music. Presence is airy, religious, and mellow. Tresvant is mature music with sultry overtones and showcases a lot more of the team. I love collaborations and that was where a lot came to be. The Sun in Scorpio is more, like, spacey, astrological stream of consciousness music.

All of these albums have different themes. But, they all have that, as True’d call it, “Apollo Funk.” Varying styles but still focused and cohesive. That’s a common DAR theme. All the while, we’re drawing inspiration from everyday life.

Speed: Everyday life is critical in making good music.

Apollo: The ingredients that make Shokus Apollo music are as follows. Drug use, pain from losing those close to me, inner demons that I fight daily, religious and spiritual conflict, Black history and world history…and bitches bitches bitches.

Speed: And it’s from that normalcy, combined with the uniqueness of your personal experiences, that we get beautiful music.

Apollo: Agreed. We’ve got to make a SOTB/Apollo tape before we get too old. I’ve got a feeling our “DAR Duet” would be wild, content-wise.

Speed: I’ve simmered down a lot over the years, so it may be more Old Man Logan and less X-Men.

Apollo: This is true. But time can make a man more reserved and wise.

Speed: Fair enough. Do you ever think you’re going to retire from making music?

Apollo: Probably. It’ll probably be around the time when my son gets older and he’s like “dad, you’re outdated.” All I did was watch BET, MTV, VH1, and The Box and just soak up all things music. As I grew older, I gained an affinity for recording. Music has always been my therapy and my escape. I know that, in rap, there’s a shelf life–and it’s short. But, I’m in the prime and I want to see how far I can go. There’s an end, though, and I want to master my craft before I’m done. I always want to get better and sharper.

Speed: Definitely agree there. So, something that people may not know about you–and something I didn’t know until recently–is that you’re a huge One Piece fan. How’d that even come about?

Apollo: Yeah, man. I’m an anime and manga fan. Dragon Ball is always my first love when it comes to that. I love a few others like Cowboy Bebop as well. But, it was actually my boy Shaw who put me up on One Piece a few years ago. He showed me some clips from the Marineford Saga and I was hooked. So, I started watching the anime from episode one. Next thing I know, I’ve seen every episode and even caught up with the manga. Bruh, I am obsessed. I love the depth. Everything’s so rich and developed.

Speed: Speaking of Bebop, what do you think of the Netflix announcement of their live-action series?

Apollo: I didn’t even hear about that, but I’m excited to see what they do with it.

Speed: Same, as long as it’s not another U.S. Death Note.

Apollo: This is true. That was…off.

Speed: Lakeith Stanfield was dope in it, though. But, he’s usually on point in anything he’s in. He’s underrated as fuck, even with Sorry To Bother You being a thing. I just hope he stays away from the mic. I mean, he’s decent with his technique and all, but I don’t need another Atlanta actor/rapper in my playlsits.

Apollo: Especially with Gambino.

Speed on the Beat

Whatever you need to know about me, you can find out on Dad of two, cat dad (of two), mental health advocate, Team Support Dope Music in All Its Forms.

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