Reality Provoking Liberation is the debut solo album from West London’s Apex Zero, and is set to be released on 28th October 2013.
Starting from the top, the first aspect we experience is the album’s cover art, which tells you pretty much everything you need to know about the themes Apex Zero will be covering. A cityscape in the background. A pair of tiger’s eyes. A chained fist ascending from the flames whilst a crown and a policeman’s hat seem to lie discarded at the side. The impression we are instantly hit with is that there won’t be much talk of romantic picnics in the park.
So let’s address this head on – this is hip hop which is motivated and inspired by figures such as Malcolm X, Marcus Garvey and Huey Newton. Themes of oppression, terrorism, police brutality, crime, prostitution and government corruption are going to be rife. And they are.
The first thing to say about Apex Zero is that he is clearly well-read in political philosophy. His rhyme schemes are strongly constructed and the content flows from him in a confident and accomplished manner. The tone of the music which accompanies his raps is very fitting; fantastic use of strings and keys combined with ominous, and sometimes aggressive, drum beats and bass lines.
The album is littered with thought-provoking images, concepts and ideas, however what strikes you very early on is the fact that you cannot tell which are his and which are from the numerous political texts he has read. There is, in fact, very little to help the audience connect with Apex Zero as a person at all. You can listen to every second of the album and be left in no shadow of a doubt what he believes, but you don’t actually find out anything about who he is.
This makes it particularly hard to connect with him as an artist, and with his message. The obvious answer to this is that his message is not targeted at me. I understand a lot of the ideas transcend age, race, colour and creed, but when they are hidden amongst an entire ocean of political rhetoric, those universal messages tend to get lost and you can find yourself very quickly being isolated. All the way through the album the listener is told to “find the truth” or “seek the truth”. Ok, but the problem is that Apex Zero is rapping about his truth, not my truth. This only serves to reinforce the fact that the truths he is imparting to us are perhaps not as universal as he believes them to be.
The relentlessly ominous tone of the music combined with the uncompromising tempo of Apex Zero’s delivery eventually results in your brain starting to switch off. An exception is the beautifully crafted “Obtain Bearing” which features some outstanding female vocals, haunting but ultimately uplifting keys and the tempo is slowed down so that his lyrics are far clearer and we can appreciate their poetic nature. Again though, the message is exactly the same as on every other song on the album.
Apex Zero is clearly very talented and cares a great deal about the ideals he wants to impart to us, the listeners, but he is catering to a very particular crowd. I haven’t seen him live but the image I have in my head is of him on stage wearing a ski-mask and cargos, flanked on either side by similarly-dressed goons waving flags with the image of a fist emblazoned upon them. Perhaps this is being a bit glib, but somehow I don’t think this is too far from the truth. If that is your cup of tea, great – but again I think it is for only a very select crowd.
The last song on the album is the title track “Reality Provoking Liberation”. It begins with what sounds like Apex Zero speaking freely and openly about how his music is all about freedom, peace and unity – but after revolution. Hmmmm. Then we have further talk about how everyone is oppressed and can’t tell because of subliminal messages. Hmmmm, ok, I’m still with you though. Following this there comes a statement which is the straw that broke the camel’s back.
“What’s Comic relief? We need more than Comic Relief, we need Cosmic Peace!”
Ok, no. Sorry, I see what you are trying to say, and I understand that it is important to look at the bigger picture, but tell me Apex Zero, what is cosmic peace and how do you plan going about achieving it? In the meantime, will your quest for Cosmic Peace raise millions of pounds every year to help those who are dying right now?
In conclusion, a very promising artist and some great production, but over-saturated with political rhetoric, delivered at a relentless tempo and with all the fervor of a religious preacher, only without anything to make it engaging to the audience.
This article was first posted on October 8, 2013