West London’s Apex Zero delivers a powerful debut this month entitled Reality Provoking Liberation.
The name is clue enough that this is not a trap, ratchet or dance music offering. The 12 track project is a non-stop call to overthrow an oppressive system that has everyone around the world under the cosh. Apex Zero accuses crooked cops, pompous politicians and the beleaguered banking system for preventing the “99 per cent” from prospering economically, spiritually and mentally. His message is clear: we need to unify, organise and take our freedom for ourselves. Although this is his first solo album, Apex is no newbie to the UK rap scene. Having earned his stripes at End of the Weak and Speakers Corner, Apex has gone from strength to strength as part of First and Last with Omeza Omniscient, and the Pantheons of Zenn-la of which he is also a member.
Whereas some would describe the mostly self-produced album as ‘political rap’, Apex Zero prefers the term Neo-hardcore Tru Skool Hip Hop. He is well-read in philosophy, history and politics and the content of this album is proof of that. Reality Provoking Liberation kicks off with one of my favourite songs of the album: Shackled by the Pound where he offers the gem: “putting diamonds on your chain don’t make you less a slave.” His witty observations can be found throughout. “This western melting pot is simmering” from Chaotic Revolt is the perhaps the best and most concise explanation for the riots that rocked the UK recently. Similarly, he is bound to get a few nods from a cross section of society when he raps: “Margaret Thatcher is the reason for our twisted generation” on Growth (Slay the Basilisk).
Apex calls in reinforcement in the form of Omeza Omniscient, Amy True and Invincible Armour on a few tracks, but the best collabo by far is A Meeting of the Continents featuring Hasan Salaam and Triple Darkness’s newest member Iron Braydz. Apex’s delivery is ferocious, almost militant and there will be no mistaking him for any other emcee around. I must admit that I was worried at first I would miss some of his knowledge laden messages because of his unrelenting flow, but actually, it only serves to portray the urgency he is trying to convey. My favourite song of the project is Obtain Bearing where he turns down the tempo – even the production is almost stripped bare. While thematically it doesn’t stray from the rest of the album, it shows a vulnerability to the revolutionary, particularly when he confesses the road to freedom “is like having the skill to write the illest rhyme, but can’t put down the first line.”
For the most part, the album utilises strings and pianos spliced with hip hop drums. While this complements his delivery, I wish there was more variety in the production; perhaps utilising jazz or rock for example to help rejuvenate the subject matter. I really like Reality Provoking Liberation– but that’s because it speaks to my personal politics. I think Apex missed a trick by being so full on with his message on one record though. He should have interspersed it with other tracks not so aggressive in subject matter to give the listener a reprieve. Apex Zero is definitely a gifted emcee and I think given the unstable times we are living in, this for some, could be a soundtrack to revolution.