Apollo Brown isn’t trying to re-invent the wheel. He’s not concerned with that. All that matters to the Mello Music Group producer is keeping the music he loves alive. It’s fitting, then, that his production setup still revolves around a desktop computer and an old copy of Cool Edit 2000. As Brown says, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
It’s nothing short of remarkable that with all of the technological innovations of the past decade-and-a-half, the Detroit-based producer is making some of the best music in hip-hop on software most abandoned years ago. The recipe? Collaborating with artists in-person — which makes it all the more interesting that on his latest album, Grandeur, he forgoes his comfort zone and enlists his largest collaborating cast to date.
When not behind the boards, the Grand Rapids native is thoughtful and down-to-earth. We caught up with Apollo Brown to talk about the importance of listening, not being put in others’ boxes, finding inner motivation, and much more.
Listen to the podcast and read some of the highlights below.
On the importance of listening and observing:
“You’ll never learn anything unless you watch other people do it,” says Apollo Brown. “You’ve gotta sit back and observe. If you’re talking all the time, or if you’re always the one trying to do something, but you don’t know what you’re doing, you’re probably going to get it wrong.”
“You’ve gotta sit back sometimes,” he adds. “Sometimes, to be a good leader, you’ve gotta be a good follower. We all want to be leaders, but to be that good leader, you’ve gotta be a good follower. You’ve gotta lose sometimes to really know what winning feels like.”
On not being afraid of disappointing others:
“You’ve gotta do you. You’ve gotta make the music that you want to make for yourself,” Apollo says. “I get suggestions every single day of what I should do: what kind of music I should make, what beat I should make, who I should work with, what I should title my album, anything. You’ll never be able to please everybody.”
“Even if you try to change your style up and please those few people who are making suggestions,” he adds, “now you just disappointed a whole slew of people that were depending on what you usually make. It comes down to just making the music you want to make and hoping people will love it.”
On finding inner motivation:
“You gotta go get it. We live in a society right now where you can’t sit back and wait for somebody to come discover you,” says Apollo Brown. “You can’t wait. Nobody’s going to discover if you if you’re sitting in your bedroom.
“You’ve gotta go hard on your social media, you’ve gotta hit the streets, you’ve gotta show your face at events, you’ve gotta travel, you’ve gotta go to different networking events, you’ve gotta meet people,” he adds. “It’s all about exposure, and it’s all about getting yourself out there, but it’s you getting yourself out there. You’ve gotta do it.”