The L.A/Detroit connection in hip-hop is pretty well documented. One of the West Coast’s most celebrated MCs, Xzibit, was actually born in the Motor City and late Detroit hip-hop icon, James Dewitt Yancey, aka J-Dilla, made L.A his home before he passed. Not to mention Eminem and Dr. Dre are the most commercially successful tandem in hip-hop history.
In 2014 that musical link is being continued with Carson, CA lyricist Ras Kass and Detroit producer Apollo Brown. The man who brought us incendiary lyrical displays like 1996’s “Nature of The Threat” and 2011’s A.D.I.D.A.S teamed up with Brown, who has been stuffing iPods with his dirty, filtered boom-bap via albums with Guilty Simpson (Dice Game), Ugly Heroes, OC (Trophies) and various instrumental projects.
The resulting 15-track project, “Blasphemy,” was recorded in L.A. over the course of four or five months and runs the gamut of the human experience, from socio-political and historical to sexual themes.
“Most of the work was done when he came to L.A and hung out with me. Instead of getting a hotel he just chilled at my spot on the mahogany,” Rass says joking about his furniture, which Brown calls “The couch set from Frazier.” Brown relished the in-person collaboration, rather than the file swapping standard.
“Every MC, every artist I work with has their own story, their own plight. But they’re all professionals and I don’t have to babysit him on the mic,” says Apollo. “Just like the other albums I get to build with the person I’m making an album with. I don’t just give people my beats. I don’t just make albums with anybody. I’m a fan and I got to get to know a person PERSONALLY to really make an album with him.”
As far as fandom, the feeling is mutual.
“I’ve heard so many tracks of his that I wanted to rap on and I wished somebody had given me that beat,” adds Rass. So that opportunity, in and of itself when he presented it to me, instead of “coulda-shoulda-woulda” it was like now the pressure is on. He’s gonna give you something. Now what are you gonna do with it?”
While both artists are known for their uncompromising views, the name of the album came from having to do just that.
“The reason why the album’s called ‘Blasphemy’ is because iTunes told us that the original title was never going to happen,” Ras says matter-of-factly. “The original title—I called him once we had a general idea about the record—I was turnt up and said, ‘Yo, the album is called ‘How To Kill God’ and he was like ‘Huh?’ and I said ‘Let me explain.’ We were rolling with that name and lots of distribution channels were like ‘F*ck that.’ But the first song on the album is still ‘How To Kill God.’ Once you listen to the record it’s not like I want to kill your god. It’s saying we’re all made in God’s image—the planet. Every time we pollute or hate someone because of their race or religion, that’s killing God. Everything you do foul is killing God.”
Watch the full interview above.