The wordsmith collides West London’s streets with NYC’s hiphop prowess, championing a woozy fusion of nostalgic and progressive rap.
Lord Apex’s Smoke Sessions series is what made him take music seriously. Before then, his EPs and mixtapes were made with a naivety to just how far he could take being a rapper. Released fittingly on 4.20, this instalment comes at a time when everyone is in need of reflection - producing the project acted as therapy for Apex, and its meditative nature is highly therapeutic for any listener.
Surprisingy, this is his first mixtape of the year. For those who have followed the artist since his galvanising flows dispersed into the deepest crevices of Soundcloud, you’ll be aware of his prolificness. 2020 blessed us with two albums - both of which saw him collaborating with New York producers: V Don and Bushi Vibes namely. This transatlantic crossover has become increasingly natural for Apex over the years, but it’s on SSV3 that the rapper appears most comfortable in the company of our American counterparts. Smoke DZA and Wiki both feature, whilst Toonorth purveys some U.S. production; it's Apex’s ability to collide his world at home with American influence that makes this one of the more fluid projects in his discography.
Ssv3 hails a hazy introduction, taking pride in the underground label so many place over his head. In parts, the track feels deeply personal, but quick successions of braggadocios bars lift the mood when necessary. Smoke DZA hops on the proceeding track I Need A Light. The east coast native's appearance in the Smoke Sessions series felt like an inevitability, with his mixtapes often providing reefer references in their titles and track listings. His gritty flow is a strong juxtaposition to the more slurry delivery of Apex, who holds his own lyrically up against one of NYC’s greats.
It’s easy for people to pigeonhole the wordsmith as a lo-fi rapper. Such a label, however, undermines the range of sonics that feature so prevalently on his mixtapes. Throughout the SSV series, elements of reggae, trap and various other genres weave their way into instrumentals and even the intrinsic flows of the underground governor. Vernacular chops between different vocal rhythms, displaying a level of natural dexterity that enhances his status as the sensai of U.K. Rap music. The profound rhyme schemes slice through Muladé’s production and lead us into Like You Know - one of tape’s more abrasive cuts.
Rap Spliff, despite its length, is arguably one of our favourite tunes on Ssv3. The hazy, reggae infused number delivers some of the artist's most interesting word play and accommodates a scintillating guitar-lead hook. There is no reason, however, for the track to be so short; an extended mix would definitely be welcomed if it exists. Wiki delivers a characteristically yappy verse on Say That, barking weed metaphors over a flutey instrumental. Apex's hook writing is definitely a strong point on the LP, and this tune arguably proves such a statement the best. ‘You want the smoke then darg jus’ say that, say that [ay] You want the smoke then darg jus’ say that, say that [ay]’ will be ringing around your head uncontrollably after a listen.
Like always with the London native, there are plenty of film references to digest throughout the 14 tracks. Named after Jason Statham’s character in Crank, Chev Chelios sees Apex spitting with a similar poignant adrenaline to the hitman, whilst the Kount provides a head-bopping, off-kiltered beat. There’s also a Victor Vaughan invoking lyric - the late, great rapper evidently has far-reaching influence on Lord Apex’s own soundscape, so it was nice to hear his legacy living on in the music of others.
On My Way closes out the record in fine fashion, enlisting the Elevation Meditation family to show just how far they have come over recent years. Could we be getting a full EM tape this year? One would love to hope so, but as each member continues to grow individually, such an idea might be a bit premature. Maverick Sabre also appears, providing a soulful vocal performance to contrast the potent flows of Lord Apex, Louis Culture and Finn Foxell.
If you can handle the hotbox of intricate rhymes and shmoking beats, Ssv3 is definitely an album to indulge in. Lord Apex shows no signs of coming out for air, proving a pandemic is of little excuse in regards to creativity. Buy a ticket for the artist’s forthcoming tour here.
Written By Liam Cattermole (@liam_cattermole)
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