Connecticut's own Chad Bromley, 37, better known by his stage name, Apathy, is one of the most consistent acts in hip-hop. Hailing from Willimantic in Windham County, Apathy also stands tall as Connecticut's underground king.
Apathy has been on the scene as an emcee and hip-hop artist since 1994, releasing a multitude of projects with different DJs and rappers [Celph Titled, 7L & Esoteric, El Fudge and others] and storming the early 2000s with solo albums like "Eastern Philosophy," "Wanna Snuggle?", "Honkey Kong" and releasing his fourth studio album "Connecticut Casual'' in 2014.
After more than 20 years in the business, Apathy still lives in his native Connecticut and continues to release music on the independent label, Demigodz Records, as well as with his own label, Dirty Version Records, started with fellow Demigodz member Celph Titled. Apathy delivers his raw flows in a signature New England drawl.
Just before his new release "Handshakes With Snakes" drops on June 10, Apathy talked about hip-hop in Connecticut and beyond, and his experiences as an artist and fan. (Some responses have been edited for clarity and length.)
Q: Why do you think people don't commonly associate Connecticut with quality hip-hop?
A: I think it's the same thing that happens with any state that isn't California, New York, Georgia, Texas —– all these places that have a major hip-hop area. Everyone has their own underground hip-hop scene and underground artists. You can go to Iowa, Kentucky, Colorado and they have the same problem as Connecticut. They'll say things like, "Yo, why is nobody respecting Colorado?" It's the same all over the world — it just comes down to the major cities dominating the rap industry. So it's not that Connecticut is particularly destitute as far as hip-hop goes, it's just not a place that's geared toward being a machine that puts out hip-hop like, say, New York is. There's artists like Chris Lowe, Stezo, myself, Chris Webby and Blacastan among others that are known worldwide. It's not always about making a scene, music is music. If a scene happens organically, that's pretty dope. But, it's not a necessity.
Q: Interesting. Especially with the Internet, interstate fandom, proximity to the other Northeast cities…
A: I always tell young, aspiring Connecticut artists, "Get out of Connecticut first." It is critical to go branch out and go do shows. Start out in Rhode Island, do shows in New York, do a show for free, just get your name out there. You travel, slowly it blossoms, you get your name going, you become worldwide, and then you can worry about doing stuff at home. So many cats are struggling to get their song on the local hip-hop radio station, and it's not necessary. Let the station come to you organically when you make a name for yourself. You don't have to chase them.
Q: With album titles like "Eastern Philosophy" and "Connecticut Casual" you're definitely someone who represents Connecticut and the East Coast to the fullest.
A: At the end of the day, it's all about where you're born, your family, the things that you grew up remembering, the nostalgia, where you did things for the first time. It's your center of gravity. This is home base for me. It's everything, it's my whole life — being close to the ocean, living a New England lifestyle. That's what I grew up with. A lot of people don't realize Connecticut is not just some rich state. Connecticut is a really strange dynamic of a small percentage of people who are well off, and then there's a lot of blue-collar middle-class, and then you have some absolutely hood areas. There's this whole dynamic in this small box-shape of a state.
Q: What do you value in hip-hop?
A: Everybody talks about evolution of the music, changing, becoming up to date. This is the future, this is now, the past is the past, old is old. But what they all fail to realize is that there is something critical and crucial in honoring tradition — the tradition of a music and the culture. And they get so far from what the culture and what the tradition is that its not even a true form of what it is anymore. Yeah, I get evolution and everything has to evolve. But tradition maintains quality, too.
Q: So you think it's useful to have a distinction between traditional hip-hop and today's music? I've had debates where some think positive, socially conscious rap should be called "hip-hop" and more aggressive music should be called "rap," for example. Should traditional hip-hop music be categorized differently like this?
A: That kind of came into play when KRS-One said, "Rap is something you do, hip-hop is something you live." But I like saying "rap," too. When I grew up I bought tapes out of the rap section not the hip-hop section. I listened to gangster rap, I listened to actual rap. Rap is just the music, too. I think the community tried to make that word "rap" a kind of negative thing as a means of expressing a frustration they had with the music. But rap is the music; A Tribe Called Quest is hip-hop but it's also rap. I think what we need is to be more appropriately labeling this new stuff as pop. Cause it's pop music. It's popular; it's for the moment. Yeah it can be disposable, but there's certain stuff that I like that's not technically hip-hop.
Q: So you've listed some of your favorites in hip-hop — who influenced you? Who inspired you to get started?
A: I think the biggest definitive moment that set me on the path that I'm still on today would be Organized Konfusion's second album, "The Extinction Agenda." That album alone changed everything. That was the moment it all clicked and I was like, "This is what I need to be doing." Another big influence was the Hieroglyphics crew from '93 to '94, Del the Funky Homosapien, Souls of Mischief, Fear Itself, those dudes were amazing. That type of lyricism is what excited me the most. You know Wu-Tang had a huge influence on the way I make songs, Nas when it comes to lyrics in songs.
"Illmatic" is the best album of all time, and it was unreal when that album dropped. It was unreal being a teenager when that album dropped.
Q: Would you stand by that quote? "Illmatic" is the greatest album of all time?
A: Without question. I have it tattooed on my arm.
Q: You have a new project coming out, "Handshakes With Snakes." What is the goal of this new project? What do you have to say about it?
A: This album is about me being committed to the hip-hop traditions, trying to represent what I do best. "Handshakes With Snakes" represents me overcoming having to deal with shady industry cats, owning my independence as an artist, and still standing strong for the underground. This project actually started out as an EP to tide the fans over, but became an whole project as the songs started coming out phenomenal — I pushed back my whole release schedule to put this one out. I've got a posthumous verse from the great Pumpkinhead, rest his soul, verses by B-Real of Cypress Hill, Twista, Bun-B. I'm excited for the fans to hear it.