At the tender age of 16, Erik Vincent Stephens, who grew up in Michigan, already tried his hand as a bedroom producer, but until he graduated from State University with a degree in business administration, the whole thing remained a minor matter. The talented beatmaker soon came to Detroit, where Wu-Tang producer Bronze Nazareth saw potential in him: together they set up the label Black Day In July and made a name for themselves in the pulsating Detroit scene. With his first two beattapes Skilled Trade and Make Do under the name Apollo Brown, he proved himself a technically adept boom-bap aficionado at the end of the 2000s, which finally let him gather a group of smaller and bigger MCs like Black Milk and MED on his debut album The Reset in 2010, who rounded off his instrumental creations with their own lyrics and presented the Detroiter as a versatile beat tinkerer. Apollo Brown can’t express his love for the sound of the 90s often enough: “90s hip hop just has a very special feeling of life. People made music during that time because they really loved it.” With this, the producer clearly distances himself from the mainstream aspirations of many of his colleagues, and he reduces his works to the essentials. “Without any gimmicks, extras or tricks,” is how he describes it himself.
Apollo Brown’s software still runs on Windows XP, and he likes it that way. Limited and to the point: with this attitude he soon earned respect in the scene, and after the first record there was a hail of collabo requests – in addition to respected instrumental albums such as Clouds, LPs in duets with Boog Brown, O.C. and Hassaan Mackey followed. He recorded the long-player Dice Game with Guilty Simpson in 2012, produced Ghostface Killahs Twelve Reasons to Die anew under the title The Brown Tape a year later, and at the same time he formed the crew Ugly Heroes together with his friends Red Pill and Verbal Kent , which counted several oldschool-nostalgic releases in the coming years. Despite this considerable amount of collaborators, the boom-bap fanatic makes it clear that it’s hardly about money for him and that he chooses his collaborators carefully: “I only work with people I’m fans of and I respect what they’re doing. If I don’t, no real amount of money could make me sit down and do an album with you.” The producer jumps from one project to the next, in the underground his name is already a quality igel anyway.
In addition to his responsibility for the instrumentals of a wide variety of rappers, in 2015 he released the long-player Grandeur, where the beat giant was once again the center of attention and, with the help of a mass of features, presented his musical diversity. Like a milestone and a breather at the same time, the album preceded Apollo Brown’s upcoming projects, which he approached together with familiar faces like those of Ugly Heroes, but also new acquaintances like Locksmith and Joell Ortiz . Although the Detroit native doesn’t express himself lyrically on his creations, the tracks tell personal stories in the same way his rapping peers do: “I treat all of my beats like they’re my kids. It’s like interviewing a babysitter; I’m not gonna leave my kids with anybody without getting to know them.” Brown’s work is in the direct tradition of legends like Madlib and J Dilla , but he can definitely be described as a niche producer: his tracks don’t end up in the mainstream, it’s 20 years too late for that. Nevertheless, his music reflects nostalgia, but also sound creativity and an inexhaustible love of experimentation. On his current instrumental record This Must Be the Place, he combined these forces of his creative work once again, and his expectation for it could hardly be higher: "Everything I make, I try to make it my favorite album of all time.“