APEX has made a name for themselves in the Pittsburgh scene and has delivered consistent quality music for a while now, and Sound Travel is no different as they continue to dominate the boom bap classic rap scene for the city. Solid production and on point flows have been their trademark and it definitely works for them as they bring that hip hop you can kick back and relax to, smoke a blizz and reminisce on the good ol’ days of rap.
The intro gives us an incredible soulful soundscape as both MCs flow effortlessly over the lavish musical backdrop. Then after letting you know that they are back, “The Show” is easily a highlight as the beat is smooth with a D.I.T.C. feel and the sound of a crowd throughout gives it that stadium feel, and Verbs absolutely crushes his verse with some of the craziest raps spit since Treach just laid beats to rest back in the day. “Troubadours” is more of that smoothed-out boom bap, you could easily see Big L fast-talking all over this beat.
“Move Back” features Varsity Squad so you know this track has gotta be dope, and of course over some sick production we get a bunch of solid verses, the winner of the round is clearly Jon Quest as he continues to prove why he’s easily top 5 in the city. “Down” got a down tempo feel and the electronic elements of the beat perfectly complement its somberness while the MCs speak on some real shit. “Summer City” is a great summer nights joint and “Lotta Love” is some more soulful greatness. Then we get the over-the-top champion epic posse cut in “Cypher 3” featuring basically everybody. The beat, amount of MCs and the fire they spit all make this instantly feel like a D.I.T.C. cut. The winner of this track? HUBBS, who I swear is really Starang Wondah crushes the track with a verse you’d expect Sean Price to spit on his best day. Finally “Idols” is another joint in which Ayatollah Jaxx shines with his verse that looks at where the rappers of the past are at today and how crazy it is to see from the perspective of an artist who was influenced by these legends.
The low points of the album aren’t so much songs as they are some of the lyrical content. While both members of APEX can flow sometimes the verses feel more like just words thrown together for the sake of rhyming, which understandably adds to the hypeness of their flows, but it also causes the ear to drift. Also, as good as the concept and hook for “Fine Print” are, the beat just doesn’t quite fit the mold of the rest of the album, making it stand out for the wrong reasons. Also “All of Me” has a dope hook but again the beat just didn’t really work.
If you want that classic boom bap sound then Sound Travel is definitely an album you wanna check out. A full plate of golden age hip hop will bring you back to the days of 50 cent dutches and starter jackets. With incredible guest appearances and a whole slew of incredible beats this album is perfect for your next blunt session, spark that L and let the sounds of APEX take you on a journey through the classic sound of hip hop.
We always love new music from APEX and this is no exception. Check out “No 1 Without You” produced by Drum Gang. APEX plans to release a mixtape soon and their next album Sound Travel is due 7.24.11. If you’re unfamiliar with this duo, links are below for their prior albums.
On the surface Apex could pass for another backpack hip hop group with boastful rhymes, classic rap references, and boom bap production, but dig deep into “Struggle City” and you have a mature duo with diversity in all necessary areas.
This album demands attention right from the start as both set off the bangin’ intro with solid verses, pure flow, and brilliant rhyme schemes. But just when you think you’ve already put their sound into a box, the next track starts off sounding like straight up ’95 Mobb Deep. The boom bap does continue though on “Grow Up”, with a dope piano line over some dirty drums, only they added an auto-tune hook and some real life verses. Apex got this ability to combine different styles and produce a track that appeals to all types of listeners. Most hip hop, even when diverse, is usually confined to one group of people but Apex can make polar opposite rap fans bump the same track. That’s chemistry at its finest. “Refuse To Play” is a great relationship track, with an incredible story, it’s some shit that a LOT of people can probably relate to, and again over dirty drums but with a sample that gives it an overall lush production. “If I Walk Away” got a hook that’s fire, and although the production is a little simple, the conceptual rhymes make this one of the stronger tracks on the album. Another boom-bap fueled track, “Right Here” delivers more of that raw hip hop Apex has perfected, but then right after that comes “Dying Inside” with smooth beautiful keys and a heartbreaking story. The overall theme of this album is diversity and that helps paint a complete picture of Apex, making them real people instead of two more rappers that can flow well over golden age beats.
Where the album strays (and coming in at 75 minutes you’re gonna have some tracks that fall short), is on joints like “Going Underground” which has a nice jazz sample but suffers from being too busy and unfocused, and the hook ain’t that hype. “Move Your Body” has a good reggae flavor but isn’t quite up to par. But then you personal tracks like “Please Don’t Front” which has a soothing beat and speaks to all the haters.
“Struggle City” is a solid effort from Apex and represents a group that has clearly been working together for a while and in that time has developed a chemistry and sound that fits them perfectly. The album boasts many guests but they never overshadow or clutter any of the songs and this allows Apex to shine. And when they do pop up, like in “The Cypher II”, they all hold their own quite well. The album also ends (before the remix tagged on) in dead-on post-Dynasty Jay-Z fashion, celebrating life over some hype ass production, complete with the female soul sample. This is definitely an album worth taking a tour through with two guides who are well educated on the subject they’re exploring. 3.5/5