IN REVIEW: LORD APEX - THE GOOD FIGHT
With his debut studio album ‘The Good Fight’, Lord Apex has treated us to some of his best work to date.
26-year-old Lord Apex continues to be one of the brightest lights in the rap scene. His discography up to this point is nothing short of brilliant. Fans originally fell in love with his Soundcloud projects which he began to release way back in 2015. Since then, he has improved year-by-year, managing to cement his name in the era of the single, as a project artist.
‘The Good Fight’ is his long-awaited new offering. It begins with the title track of the album, in collaboration with one of hip-hop’s most highly regarded producers, Madlib. Lord Apex having Madlib production is a co-sign of the highest calibre, particularly given how selective he is about who he works with. The only other UK rapper that comes to mind as having had a Madlib collaboration is Loyle Carner, making this a very exclusive club. Wonderfully, the song is worthy of its significance. Apex begins with a melodic chorus, nestling between the weighty kick and snare. His verses provide some signature flows, along with razor-sharp lyricism. If I were to recommend an Apex track to someone that had never heard him before, I think this has just become the one I would reach for.
This brings us to the second track, and the first single released from the project. ‘Blessings’ provides a more upbeat energy, with a wonderful trumpet sample being the catalyst for this. “Blessings on blessings” acts as an excellent mantra. The first verse stands out as one of the best from the whole project. The line “Got me feeling a villain like DOOM”, seems particularly apt given the collaborator of the previous song, and all his marvellous work with the late MF DOOM. Apex is 2 for 2 so far.
This brings us to another fantastic collaboration, ‘Phoenix’, featuring US heavyweight Freddie Gibbs. Having supported Gibbs on his European tour earlier in the year, this is a partnership that makes complete sense. Incredibly soulful production, courtesy of Argov, provides the base for both Apex and Gibbs to fire off exceptionally well-crafted verses. The song having no hook, and just being a fifty-fifty split between the two MCs makes complete sense. These two bounce off each other exquisitely. It strikes me as though Freddie Gibbs was well aware of the fact he had to be on form for his contribution. After hearing Apex’s verse, I imagine it was very clear to him that he needed to deliver, and it must be said, he did. A brilliant collaborative song, this is another new gem in Apex’s discography.
The first non-single of the project comes next, the energetic ‘Stay Prayed up’. After my first listen, this immediately stood out as one of my favourite chorus’ on the whole tape. Simple, yet effective. If in need of a pick-me-up, whack this track on full-volume, and feel your energy increase. Lord Apex is embarking on a tour of the UK and Europe in 2024, and when listening to this, you can imagine it being a highlight of each show.
Onto the next, and we have ‘God Put Love’. A short track, that’s brimming with soul, and blessed with introspection. This one feels as though it’s a stream of consciousness, like Apex is giving us his thoughts relatively unfiltered. Once again, the lyricism is on point, as Apex muses over topics and asks questions, sometimes using the song’s sample which repeats, ‘Why?’.
‘God Put Love’ then makes way to what is sonically, a track not too similar to much of Apex’s other work, ‘Smokers Lounge’, featuring BONES. The tempo is increased in this one, with skippy hi-hats taking up a drill-esque formation. Apex glides over the moody instrumental, proving his versatility. BONES arrive on the back end of the track, with a compellingly erratic verse that adds perfectly to the song’s energy.
Next, we have ‘Love Drunk (Interlude)’. A sombre number, Apex showcases his vocal range over a meandering instrumental. After the speed and energy provided on the previous track, this interlude serves its purpose very effectively, aiding the flow of the project as it transitions through genres.
Which takes us to another project highlight, ‘Back Outside’ with MAVI. This is another Atlantic-crossing collaboration that makes complete sense. The two have already performed the song together shortly after its release, indicating a good working relationship. I’m sure many will agree when I say, I very much hope this isn’t the last time they work together, as ‘Back Outside’ is superb. Over chopped and dancing Black Noi$e production, Apex begins with an enigmatic chorus, before devouring his verse. MAVI arrives with a crisp, spirited flow that carries the energy to the final chorus.
Speaking of energy, Mr Miyagi (one of Apex’s aliases), wastes no time on his next track ‘For the West’. A homage to his West London roots, this one provides an immaculate vibe. As one of the finest exports from the buzz West London has been experiencing, AP allows himself some braggadocio about where he finds himself. It’s another that will be perfect for the live shows. West London in particular can be proud of this one.
‘Mise en scène’ gives us unique production, from DJ Khalil and Jake One, and has one of Lord Apex’s best vocal performances. This track clocks in at just under 2 minutes, and has a beautiful balance of melody and verse. The lines about travelling to Brazil stand out as meaningful lyrics, and bring memories of Apex’s previous project with Brazilian producer El Lif Beatz. It’s clearly a place close to Apex’s heart. In two songs we go from West London to Rio De Janeiro, with a wonderful energy remaining.
We have the remarkably touching ‘Muuma’ following. The sentiment the track begins with, ‘Hey Mumma, I did this one for you’, sets the tone for this beautiful tribute. Under discussion is Apex’s mother, and this acts as a letter to her, discussing how far things have come for them both. This feels like the most personal song on the project, and probably one of the most personal songs Apex has made. Not much more can be said by me about this one; it’s beautiful, go have a listen.
The collaboration I was most excited for as this album dropped was the next track, ‘In Your Heart’ with Greentea Peng. I am a huge fan of both, and spent some time thinking how this one was going to sound. The versatility of Apex was one of the main things that stood out from this song. Delving into the Neo-Soul/R&B space, Apex sounds totally comfortable, and delivers a wonderful performance. Greentea Peng does what we know and love her for, with an enchanting addition to this sultry offering. On this, the penultimate track, we have a whole new style introduced; and it’s divine.
And with that, we arrive at ‘Dial Tone’. Returning to the hip-hop sound we are familiar with; Apex delivers a vocal performance that is immediately captivating. His delivery in this is almost reminiscent of Danny Brown, yet it retains its individuality. He does what he does best to end this project, and with these last 2 minutes, the album is complete.
In Lord Apex’s first studio album he has delivered an exquisite body of work. His sonic choices feel organic and carefully curated. The same goes for his collaborations, all of which offer value to the song they feature on. It feels on this record that Apex has near-perfected many of the sounds we know him for, and his exploration into new styles is welcome, and provides excitement for what he will create in the future. I would wholeheartedly recommend this project for hip-hop fans, and equally to all fans of good music.
Words by: Matt Sharp