LORD APEX – Smoke Sessions 3

Words by Daniel Farrell

So, we’ve let the (London) fog settle on Lord Apex’s latest 14 track project, Smoke Sessions 3, which released on 4/20 no less, and we’re mightily impressed. Released via Lord Apex as an entity, it seems he’s taking his namesake literally, hitting the apex on every corner he takes, and this highly anticipated album is no different.

We’ve grown accustomed to the spiritually-led, lazy but precise, bar-driven yet also beat-driven symphonies Apex manages to create, but Smoke Sessions 3 could be considered his Magnum Opus. It’s a bold claim for an artist who’s discography spans several years and several platforms, but it’s one we’re willing to make. It’s a culmination of his psyche in musical form. There’s no dilution. From humble Soundcloud beginnings to now, we’ve been allowed entry to the inner workings of one of West London’s finest artists. Without further ado, here’s our take on Smoke Sessions 3. 

Ssv3

The album’s opener, Ssv3, produced by illusive Australian Blaize Wareham, sets the tone for the project. Those dojo-esque twangs we’re so used to with Apex are compelled with an understated baseline and more steady drums to sew the soundscape together. It’s a dreamy start to an album that finds inspiration from around the globe, maybe even the universe. Lyrically speaking it’s all the things we love Apex for. Nothing too complex; Just a calming, mellow, effortless flow which speaks of days gone by. His ability to lyricise his introspective passion for life and living, for weed and women (bars dem) is what sets him aside in a bubbling underground scene. A great opening to a great album.

I Need a Light ( feat. Smoke DZA)

Apex’s undoubted respect from the East Coast of the States is evident in the album’s handful of features and production credits, with NYC’s elder statesman Smoke DZA featuring on I Need a Light, to great effect. We also got a stellar verse from another NYC kingpin, Wiki, but more on that later. I Need a Light, produced by UK’s ‘The Purist’, is simple in it’s thematics and offers an easy listen with simple drum patterns and a well thought key-led mid-section, which allows DZA to enter the dojo. The track’s introduced by a combination of DZA adlibs and sampling from Jack S. Margolis’ 1969 book, A Child’s Garden of Grass, which, a couple of years later, was made into an album of the same name. Neat. It’s another Apex track where you just wanna roll a bat and kick it. 

Photography by Jack Cullis

High Forever

Now we know Apex is a big fan of women, but not in a rap-conventional ‘fuck bitches get money, ayo lemme jerk on this hoes face’ type way, nah. He loves women for what they’ve given the world, for their purity, leadership and calmness. Those who keep tabs on Apex’s insta will have seen that him and his girl moved into a cool looking warehouse spot together earlier this year. As an ode to what appears a wonderful coalescence between two positive beings living their best lives, High Forever encapsulates all things wonderful in a working relationship, and is a personal highlight of the album. 

“Baby we ain’t gotta come down, want us to get high forever, we live together, design the weather”…

Shouts The Kount for this one as well. The production is crisp, neat, yet not overwhelming, far from it. Instead it’s an ever-changing palette with percussive versatility throughout, something which is hard to deliver for even the most experienced producers, but that allows Apex to enter his thoughts and pull the right flow and bars for the occasion. As a side note, the number of producers on this album is what gives it so much replay-ability, and so much flavour. Sometimes an album’s theme, which is often producer-led, makes the album what it is. Apex’s cluster strike production approach allows for an eclectic mix of sounds, which is what we love so much about his projects. No two songs offer the same things.

Vernacular

Bro, wtf is this accordion-driven beat and why tf it so fiya? Sheesh. 

As we drift through the album we hit track five, Vernacular, which is an apt song title considering the effortless use of his tongue, catches the ear. Producer Ben Mulade, who we literally can’t find anything about aside from the bits on his insta, has crafted what Apex described as the “best beat to ever hit my email”, and shit, he prolly ain’t wrong. Mulade, pronounced moo-la-day, provides a simplistic and floaty soundscape with an assured percussive en-tray form which Apex nibbles. It’s a tidily put together track, with all the professionalism in the world considering Apex does most of his shit at his yard on a DIY flex. Double neat! Need we say much more about this one – Bill sutt’n, light sutt’n, play track five.

Like You Know

Ahh, the video and song that got all us Apex fans hyped. Like You Know, produced by anguscattapan, is a side to Apex we rarely see but we’d like more of. The track gives off this incredible energy which is hard not to indulge in, and that feeling’s doubled up when you see the music video, in which Apex looks most energised. As someone pointed out in the comments of the vid, “This is going to be insane live…”. They’re not wrong.There’s nothing really to speak on about this one, just watch the vid below, become empowered and energised, then go about your shit.

Say That (ft. wiki)

Say That, produced by yet another illusive producer, xanmato, features the help of New York City’s Wiki. It’s a match made in heaven, and anyone who follows Apex as the Lord he is, won’t be surprised by this collab, but will be pleased. Xanmato elects to use a clean palette of snaps, kicks and snares under hinged by a set of airy flute-esque moments. 

“You want the smoke well darg just say that”?

Apex’s US counterpart, Wiki, who started rapping around the same time as Apex in the early 2010’s, delivers a relaxed set of lines discussing where he wants to take himself, and his preferences on living life on his own terms. His ability in changing cadence mid bar is noticeably clever and is utilised in a playful manner. Shouts to wiki, he’s got this power of adding another level to any track. 

Now we can’t speak on every track, because a) there’s bear of ‘em, and b) it’s not about what we say, it’s about how you, the listener, feels. With that being said, we’ve skipped a few tracks, but notable mentions include Love Me or Hate Me, Speak for Yourself and Rise Up. They all garner unique vibes and characteristics, whilst sticking to that steady 60-90bpm bag in which Apex thrives. 

Photography by Jack Cullis

On My Way (ft. Louis Culture, Finn Foxell & Maverick Sabre)

Produced by Maverick Sabre, the album’s final track On my Way features his fellow West London brethren, namely Louis Culture and Finn Foxell. As someone on twitter pointed out, Apex usually saves his most personal thoughts for the final track. EM3 is a great example of this. This time, he’s supported by his like-minded peers and friends to round off a great body of work. Sabre’s no stranger to production, and here again he offers a wonderfully melancholic beat for the West’s trifecta to attack. 

“Less rappers talk about the truth because it’s less cool. When we’ll manifest they’ll forget you unless you make a little progress towards step two”

Apex leads us off with some of the niftiest multi’s you’re likely to hear this side of the decade, which is what we’d expect. How a human can be so smooth with the english language is frankly astonishing, and is likely why he’s gained such a large global following. From Japan to Brazil and all in between, he’s got the respect. Beyond Apex’s verse, Louis Culture takes the reins and he doesn’t disappoint. Following suit, he lays down a lengthy series of bars in an effortless fashion. The notion of progression and setbacks is cleverly tackled, being passed between the three artists for the duration of the song. Finally, long time friend and musical collaborator Finn Foxell has his say. Foxell’s got this way of luring us into a seemingly smooth set of bars, but adding a West London rigidity to it. It’s only a small part to play on what might be Apex’s breakthrough album, but it’s a classy and friendly way to incorporate some of the voices that’ve guided Apex on this journey. On My Way plays out post-Foxell with an angelic non-descript sampling, a perfect way to end. 

As mentioned, we’ve not spoke on every track for a few reasons, namely because we want you to seek meaning in the project. What we do know is that we won’t tire of Apex’s ever-growing discography, and we’ll be awaiting further releases with bated breath. His recent collaboration, Supply & Demand, with US producer vdon certainly tickled a few hip hop heads, and we’ll anticipate more tickles soon!