Shaeem Wright sits in the garden behind his West London home on a balmy summer night. The trees sway with the soft breeze as a train comes screeching to a stop at the nearby White City tube station. Wright enjoys a spliff with a friend as they celebrate the completion of his fourth EP, Cosmos/Genesis.
“My main goal as an artist, it’s just… the legacy, you know what I mean?” He pauses. “I seen in a Max B video he was talking ‘bout how we is all gonna die but who is gonna leave the biggest legacy? Who’s gonna be remembered the biggest? Who’s gonna be the biggest influence?”
Under the alias Lord Apex, Wright started rapping in 2009, but he had not always dreamed of being a rapper. In fact, he had not written music until his first day in the studio, when he ironically accompanied a friend to another rapper’s recording session. That trip sparked his interest in creating his own music and soon enough, he was making weekly trips to the studio.
“At first, it was more just fun to record shit,” he says. “And then I just carried on doing it, and as I got into the groove of writing songs and finding beats, I just fell in love with it.”
He had finished his mandatory schooling and briefly attended a university to study business, but realized it was not for him. Once he had gotten in the swing of things, he started working with other artists and featuring on their tracks.
“It was just mad slow for a time, and then when I was on that early Soundcloud shit, I was just doing collaborations with different guys all around the world.” He mentions that the first song he gained a following from was the track “SENSEI // JETSON // BEATMACHINEARON” with the New Zealand rapper and producer Jetson. Getting over 200,000 plays, listeners took a liking to Apex as he gained fans from Jetson’s homeland, as well Australia and other parts of the world.
“I started being able to differentiate from other listeners, and that’s when I was like, ‘aight cool, there’s a little fan base out there,’” he says.
Feeling a connection to other black rappers with braids, Apex looked to men such as Bow Wow, Snoop Dogg, and Max B for inspiration.
“When I was growing up, I was fond of mixtapes and all my favourite artists were the artists that were the most consistent and put out the most projects,” he says. “That turned into me being an artist that just drops music consistently because it’s fun and honestly I don’t find it that hard. People act like it’s difficult to put projects together when I do it for play.”
Not only was he influenced by the music they created, but he admired the way they chose to live their lives and present themselves. Along with the rappers who pursued solo careers, groups like Outcast, Triple Six Mafia, and Wu-Tang Clan played a big part in his life.
Apex also says he honors the ways in which Wiz Khalifa integrated marijuana into his music, with songs that break down the criminalizing nature affiliated with the drug.
“Look, if you listen to my music, it’s clear I smoke a lot of weed,” Apex says. I’m trying to make a tape that people can smoke to that offers more concepts and meaning, not just stoners talking about being stoned, ya know? If you smoke, you gonna fuck with me. If you don’t, you still might fuck with me.”
After working to personalize his style by mixing funky beats with poetic lyrics about topics like ninjas, marijuana, and life as a whole, Lord Apex matured as an artist. Keeping heads nodding and feet tapping to his beats, his music is truly able to make people groove. Apex says that the roots of his composition process for his new projects came from his breakthrough album, Hyoko Meiso (elevation – Meditation). On many occasions, he uses his own songs for inspiration when writing new content.
“I really liked the song, ‘geisha’ I done with Tunami so that leaded to us making Sounds of the Blade. I really liked the joint ‘how i met mary’ I done with n2deep so that turned into the Live from Los Santos EP,” Apex says. “What started to happen was this branching off effect.”
The same effect can also be seen in a more recent EP, Bamboo Forest. In May, he released the song “Spliff in the Morning” with Walterwarm, a producer from California. When the song gained popularity, the two decided to release a 14 track project together. The name of the EP was conceived from the mellow nature of the rising rapper’s beats and overall vibe of its sound.
“I wanted to be calm and listening to be more of a stress reliever,” he says.
When he reached 4,000 followers on Soundcloud, he noticed that a trend had developed in which around 100 new people would follow him each time after he released a song.
“Our generation now… it’s all about the Soundcloud numbers and shit,” he said. “I wanted to get to a stage where the numbers were so comfortable that you ain’t even got to focus on the numbers no more, you just get back to making music.”
For some time, to keep the number of followers growing, he was hitting the studio at least once a week. If things went well, and the recording and mixing had been finished, he released a song every Monday.
“Once I hit 10k, I was like… that’s 10,000 people. I’m just going to be dropping music regardless if it gets 10,000 listens or 100,000 listens,” he says. Now at 18,000 followers, Apex gains around 100 followers every 48 hours from all around the world. As seen from the comments on his Instagram, fans show love from places like South Africa, Denmark, and the United States.
With a growing popularity, the Lord began taking his music to the stage. In 2013, following the release of his project HMEM, he performed on the costal English city of Brighton. The crowd went wild as he performed one of his hit songs at the time, “No Doubt,” and even cheered for an encore. Since then, Apex has performed a handful of shows around the United Kingdom.
This past spring, though, he decided to take a break from putting on concerts to devote more time to completing his EP. Apex describes his new, recently released project as “interplanetary funk” in which he mixes funky beats with conceptual lyrics. In doing this, he hopes to offer his listeners something deeper than simple rap songs talking about smoking weed.
As someone who started with no musical experience other than a self proclaimed good taste in music, Lord Apex has established a dedicated following. After living in White City, West London his whole life, his first goal is to take over the UK’s rap scene. From there, he hopes to expand to all corners of the world.
“There really is no end goal for me, because it just keeps going, you know what I mean?” he says. “It’s the legacy.”