Escape takes many forms in Tolouse, France-based rapper Apocraphe’s new fifteen-track album The Escapist Handbook.
By Graeme Smith
The album features an array of collaborators and different styles it almost feels like a catalogue of the current underground hip-hop scene. Apocraphe is British-born but moved to Paris in 2011. There he became a part of the rap collective L’Affair, all of whom feature on this album. On top of that, Apocraphe has also introduced some up-and-coming voices onto the album, giving the extended story of escape a diverse voice.
Proceedings start on a heavy note. Many Lives (Bury My Dead) and Greasepaint and Hatred are heavy both musically and thematically, drawing from drill influences. The City Of Lost Children turns the heaviness to darkness, named for the cult French steampunk film. It’s also the first track will collaborators with Jahnell, Scor-zay-zee and Verbs Of Iron Bridge all contributing. An early highlight – it tackles class snobbery, inequality and corruption.
No Way Out was the last single to be released from the album and introduces young rapper Misiek. I shared the video last month and was impressed by its more introspective riff on the escape theme. It reminds us that sometimes the jailer is ourselves. The track acts as gatekeeper between the heavy opening and the lighter interlude to come.
Apple Pip Purchase has a retro and electronic vibe performed by the K7 Hiphop Band, and features a soulful hook courtesy of Teuga, that interplays with Apocraphe’s passionate verses. It is similarly introspective, as is floating and laidback Words and Images. Hope Spring Eternal follows with a ’70s soul and jazz vibes providing the bed to Apocraphe’s wordplay. Then it’s the understated Escapizm, featuring UK hip hop legend SonnyJim.
The avian Song of Tartatus starts to up the tempo once again, though its vibe remains light and airy. Having already heard English and French rapping, the track makes the album trilingual with verses from Spanish lyricist Dax Santos.
The album ends big with its second single Mighty Like Guybrush, an unexpected ode to PC point-and-click adventures. It’s followed by the title track The Escapist Handbook, an upbeat, old school number which ties up the album’s theme, before closing with the bonus track A Paris L’Affair. Originally recorded in 2014, the track features all ten members of the L’Affair collective.
The amount of work and professionalism that has gone into The Escapist Handbook makes it a quality album. Through his deliberate verses you can tell Apocraphe is a cerebral and committed rapper. The heavyweight collaborators show he’s also held in high regard in the European hip hop community. As well the aforementioned titans who feature, production comes from I.N.C.H., Dezordre, Louis Angeles, Arthur Guyard and Nat Powers (who has worked with Snoop Dogg, Run DMC and Professor Green.)
If you love hip hop then listening to this album is a must. If it’s a genre you usually avoid, you should still listen to it. It’s accessible and there’s such diversity to it you’re bound to find a track that grabs you. Check out The Escapist Handbook below.