Apollo Lofton Is Aiming to Be the J. Cole of Miami [Q&A]
Drake and Kanye aren’t the only ones Miami-based rapper Apollo Lofton has left impressed. From widespread media coverage to cosigns from superstars, this is Lofton’s year and he’d rather let the music quiet those who dare to doubt him.
In a city whose veins pulse perreo and house music, there isn’t much flourishing in the conscious rap community. On a mission to be the 305’s next J. Cole, Lofton has chosen to remain married to his truth and on a soul mission to gift it to the collective, undistracted by the ease of riding trends. While it’s an industry known to spit out those crippled with rich egos, the artist remains grounded, aware that he’s only a conduit for something much bigger than himself. His latest EP CHAOS IS NECESSARY tells the story of overcoming internal and external strife, setting himself free while liberating those who witness his rise's strength and humility.
We sat down with the rapper to explore his journey coming up and what it means to be representing the country’s most debaucherous city along the way.
Ones To Watch: Nowadays, rappers on the come-up try to go viral or hyper-focus on what will catch fire quickly. You seem to be following the traditional route of grinding and interacting face-to-face with the community. Where does that hunger come from?
Apollo Lofton: That’s what I grew up seeing. I’m a big J. Cole fan and I watched his come-up. I saw rappers passing out flyers, mixtapes, Pitbull and DJ Laz in Calle Ocho promoting themselves. It was a real grind, you know? Rappers going to radio stations, that’s what I’m on. But I need to find the balance between that grind and dominating social media.
It really seems to be working for you, because it’s led to so many opportunities for you to get cosigned. Drake, Kanye, Emilio Estefan. Which of those instances was the most impactful?
Drake for sure, because we’ve had private conversations after that. I really looked up to the dude and strategically placed myself in positions to be where he’s at. Not in a creepy way, but if I know there’s an OVO party in Miami, I know I have a greater chance of having a conversation with someone that can change my life if I’m in the room rather than being in my room. We ran into each other at Booby Trap and I don’t know what drew him to me, he probably saw the innocence or naiveness in my face because I don’t really do strip clubs, but he told me to keep going, to keep pushing, gave me so much love.
I love that you mentioned your innocence because you really seem to balance being confident and humble. Is there either end you feel need to work at more?
I definitely have a good balance. I know what to be confident about, I’m not a prick who walks outside thinking they’re better than everybody. On the court though, I’m Michael Jordan.
You’ve been sharing online about how you’ve found yourself the happiest you’ve ever been. How has your definition of happiness shifted for you?
I’m just happy to be me. I’m happy to finally look in the mirror and be happy with what I see and what I’m producing, instead of that race of comparison. Thinking I need to be better than this or that person, or that I need to have this or that. Nah, I’m happy with what I’ve got right now. I reflect on all that I’ve accomplished this year with music videos and freestyles, meeting people and networking, cosigns, and being on the news. What is there to be unhappy about?
What does it mean for you to be representing Miami? How do you want to shift preconceived notions about the city?
I really want hip-hop culture to flourish in Miami. Why does it always have to be party music over here? Where’s the soul? Where’s the lyricism? Where are the storytellers? Where is the Marvin Gaye of Miami? The J. Cole of Miami, the Nas of Miami? I’m trying to be that, find that, create that.
That’s a very specific caliber of intentional, conscious rap. What’s your perspective on where modern rap is right now?
It’s a reflection of the market. I’m trying to pay attention to it, figure out how to use it to my advantage. Pimp it, don’t let it pimp me. I won’t fold to the market and make music everybody else is making because that’s what’s popular. I want to see what’s being demanded from the market and do it my way. Finding the balance, like Hov did. Rap my truth like “Song Cry,” but I’ve got “Big Pimpin” in my pocket.
How has your Cuban heritage informed the way you make music?
It gives me flavor, like Big Pun. It gives me access to that culture and if you notice, a lot of rappers use Spanish or fly over to Cuba smoking Cuban cigars. I have an advantage being able to tap into that community and speak fluently. They understand me, I understand them.
You’re very honest in your music; is it therapeutic to write these songs?
The song “Homeless” was therapeutic. My mother was homeless at the moment so that felt like “I need to get this off my chest. I need to talk about this, I need to heal from this.” That process of self-discovery and self-awareness was huge. I had to go visit her, face her, heal from that.
What’s next for Apollo Lofton?
I just want to be better. I want to be a better version of myself, a better friend, a better performer, a better rapper, better. I don’t care what it looks like in people’s eyes, I just want to be better. I’m working on a new project, but we’re still promoting my last project CHAOS IS NECESSARY, which is ridiculously dope.