9th Wonder randomly reaching out with a music compliment is the type of moment that’s likely to stick with any artist, especially an emerging rapper. It happened to Apolli Ali back in 2011 (then known as Apollo The Great), and it’s something he’ll never forget. With 9th Wonder unleashing a beat tape earlier this month, the New Jersey artist decides to give listeners more of the authenticity the legendary producer praised years ago.
On “Life Is a Gamble,” the opener on Apolli Ali’s new tape, Apollo Ali Verses 9th Wonder, he reflects on the legacies of Muhammad Ali, who recently passes away, and his late grandfather Jersey Joe Walcott who was also a boxer. “Being a former champion himself, grandpop was one of the heavy weights Ali studied,” Apollo tells STASHED via e-mail. “[He] also refereed the famous ‘Phantom Punch’ fight Ali had with Liston. From Stories passed down through the family I heard my grandfather said it was no phantom punch, but a perfect punch. I believe it, he was in the ring [laughs].” After referring to both men as heroes, he continued, “Growing up these images inspired me to strive for greatness in whatever I chose to do. Music happened to be that.”
As honest as “Life Is a Gamble” is, Apollo Ali brings that quality throughout the 6-track tape. As he gives fans a verse and a hook over each of 9th Wonder’s beats, he takes the time to hit on real-life issues including his rough surroundings, the pressure he faces every day, the issue with maintaining platonic friendships, and more. Even with its diverse nature, the tape features snippets about Muhammad Ali and Jersey Joe Walcott, easily keeping it in sync.
Apollo Ali Verses 9th Wonder is a welcome surprise. The last we heard from the emcee was for “No Games” featuring Verb Spielberg. The T.H.O.R.O. tape is still in the works.
Photo Credit: Apollo Ali