“My brain is the key that sets me free”
“The only way out is in”
In these turbulent, torrid times, imagine finding, in a corner gathering dust, a book: A Field Guide on How to Escape. Such an imagined discovery became the starting point for ‘The Escapist Handbook’, a 15 track tribute to escapism in its many forms by UK-born, French resident MC Apocraphe.
With its journey through the inner to nebulous pathways outwards, this album touches on every sonic representation of hiphop as an artform. It ranges from the drill-like intro of Many Lives (Bury My Dead) produced by two times gold disc French producer I.N.C.H, through the dark steampunk twists of City Of Lost Children, to the melodious jazz of The Song Of Tartarus. Even within the Golden Era vibes of the titular The Escapist Handbook, the culture is simultaneously represented and deconstructed. Drawing heavily on mythology and classical literature as well as modern cultural touchstones, a journey is created, both in the mind of the listener, and the path of the album itself.
International superproducer Nat Powers (Snoop Dogg, Run DMC, Spice 1, Professor Green, Lomepal, etc) holds down a quarter of the album, alongside stalwarts such as I.N.C.H, Dezordre (CMF records), Louis Angeles (Naiad) and Arthur Guyard (Kilotone) with new talent such as Pablo and Thiomas Nollet adding to the freshness. Features include but are not limited to Jahnell (a.k.a Johny Pitts, broadcaster and multi-award winning author of Afropean: Notes from Black Europe), UK legends Scor-zay-zee and Sonnyjim (Conway The Machine/Verbal Kent/Iron Wigs and many more), young up-and-coming French-Cameroonian Afro-Trap artiste Dirtsa, and Spanish lyricist Dax Santos.
The album also includes an unreleased bonus track originally from 2014, remixed and remastered, the sole track ever made featuring the entire 10 members of the Parisian L’Affaire crew, including multi-platinum artist Lomepal. The album stands as a product of the links and love of the artform shared across all international borders.
Having formed Main Rock Records in 2002 in the UK and released 12 projects on vinyl and CD for many highly respected underground artists as well as 2 EPs of his own, Apocraphe moved to Paris in 2011. There he became manager for Naiad, a Parisian Jazz Hiphop band who were part of the legendary L’Affaire Collective. He also recorded and mixed various projects, including the classic EP ‘Paris South Playa’ for Mothas La Masquerade. Moving to Toulouse in 2017, he took on presentation duties for the K7 live band open mic, establishing himself as a key presence in the Toulousain hiphop scene whilst acting as advisor and mentor to various artists. With this return as main feature artist, decades of development and growth are brought to the fore – grown man business.
A native son of Leicester, Apocraphe was a primal force in Midlands hiphop in the early 2000’s. As well as forming The Ill Smith Estate with National Freestyle Champion Troy Scalpels and Baron Samedi and playing across the UK and Europe (including at the UK Hiphop Awards) he also set up Main Rock Records in 2003. He released two EPs himself (The Many Lives Of Apoc The Main Rock in 2003 and Long Don Spilverbs in 2004), with his video Mic Life featuring Scor-zay-zee and Scalpels was on regular rotation multiple times a day on Channel U. He also released records for Baron Samedi, Ironbridge, Cappo, Skeptic & Jid Sames and many more besides. He completed the album Prison Earth in 2008 with features from Madlib’s fellow Lootpack member Wildchild, US Dance billboard chart topping singer (with Staxx of Joy) Carol Leeming and UK Slam Champion John Berkavitch. However due to personal complications the album was never officially released and Apocraphe stepped back from music for three years.
In 2011 he moved to Paris, France where he struck up a friendship with the legendary crew L’Affaire. Taking on manager duties for Naiad, a subsection group of L’Affaire composed of rappers Nostal and Tonio MC over a live jazz hiphop band, he authored, recorded and mixed a joint project album between them and super-producer Nat Powers (Snoop Dogg, Public Enemy, Spice 1, Professor Green and many more). The result was the critically acclaimed Soul Food with features from Apocraphe himself, Akil of Jurassic 5, Sonnyjim, Cappo, Japan Hiphop Chart topping UK artiste Lady Paradox and many more. He also recorded and mixed the Paris South Playa EP of Mothas La Masquerade (founder of L’Affaire) which had millions of streams and views across all platforms.
In 2017 Apocraphe moved to Toulouse, and in 2019 took on presentation of the main Toulousain Open Mic with K7 Hiphop Band. With each event at multiple packed out venues, he established himself as a key presence in the Toulousain hiphop scene whilst acting as advisor and mentor to various artists. With the arrival of Covid restrictions, the demand of producers and artists to work with him allowed him to open up his artistic creativity once more, creating The Escapist Handbook – a meditation on escapism in its many forms. Despite decades in the artform, or perhaps because of it, his form of lyricism remains fresh and relevant, and the album touches on every element of hiphop from boombap to drill, covering the spectrum of the artform. With features ranging from newcomers such as Misiek of Les Autres through to multi-platinum French artist Lomepal alongside the rest of L’Affaire the album is accessible to all generations and every type of listener. This is grown up hiphop taking the listener on a journey through the darkness and into the light – we all need to find a way to escape.