A fast-rising beatmaker from out of Detroit, Apollo Brown introduced his brand of soul-flavored, sample-heavy production on two instrumental albums -- Skilled Trade (2007) and Make Do (2009). Now inducted into the ranks of respected indie rap label Mello Music Group, Brown adds some tweaks and twists to a selection of beats from his archives, pairing them with choice vocals from labelmates such as Kenn Starr, Oddissee, Declaime, and Hassaan Mackey as well as a handful of underground mainstays like Prince Po, Grap Luva, and Big Pooh of Little Brother. The result is an extraordinary hodgepodge of next-level lyricism and impeccable behind-the-boards craftsmanship. Detroit's underground hip-hop scene has received renewed scrutiny in recent years with the passing of J Dilla as well as commendable efforts from Guilty Simpson and Black Milk, among others. What sets Apollo Brown apart is that, unlike some of his Motown brethren who tend to follow Dilla's beatmaking formulas to a T, Apollo Brown shows he can excel at a variety of production styles. And while James Yancey's legacy can be heard at times, it's clear that Brown was raised on the works of East Coast masters like the RZA and DJ Premier. The beats featured on The Reset waffle between brooding slow burners ("Lower the Boom," "Seasons," "Brainwash," "Propa") and soaring, battle-happy headnodders ("Hungry," "Streets Won't Let Me Chill," "Ghetto Soul Music"). Furthermore, he displays a meticulous attention to detail in his programming that's too rare in contemporary hip-hop. Consider how the chunky bassline and crisp drums of "Real Detroit" are given an adrenaline rush with the addition of baseball bat cracks and roaring crowd samples when the chorus drops. Similarly, the jazzy guitar chords and echoing vocals lingering behind "Seasons" provide a haunting backdrop to Kansas-born lyricist Stik Figa's woeful vignettes of his home state. Ultimately, The Reset shows and proves Apollo Brown's mettle as a versatile and highly talented beatsmith while serving as a fine showcase for the Mello Music Group roster.
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AllMusic Review by Matt Rinaldi