Apollo Brown’s Thirty Eight is a contemporary throwback, inhabiting the realm of reverent reinvention and innovation. It deftly bridges the gap between ‘70s Blaxploitation soundtracks (e.g. Curtis Mayfield or Marvin Gaye) and the hip-hop records that sampled from them.
The tracks on Thirty Eight are presented in gritty, heavily saturated Technicolor, the scratches and cigarette burns as purposeful as they are happily accidental. These are suites sounding from long barrels held by lone men lurking in grimy project hallways. Tinged with revenge and regret, shrouded in thick tendrils of hollow-point smoke, the songs have all the makings of an epic gangster tragedy. They’re also great when paired with anything Raymond Chandler.
Crackle and sample hiss run like electric current throughout, charging the record with a retro feel and resonant warmth. Yet these qualities are only secondary to Brown’s impeccable ear for instrumentation. Thirty Eight is full of funk, soul, jazz, blues, hip-hop, and everything in between. The bluesy guitar twang of slow-burner “Black Suits” and the lush, orchestral strings of “The Warning” are just two examples of the depth and diversity Brown brings to the table.