AP tha Don released his fourth CD through his own record label, Smoked Out Entertainment, Tuesday. The Sun- Gazette recently had a chance to sit down with him and talk about the album, his label, the Williamsport hip-hop scene and life.
APRIL LINE: What does your hip-hop name, AP tha Don, mean?
AP tha Don: Around here, I'm No. 1 on all the charts. I'm the first one to really put our music on the college stations - we network all the way from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia. That's what the album "Statewide Hustla" is all about. It's about all the artists and everybody functioning as one unit.
AL: Do you always perform solo?
AP tha Don: No. I perform with the co-CEO of my label, C-Kwel. We have another artist, the Poetic Assassin, he's near Pittsburgh. And we perform with any record company who does work with us.
AL: Do you think of yourself more as a rapper than a DJ?
AP tha Don: I'm a rapper. I don't know how to be a DJ.
AL: In "Chuckle Shuffle," you sample the soundtrack from the original Willy Wonka movie. What are some other unusual songs or soundtracks you've sampled?
AP tha Don: Hold on, I've got all of them here. (AP tha Don pulls six CDs out of his pockets.) We have Don Michaels, he's from the Park Avenue area. My favorite one is "Drippin Wet." That's on WVRT 97.7. A lot of females like that. "All Alone" features me and C-Kwel. That's a song that has a lot of meaning. We pushed the single all summer last summer.
AL: Who's C-Kwel and how do you know him?
AP tha Don: I grew up with him. He's my best friend.
AL: Does he do his own thing or do you two always play together?
AP tha Don: He has the option to perform by himself, but usually we don't do anything unless it's together. We're an incorporated artist, instead of us being two rappers, we're incorporated because we own everything together. Right now, I have a deal on the table - a publishing and distribution deal - with Slip-N-Slide records. Have you ever heard of them?
AP tha Don: They have Rick Ross, Trina - they're from Miami Beach, Florida. I didn't take the deal because they say this place's going to be bigger than Texas in a few years from the oil company, so I might as well stay here. I have a lot of family here.
AL: So you've lived in Williamsport your whole life?
AP tha Don: Yeah. I was born on Park Ave. I was raised all around, that's why I go everywhere, all around.
AL: What's your favorite part of Williamsport?
AP tha Don: I like some of the parks. Memorial Park is good for the kids now since they re-did it. There's not really much to do here anymore. They're bringing a lot of people from Texas. The last couple of weeks there have been - I don't want to say altercations - but hostility. I can't go to Denny's without a little bit of hostility.
AL: You mean between the locals and the gas and oil workers?
AP tha Don: I survived the first influx, when it was North Philadelphia, back in the '90s. When they first started building all the housing developments. That's when you had to earn your respect. Nowadays, in the underground scene, people come see me. They come see Hoffa entertainment.
AL: Is Hoffa another local label?
AP tha Don: They own a store on 148 W. Fourth St. They have a several different albums out. They're working on other artists. Together, we're called HeSo records. Hoffa Entertainment, Smoked Out Entertainment.
AL: Do you have a day job?
AP tha Don: No. I just beat a 15-to-30-year trial. I was in state prison for three and 1/2 years and found not guilty. I did have a job.
AL: What was your job before?
AP tha Don: I was a distribution manager for the whole East Coast. In HVAC.
AL: What were you in jail for?
AP tha Don: Criminal solicitation, possession of a firearm, possession of crack cocaine. The thing is, they charged me with possession and the stuff they found was four hours away from Williamsport. I was on parole and parole don't like that - when you catch a new case. They didn't give me bail, so I just had to sit there. I had to sit in jail for three years because I wouldn't tell.
AL: Where are you staying now?
AP tha Don: I own a house. Sort of. I help my family out. I make sure my family is straight. That's why I didn't take the deal in Miami. I had to bury five family members last year. My grandmother there's light at the end of the tunnel, I guess. I don't give up.
AL: Smoked Out Entertainment has been around for a long time, relatively speaking. Can you talk about the evolution of the Williamsport hip-hop scene in that time?
AP tha Don: In 1998, there were only about three rappers.
AL: How many are there now?
AP tha Don: From what I've seen on Reverb Nation, there's about 70 to 80 in Williamsport alone. And I'm No. 1. I've been No. 1 for about nine months. Some people talk about things that they've never been through. Some people don't pay the respects that are needed - they just try to come in with a battle rap, and that's why nothing ever gets accomplished. The whole reason we made up Smoked Out Entertainment is because two heads are better than one. If we branch together on one main idea - if you have five people on the same page trying to take underground hip hop to a mainstream level - it's hard around here.
AL: What is a battle rap?
AP tha Don: Say somebody has a problem with you, they'll try to battle. It's like a man thing. This rapper is hotter than this rapper. Sometime that's good for business, other times it can be blown out of proportion. It can escalate to battling in front of a crowd. The winner gets bragging rights. I'm not a battle rapper, I'm an artist.
AL: Can you talk a little bit about your new album, "Statewide Hustla?"
AP tha Don: I wrote this while my grandma died, some of the songs in prison. The single was "All Alone." We put this album together in probably four to five months. I did the production and everything. The photography was done by a female friend of mine who's kind of upset with me right now. We have a history together. She did all the photos and graphic design.
AL: Why is she upset with you?
AP tha Don: Because she was my fiance, and I told her I was about to take a record deal in Miami.
AL: So she was mad because you were going to go far away?
AP tha Don: Yeah. I still love her. I still text her every day. She's very talented. See all this stuff? (He holds up the CD) I don't know how to do all this stuff!
AL: What else would you like the Sun-Gazette to know?
AP tha Don: All of our albums will be available at FYE. You can hear our tracks at the website at Reverb Nation (reverbna tion.com/apthadon).