Six years in the making, The Spirit of Apollo is the star-studded debut by N.A.S.A., the production duo consisting of DJ Ze Gon and Sam "Squeak E Clean" Spiegel, who mix and match legends with authoritative expertise. Yes, the list of collaborators is unbelievable, re-contextualizing hip-hop collaborations with remarkable ease. The credit for this feat goes to N.A.S.A. (North America/South America) - Brazilian Ze Gon and California's Spiegel meld their eclectic tastes for an incredibly spirited record. Whether it's David Byrne providing soaring choruses for Chuck D., Gift of Gab and Chali 2na on "The People Tree" and "Money" or a drunken Karen O haunting "Strange Enough," which features Fatlip and one of the last known recordings (and killer verses) by Ol' Dirty Bastard, The Spirit of Apollo finds legends mingling happily. The idea of pairing up game-changing left-fielders Tom Waits and Kool Keith for the mesmerizing "Strange Enough" makes about as much sense as they do, while a juiced-up Kanye West rips shit up with Santogold and Lykke Li on "Gifted." George Clinton, Meth, E-40, John Frusciante, KRS-One, RZA and M.I.A. are all equally memorable on The Spirit of Apollo, an explosion of vision and talent by N.A.S.A.
What is N.A.S.A.?
Squeak E Clean: I met my homeboy DJ Ze Gon in L.A. in 2003. Within a week we'd made "Hip-hop" and soon after came up with the name. The concept clicked with "Strange Enough." Bringing worlds together is the basic concept and everything grew from that over the next five-and-a-half years.
The Spirit of Apollo has a unified sound, like a cohesive mix-tape.
Yeah, I'm glad you said that. We made a specific effort to not just have people send in stuff from different cities. With maybe two exceptions, we were at every recording session. We wrote a letter to each artist with the N.A.S.A. manifesto and why they fit on the record and what we imagined them doing. We'd go meet them and knock it out together. That was fun for us - to meet all of our heroes like that.
Any regrets about artists who didn't participate?
The main person who really broke our heart was James Brown because he's our favourite musician of all time. We tried to reach out to him but he was always, always touring. I'm still thankful for him and it's a shame we couldn't work together. (Anti)