With Apt, Provo hip-hop gets eclectic

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A tall, thin Caucasian man wears a well-tailored red gingham, buttoned to the top, with a chain and combination lock peeking out from beneath the collar. His black jeans are close-fitting and held up by skinny, black Y-back suspenders. He wears his dark hair perfectly coiffed, parted from right to left.

This is Apt, the unlikely face of Provo hip-hop.

Photo by Gilbert Cisneros

Apt is releasing his debut album, “Do Yourself In,” Feb. 4 at Muse Music Cafe.

Apt is the stage name of Adam Hochhalter (pronounced “Ho-halter”), a 29-year-old native of Highland Park, a suburb of Chicago. He moved to Provo in 2002 and became a part of the local music community when a roommate invited him to rap on a couple of songs with his band, “Deadlocked.”

“They won the BYU battle of the bands two years in a row … but it didn’t really mean all that much back then either,” said Hochhalter, tongue-in-cheek.

Over the years, Hochhalter has forged friendships with some of Provo’s elite musicians, contributing to his status as one of the most familiar faces in Provo’s music scene. That familiarity, however, has caused many to mistakenly associate him with bands of which he isn’t a member.

“I hang out with Scott (Book on Tapeworm and The New Nervous) and Tyler (Neon Trees) a lot,” Hochhalter said. “Anywhere I’d go, I’d be with one of them, so a lot of people thought I was in The New Nervous or Neon Trees.”

According to Chance Clift, Hochhalter’s friend and collaborator on his forthcoming debut “Do Yourself In,” that mistake is justifiable.

“Adam has the look, where if you see him out in public, you don’t know what he does, but you know he does something,” Clift said. “He’s not just like a regular dude, you know?”

Hochhalter’s brazen style has prodded friends to refer to him as “#kinghipster” on Twitter, but the dichotomy between his appearance and musical stylings has also garnered him lots of attention when he steps onto the stage.

“At first I would ask myself, ‘Is this going to be weird?’ but now I prefer there to be a disconnect,” Hochhalter said. “I kind of like when people will see a set, and then tell me, ‘I didn’t know what you were doing getting up there and I didn’t expect you to be good, but you were awesome.’ ”

Donning his typical peculiar apparel plays an almost ritualistic role in Hochhalter’s pre-show preparation, similar to an athlete pulling a jersey over his head.

“In general, I’m pretty shy,” Hochhalter said, “but when I change into what I’m going to wear for a set, it’s like, ‘OK, now it’s time for me to rock.’ ”

Working with collaborators, especially Clift — whose emcee name is Chance Lewis — is another way Hochhalter overcomes his reticence, but it also stems from his desire to make music in a cooperative environment. The two are constantly looking for new talent in Provo that might be interested in working on a song or participating in a show.

“I guarantee there’s somebody in Provo right now who’s way better than both of us, rapping in their bedroom over some beats on the Internet, but they just don’t know that people would come to rap shows in Provo,” Hochhalter said. “We’ve been trying to find those people and say, ‘Let’s do a show, let’s show people that this exists.’ ”

Clift, who also fronted the punk band Abby Normal, has converted part of his Provo home into a studio, where various Provo musicians have come to contribute to his and Hochhalter’s new records.

Their creative environment is seemingly full of laughter and good times, but Hochhalter insists his music is far from novelty or joke rap.

“The music is really emotional and serious,” he said. “It’s not party rap at all.”

Both Hochhalter and Clift have worked hard to establish the roots of a hip-hop scene. Many in Provo’s music community recognize the movement as legitimate.

Gilbert Cisneros, an employee of Muse Music Cafe, is one such supporter. He said he first started listening to the duo’s music because he was a fan of Clift’s band, Abby Normal.

The fact that Cisneros, who is a punk-rock enthusiast, has embraced local hip-hop is a realization of part of Hochhalter’s vision. As a fan, Hochhalter frequents concerts in a variety of genres, supporting the local music scene as a whole instead of dissecting it into diverse and rivalrous parts. He is optimistic that concert-goers in Provo can enjoy his rap shows as much as a rock show.

“I have a wide spectrum of musical taste,” he said. “I enjoy rap and dance music, pop music, rock, whatever — and I think other people can have that too.”

Hochhalter will release “Do Yourself In” on Saturday, Feb. 4, at Muse Music Cafe. Doors open at 8 p.m.

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