DMV up-and-comers, Orion and Rasneek, team up with DC-based DJ/Producer Rez Ekbatan to mark their first collaboration, “Love / Switch.” The Virginia-based trio blend together the sounds of Electronic, Pop, and Hip-Hop to bring a new sound to the scene. I spoke with all three of them to discuss their background, inspiration for the record, and what they think will be the future of Electronic Music and Hip-Hop.
What inspired you to be a musician and when did you know that you wanted to get into the industry?
Rez:Honestly, I thought DJ Skribble was Persian when I was a kid, so I bought turntables to be like him. When I found out he wasn’t, I quit for 2 years because I just didn’t think I could ever be good enough. Plus, I felt if I couldn’t by culturally relevant, it would be, so pointless! Luckily, I kept messing around here and there, started getting asked to play house parties, took on production seriously when I went to college, and haven’t looked back since.
Orion: The thought of me wanting to be a recording artist came late in life. My entire life, I loved music, but it wasn’t until right after I graduated high school 6 years ago that I recorded a song on Facebook as a joke, and people liked it, so I decided I should keep at it.
What inspired you to produce Hip-Hop and what differs your production from other artists in the genre?
Rez: I like messing with all genres and am a big fan of making hybrid tracks like RUN DMC and Aerosmith’s “Walk this Way” or Anthrax and Public Enemy’s “Bring the Noise.” Hip-Hop is so popular now, and it’s been able to make its way into Electronic music, so it pretty much became inevitable to mix them together with house and electronic tones on this latest track.
Rasneek: I’ve been in love with music since I was young. Punk Rock, R&B and Rap were big influences on me as a kid. I’m a percussionist and began playing the drums in 6th grade. I also did marching band in high school and was very invested as the captain of the drumline. I even traveled with the band, but after I graduated high school, I decided to take a year off from music. Towards the end of that year, I picked up producing and started making beats on Garageband. Kanye West then became one of my biggest musical influences and encouraged me to start creating music. It’s unfortunate what he’s going through right now, but I can’t deny his influence. I believe that my production differs from other Hip-Hop producers because of my musical experiences and my diverse taste. Experimenting with samples and sounds while remaining within the confines of Hip-Hop continues helping me develop a unique sound.
What do you think sets apart the music scene in the DMV from other music scenes across the country and around the world?
Rez: Honestly, no one is making a full-time living in the music industry in DC anymore. I think you have more 9-5 people working in music now, so you get a different type of soul out of people’s music. People are struggling to make songs because they get tired day-after-day just trying to get to work. There’s a lot of hustle among the music scene in DC.
Orion: I think the DMV music scene is one of a kind for the simple fact that we have tri-state influence. Each state has a unique culture, so artists can draw from different influences. Not a lot of scenes have that kind of diversity, and that’s why you literally can find any type of music produced in this area, whether it’s Hip-Hop, Pop, Indie, or R&B.
Rasneek:I think the DMV hip-hop scene is different from the other scenes because of the cultural influences in DC. The DMV to me is a melting pot of many cultures from around the US, as well as people who immigrated here from other countries. The DMV scene has been traditionally underrepresented in the global Hip-Hop conversation, with few exceptions (Wale, Shy Glizzy, Goldlink, etc.), but I can definitely see that changing within the next year or two.
Rez, I understand you perform a lot of underground house music as well. How do your hip-hop productions compare to your house productions, and where have you been able to fuse together your processes for producing both?
Rez: Everyone wants to talk about the differences between House and Hip-Hop, but what’s crazy about that is they have more similarity than Dubstep and House. For starters, the engineering is very similar, especially where the instruments sit on each track. A lot of the house basslines are also made with 808s, especially within the Dirty Bird sound, and the 808s set the stage for most Hip-Hop tracks. Also, Hip-Hop is vocal-centered, which I’m a big fan of, so it’s great working with such talented artists like Orion and Rasneek who really understand the importance of vocals. Working with Rasneek and Orion, they advocate for the importance of themes, so it’s great to bounce off ideas with these guys on what the focus should be.
For this record, you did a masterful job blending together electronic dance and hip-hop elements. Do you feel that is the future of the hip-hop industry is headed and if so, why or why not?
Rez:Orion has been showing me a lot of future bounce stuff lately and it’s very much a fusion of Hip-Hop and Electronic music, so I honestly think that’s already coming, it’s just a matter of time until Pop music takes off with it. Hip-Hop is following the same trend as dance music has, moving from smaller venues to larger venues, so it’s just a matter of time until someone figures out Quintino’s epic formula, when that happens, it’s going to be everywhere.
Orion: To me, I definitely think Hip-Hop is heading to a place where there’s just a blend of everything. No more categories, a track doesn’t have to be House or Electronic. With the stuff me Rez and Rasneek have been making, it shows how there really isn’t any boundaries anymore. We chose to lean towards the Pop House side, but who’s to say down the line, we work with an artist who wants to mix Rap and Country or something else?
Rasneek: I believe that fusion may be the future of Pop, but not necessarily Hip-Hop. We can argue that Hip-Hop is the new Pop music considering how popular it’s become, but there will still be the Ariana Grande’s and Camila Cabello’s who continue to dominate Pop music. Although the fusion of EDM and Hip-Hop has been gaining popularity, I could see it growing even more within this next year.
Do you perform your records live, and if so, what have been some of your most memorable performances?
Rez:I know Orion and Russ perform them live, I’ll just play them or mix them over some tracks so I can get them into my DJ sets.
Orion:Yes, we definitely perform live! That’s my favorite part of the music game man! I’ve had a nice amount of shows since I started. I play mostly small, intimate venues, or house shows, but my all-time favorite show was when me and Rasneek got to open up for Travis Scott and Goldlink during VCU’s Homecoming. It was a 2000+ sold out crowd and made me feel like we were in the big leagues!
Rasneek:Orion has performed live many times, and at all of his shows, I’m the DJ. Our most memorable show was definitely VCU’s Homecoming in 2015. I was DJing the entire show and Orion opened up for Travis Scott, Goldlink, and Masego. With a crowd of about 3000 people, this was by far the biggest and most memorable show we’ve done.
What’s in store for you guys in the coming year? Can you fill our readers in on some potential releases, tour dates, and announcements in 2019?
Rez:We’ve got an upcoming release called Deep End that’s got a super wavy vibe and fuses with Baltimore House. I’m still figuring out a release date for it, as we literally just finished it the other day, but I’m sure between the three of us we’ll be dropping something again soon.
Orion:Expect an in increase in content from me in 2019! New visuals, new shows, my debut EP on the way, and new merchandise. I’m honestly excited man! I want to officially make my mark in the area, and in music world for that matter!
Rasneek:Rez, Orion, and I have a few songs in the works due to release early 2019. Orion and I have a lot of songs that I produced that we are getting together to make an EP for in early 2019. I have an album dropping on Valentine’s Day with my good friend Awkward Shaman, who is an amazing singer/songwriter. I produced the entire album and am singing on a few of the songs as well. Overall, I’m ramping up my productivity this next year, and releasing as much music as I can.
Rez Ekbatan, Orion, Rasneek – love / switch (Original Mix):