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80 Empire aka The Rezza Brothers (Photo: Supplied)

Interview: Q&A

80 Empire talks Legacy, Fred the Godson, new album with Swifty McVay & more

80 Empire (Photo: Rojo)

80 Empire talks Legacy, Fred the Godson, new album with Swifty McVay & more

After being fans of The Rezza Brothers for several years, we finally had the chance to connect with the team originally from Niagara-on-the-Lake for an in-depth interview.

Taking on the name 80 Empire back in 2015, Adrian (Sir Analog) and Lucas (Sir Digital) Rezza have meticulously constructed one of Canada’s fastest-growing, multi-faceted indie hip-hop outfits seeing regular International clientele, and success.

“Lucas handles all of the actual physical production from playing piano to all the drum programming. I’m the singer-songwriter, and I rap as well,” Adrian Rezza articulated via our recent e-mail based interview.

In their words, they don’t just make beats or write songs, they are “curators of a sound.” And it’s a sound more and more people are gravitating towards.

From finding success early on with the 80 Empire brand—being Certified Platinum for a song they wrote and produced for MCA Universal artist Darren Espanto in 2015—the 80 Empire team has built up a highly impressive discography which includes releases of their own, as well as a ton of work producing and writing for others.

Their portfolio is packed with a diverse group of recognizable names including (but not limited to) Bishop Lamont, Fred The Godson (R.I.P.), Krayzie Bone, Ali Vegas, Divine Brown, k-os, Peter Jackson, Conway the Machine, Kool G Rap, and even ATL legend Bone Crusher, who offered a spirited take on working with 80 Empire:

“Passion, Driven, Inspiring, Composed, Originality with the essence of the groove! The Rezza Brothers are the competition of powerful energy that’s needed on every song!”

And there’s no way HipHopCanada can feature the JUNO Nominated Rezza Brothers without also mentioning the duo co-Executive produced one of our favourite albums by Canadian legend Maestro Fresh Wes’ Orchestrated Noise (2013).

Guilty

80 Empire’s latest album is a collaborative 16-track release with Buffalo’s Balistic Man which dropped in early March. Guilty features the Nems-assisted “Rat” which recently passed the 100K stream count on Spotify.

“Working with Adrian and Lucas is like working with family. You become apart of the family with them,” Balistic Man explained to HipHopCanada.

“That’s what I love the most. They utilize everyone’s best abilities to uplift each other! They’re also two of the most talented individuals I’ve worked with as well. From Lucas’s unique / amazing production to Adrian’s amazing song-writing and singing ability, they’ve been able to craft me a sound that was different to anything else I’ve had in the past. So when we work together no one else can have that sound because it’s a formula we’ve created together! Which is dope, and I love to learn and listen. Their seasoned in music and the music business. They’ve taught me a lot and it’s great to work with family oriented people as well. There isn’t another 80 Empire out there. They’re the one and only!”

Fit In

Along with Guilty, the group already has six other official song releases in 2020 including “Cosa Nostra” and “Fit In,” which features the first posthumous guest appearance by Fred the Godson. Fred sadly passed away this past April at just age 35 from COVID-19. 80 Empire is helping keep his legacy alive with the new song which also features Bishop Lamont, Lazarus, il nano, and Catherine Marie.

“Good people find good people! And this is only the beginning bro! Bless up!” Bishop Lamont explained about building with 80 Empire.

He continued: “From the moment we physically met at Namm, I knew Lucas was a genuinely great human being, and a true monster jam maker!!! The rest will be history! 80 EMPIRE FOREVER!”

What makes “Fit In” extra interesting is it actually features a doctor working who has been selflessly working overtime during this COVID-19 pandemic. Las Vegas-based Detroit rapper and physician Lazarus took a moment to speak on his relationship with 80 Empire and the meaning of the “Fit In” single:

“It was dope working with 80 Empire,” recalled Laz (aka Dr. Khan). “The production skills of this record really helped to convey my feelings and the internal struggles I’ve been facing with COVID-19 working on front lines.”

Along with discussing Guilty, the interview touches on the newly announced 11-song album the guys have coming with Swifty McVay of Detroit’s notorious rap collective, D12, expected July 16.

“Man we The Avengers, X-Men, Reservoir Dogs all mixed in one lol 🔥🔥🔥” Swifty expressed of the bond with 80 Empire.

“Yes, the chemistry is definitely there bro, and I can’t wait to see the impact this music is gonna have on the listeners.”

That’s just a quick scope of the total amount of new music 80 Empire will have released by the end of the year, and that’s not even close to the extent of what’s coming. They have two other projects confirmed for 2020 including one with Queens, NY rapper Ali Vegas, and another with Balistic Man and J-Hood of D-Block fame.

Legacy

80 Empire’s latest single is the newly released “Legacy” which features Balistic Man and Griselda Records artist Conway the Machine. It’s expected to appear on the album by the same name which will be out later this year.

We originally planned to interview 80 Empire about making music during the pandemic and their collaboration with Fred the Godson, but it’s slowly turned into much more than that. In fact, in the midst of preparing the article for publishing on our website, protests were breaking out around the world in response to the senseless murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police.

It didn’t feel right moving forward with the story without circling back to Adrian and Lucas to give them a chance to speak on everything going on. They had already been highly outspoken on social media in support for the Black Lives Matter movement, and against racism.

The interview is broken down into two parts, both conducted via email. Part 1 was completed in late May, and Adrian submitted the pair’s answers for Part 2 on June 14. Both are available below.

 
Lucas and Adrian Rezza are 80 Empire

80 Empire (Photo: Rojo)


Q&A: 80 Empire – Part 1

HipHopCanada: Peace 80 Empire! Thanks for taking the time to speak with us. How have you been holding up during this pandemic? How have your music routines changed?

80 Empire: Hey guys, good to talk with you! Ya man, this has been the Twilight Zone for sure and a scene straight out of some Hollywood blockbuster. However the silver lining to this horrible situation—which has put the world on house arrest—is exactly that, we’re all on house arrest so there are more people listening and watching, resulting in that much more engagement on social media than previously. For us, despite the mobility issues, we have hit the pavement running and have been very active in the studio. We’re blessed to have a home studio and keep our families safe at the same time by not venturing heavily into the world yet other than for groceries and the bare necessities.

I think this pandemic has really taught all of us to value the things we took for granted every day. It has also motivated us to put out more music, saving it for the perfect time is pointless. No better moment than now, because tomorrow isn’t promised. We want to hopefully uplift people and create awareness with dope and substance filled music during this time. I think our routines are almost the same, if anything we are even goin’ harder in the studio. We have a film we are working on and script is finished ready to go with our partners Fatty Soprano, Shutterr and Robert Funaro (actor in The Sopranos, The Irishman, Ray Donovan, American Gangster). We have had to put on hold until the border opens up once again.

HipHopCanada: What are each of your respective roles on the team? Do you both collaborate on every beat or are there times where one of you takes the lead on a project?

80E: Great question. So 80 Empire is the both of us Lucas and Adrian, we’re both brothers. Lucas handles all of the actual physical production from playing piano to all the drum programming. I’m the singer-songwriter, and I rap as well. Many producers make beats (and there is total honor in that). I like to think because we are writing songs and singing hooks as well that, we are curators of a sound.

Sometimes I’ll have an idea for a song either words and melody already written or a sample idea and then pitch it to Luke. Other times, Luke will have a beat made and I’ll just feel it and either freestyle a hook in the booth, sometimes or verse or write a concept together. We’re definitely a ying and yang, good cop, bad cop at different times depending on the mood and vibe of what’s going on. We can also tell each other off, but squash it immediately. That’s the upside of being a brother duo in this game. We also let our business partner Trill Wil listen when we are done something. Always great to get a fresh ear and different perspective.

HipHopCanada: You guys have a brand new collaboration featuring Fred the Godson and several other dope artists. How did you find out about Fred’s untimely passing and did it impact the decision to release the record?

80E: Ya first off REST IN BEATS FRED… I think Fred was everyone’s Favorite rapper’s favorite rapper. Luke was just talking with him on the phone and via text a month before his passing and then we saw the post about him on the oxygen mask. Three weeks later I’m literally sitting down to eat lunch and I read the news on IG. Listen, by no means do we want to act like we were best friends with Fred but we were on chapter one of a musical friendship and collaboration together so the afternoon we read about the news we were really upset and to be honest even cried man.

He left behind a wife and two kids. This hits close to home we have wives and kids as well so we really felt sick to our stomachs. We decided to go ahead and still put out the record as planned only thing that really changed was Laz’s verse he’s a medical doctor on the front lines in a Las Vegas hospital so his verse changed to fit in (no pun intended that’s the name of the joint) the realities he’s dealing with everyday fighting COVID.

HipHopCanada: Did you get a chance to work with him in studio?

80E: We never got a chance to get with him in the studio but have an amazing verse he spit on for the “Fit In” record… It’s surreal when you listen to it because certain things he said sounds like he’s rapping from the afterlife. “I thank the lord that I’m here now and all of my metaphors y’all can hear now.”

Truly a master lyricist. I really believe at some point we would have all been in a studio together he was good friends with Joel Ortiz who was in Slaughterhouse with KXNG Crooked (AKA Crooked I) and we have Crooked on our Legacy album thanks to our homie from the Bay RX who is also on our project. We’re also doing projects with both of these amazing artists, Crook and RX, so I think eventually we would have gotten in a studio with Fred. It’s like six degrees separation of Kevin Bacon.

It’s dope doing things via text and email, but there’s nothing like being in a room with someone to feed off each other’s energy.

HipHopCanada: From your discussions with our Editor prior to the interview, you guys had originally planned to do an EP or some sort of project with Fred beyond just the single. Can you speak on that?

80E: Ya, Luke phoned Fred to tell him about the “Fit In” joint that we were putting it out even discussed potential of a video and Fred was all down for it. Then Luke and Fred were really talking about life, family, joking about ‘Club Quarantine’ and then Luke suggested we all do an EP… Fred was with it and remarked to Luke that we have our own sound and wanted to help spread our name more to the rest of the hip-hop community in New York.

Luke sent him a bunch of stuff and Fred was ready to start recording, shortly after he got sick and then the world and his family lost an amazing musician, poet, but most of all a husband and father. Luke spoke with his management and they gave us the blessing to put out the track. Luke spoke with his wife as well. They are setting up a FredTheGodson.org foundation. We want to donate the proceeds we get from the song towards their charity. Once the site they’ve created is active, we are going to put up a link so people can also donate. We initially wanted to setup our own thing but we decided against it and want to be respectful to him and his family who are still in the early stages of mourning his tragic passing.

HipHopCanada: How did the debut with Chuck D go down on Friday? Was it something you guys had planned or did he surprise you by featuring it?

80E: Having a LEGEND that we grew up listening and admiring like CHUCK D debut your song and talk about it in such length and with such passion and kindness is worth more than any material thing anyone could ever give us.

We knew it was going to happen, we just didn’t know to what extent. We owe this all to A) Laz. He went on IG with him a couple weeks before and discussed the song with him. Then B) Bishop Lamont who is also on the song really went to bat for us, him and M80 (producer, A&R) and spoke to Chuck and were able to land this for the song. Really HUGE LOVE to Laz, Bishop, and M80 who have really championed the song and blessed us with mammoth verses.

Real respect for these brothers and more music to come down the pipeline with them, solid cats, talented and straight shooters. Also shout out to our brother from Bari Italy, Max il nano who is also on the track and from a crew Bari Jungle brothers from whom we have collaborated with on a variety of projects. Bari is where our dad is from so for us it’s important to also be connected with our Italian heritage.

Bari has a thriving hip-hop community there and if we can help play a small role of marrying both worlds together, for us it’s a cool thing. Then last but definitely not least is Catherine Marie who is singing the hook with us, she also helped write it, she has been amazing as well championing the record. With Fit in we wanted to get people from different regions, different parts of the globe all on a song…Under normal circumstances many of us would have never crossed paths for geographical purposes alone, but with Fit In, we are all part of the same global community.

 
Lucas and Adrian Rezza are 80 Empire

80 Empire (Photo: Supplied)

HipHopCanada: What else do you guys have planned with the single?

80E: We Would really love to raise more awareness and love to tell Fred’s wife that we have collected some funds to honor Fred’s legacy. We also may have a video as well just in the works, just seeing creatively how we can piece everyone’s parts together. DJ Eclipse is also playing it on Shade 45 so I think a lot more awareness is going to be evoked from the release of this song and hopefully showcase to people the lyrical brilliance of Fred and the other titans on this tune. We have some other dope surprises to come in regards to the song.

HipHopCanada: Up until recently, your biggest song on your Spotify profile was “80 Empire Man” off the #IVPPTER project. What inspired the song and what kind of feedback have you gotten from IVPPTER?

80E: Ya being fans of all music (hip-hop being our first love), our musical palette is vast so we like to switch up styles makes things interesting and unpredictable. We have gotten some great love from the IVPPTER project. We envisioned 80 Empire Man as a kind of theme song if you will, driving through the streets of Berlin (007) type vibes. This is the beautiful thing about being versatile is that these songs can eventually be used for television and film. We actually landed two placements during this Pandemic one for a film and one for a major tv show.

HipHopCanada: Your Guilty project with Balistic Man has all kinds of dope tracks and collaborations. How did the project come about? What do each of you consider the best song on it?

80E: Ya man thank you and you guys really supported this album from the jump. We met Balistic Man a year ago via IG and the three of us hit it off creatively and both on a brotherly level. Balis is Super talented and he has allowed us into Buffalo, a city we always respected growing up listening to WBLK, now we feel part of the city’s musical landscape. We used to live in Toronto and now live in the Niagara region and before this pandemic we were spending a lot of time in B-Lo. What was going to be one song on our Legacy project developed into us producing every song and featuring on almost every one for Balistic’s project to it becoming a joint album.

It really is the biography of Balistic’s life in the Buffalo streets and him beating those odds. He was in the Federal Pen in his twenties and wanted us in forest green jumpers so we could, in a small way feel like how prison life was for him. Out of this, all these dope collabos emerged and it was really a handshake between 3 brothers to put out a great project. I think “Welcome to the 716,” “Rat,” “Good Days” are my favorite. Luke would say “Diplomaticos,” “Last Dragon,” “Puertorican Pac” …it’s a great cast as well from Benny the Butcher, Nems, Chris Rivers, some of our homies from Italy, Ali Vegas (who we have a project coming out with later this year), Wally La Amenaza and more. We also have an EP coming out with J-Hood and Balsitic.

HipHopCanada: If you had to pick three songs produced by 80 Empire that could give a good synopsis of the team’s overall sound, what would they be? Why?

80E: I think 1 would be “Battle Cry” it’s a song we produced /featured on and co-wrote for Obie Trice’s third studio album Bottom’s Up, it was also the first single off that album. The thing with Spotify, unfortunately, you can’t merge other names with our current name so that song comes up under Obie Trice or Adrian Rezza – but it is an 80 Empire joint, It’s a war chant and we think anthemic. We take pride on trying to architect anthemic hooks over big scores.

Second would have to be “Cosa Nostra” we just put out nearing 30K streams on Spotify but we put it out about 3 weeks before Spotify on SoundCloud and have over 1 million streams on the cloud. With that one I think is because it really showcases our ability to tell a story in a melodic way with still keeping that Driving beat underneath it is also an ode to Doing it on your own Italian style and that’s what were about, doing for self! The third that’s a tricky one Would have to be something from Balistic’s album or one of our Soulful House joints. I think that can truly show our versatility and sound. We definitely owe our versatility and musical knowledge to our parents who exposed us to such amazing and timeless music growing up.

HipHopCanada: There seems to be a shift in attitude towards how important self-isolating is, and many people are calling for certain types of businesses to be re-opened. Businesses that would make self-isolating almost impossible (i.e. hair salons). Without expecting you to predict the future, how do you feel the next few months are going to play out? Do you think we’ll get a return to “normal” in 2020?

80E: I think this too shall pass, it is scary especially after seeing the death of Fred but eventually we as a human race will prevail. I think though things will be different forever as a result of this, we are very affectionate so I think people are going to think twice before we pound and dap and hug etc… I think new professions, and tech will be developed as a direct outcome of this pandemic and hopefully some more unity. There is a lot of Hate rhetoric that’s plaguing social media right now, people make hasty decisions and are quick to voice an opinion without all the facts. We can’t lament about what’s going on but just have to adapt to our new surroundings.

HipHopCanada: What Canadian artists and producers are you checking for?

80E: Really have a lot of respect for the Stompdown Killaz crew, they are relentlessly putting out great quality music. We actually have Evil Ebenezer on a tune with Kid Vishus for our Legacy project. Also big up to Robbie G and Peter Jackson, JYAY, and Raxx whom we’ve recently collaborated with as well. Would definitely love to do something with Dax!

HipHopCanada: What’s next for 80 Empire?

80E: We have our Legacy project dropping, our next single with Conway the Machine and Balistic Man, more with our brother Balistic Man who has welcomed us into his city because of him we have been able to do joints with Rick Hyde and Benny the Butcher. Shout out to Tony Deniro who helps run Black Soprano Family, he has been supportive as well. To my knowledge we’re the first Canadians to collaborate with the Griselda BSF families and have a HUGE respect for Buffalo.

We have a MONSTER project we dropping with our brother Swifty Mcvay and something with KXNG Crooked, more joints coming with Statik Selektah, Masta Ace, B.G. Knocc Out, Ali Vegas, Tina Barrett (formerly of S Club 7), Beenie Man, Grafh, Meeko Gattuso, Bone Crusher and a dope collabo with Carmine Monaco who plays the gangster ‘o Track on Gomorra and many more, along with some short films.

 
Lucas and Adrian Rezza are 80 Empire

80 Empire (Photo: Mike Farkas for G3 Designs)


Q&A: 80 Empire – Part 2

HipHopCanada: You guys have been outspoken in your support for the Black Lives Matter movement, and speaking out against racism and human rights violations. As we roll into 10+ days of protests, how do you feel about real, long term change being a possibility?

80 Empire: We are hoping that things change, they need too and it is inevitable. We need to start with our youth in the education system. African culture along with Indigenous studies need to be more prevalent in the Canadian curriculum and not just in February or June. It needs to then filtrate into other sectors of society, economic, political, media etc. We also need to have real conversations with the police and need younger people, more women and more cultural diversity represented in politics. We need young people with fresh new ideas to create real long lasting and impactful change. We also need more funding in the school systems, community centres, programming for children and teens; they are like seeds if you water the seeds they will grow and blossom, if not they will whither away. We need to invest in authentic and relevant programming for our youth and equip them with vital skills for the future.

HipHopCanada: In your view, how can producers and members of the Canadian scene actively support the cause?

80E: I think if you are in the music industry, especially hip-hop, you need to stand in solidarity with your African American and Canadian brothers and sisters. Support as much as you can on all of your platforms. There are many great links where people can donate to help, supporting Black businesses, educating people around you from your own children to friends on social media. Educate your self by researching credible websites and literature on different issues. I also think your music should have a message, Your musical message can be the most powerful and impactful way to create awareness. Music with substance that educates and enlightens people! Now is not the time to be afraid of ruffling feathers or be scared of loosing endorsement deals. What message do you send to your friends of colour if you sit silent and idle on the sidelines. We need to stand united on the front lines to combat systemic racism and oppression!

HipHopCanada: How do you feel about racism in Canada?

80E: It definitely exists. Canadians try to sweep it under the carpet, however it definitely is here and we need to look for tangible solutions in order to achieve real change.

HipHopCanada: What can be done to address things in Canada specifically?

80E: Again, I think it starts with the education system, other people’s contributions to Canada have to be represented in the curriculum. You learn about pioneers in like Grade 1. What about teaching kids about Indigenous people and their vast contributions to the world? Really the first environmentalists and first people of this land. Don’t wait for a month to teach people’s history and we must not just teach the slave narrative. Teach children about African Kings and Queens and highly intricate African culture and and infrastructure. We need younger people getting into politics who truly represent the multiculturalism of Canada as well. We also need more money pumped into after-school programs, community centers, arts, technology, give children hope, real opportunity and authentic and genuine training and we will all reap the benefits 10 fold.

HipHopCanada: Conway the Machine has an incredible new BLM tribute which we featured not that long ago. Can you tell us about the new track you guys have coming out on June 18?

80E: Ya man, excited about this joint. We have Conway and our brother Balistic on it. It’s called “Legacy” and we think it’s the perfect tune for what’s going on right now in the world. Social injustice coupled with a pandemic and a sense of unknowing when the dust settles and clears… how do you want to be best remembered and what “Legacy” do you want to leave behind.

“Early mornings, sleepless nights, paid our dues and earned our stripes we do this for our legacy, for our children and the memories” – part of the chorus we wrote and sang on the chune.

 
Lucas and Adrian Rezza are 80 Empire

80 Empire with Swifty McVay & Obie Trice (Photo: Mike Farkas for G3 Designs)

HipHopCanada: You also have a new project dropping next month with Swifty McVay. How did you guys originally connect with Swifty and what can people expect from the new project?

80E: Ya we have an 11 song joint album with Swifty dropping July 16. We met him two years ago through Obie Trice who we’re friends with and have done records with. We then jumped on stage with them when they performed in St. Catharines at The Warehouse. We then did a song collectively called “Phoney” on the Devil’s Night: Dawn of the Nain Rouge soundtrack. Nov. 2019 we went to Detroit for the premiere, hung out with Swifty and discussed doing a project. Fast forward to a month or so ago, we banged out 11 songs plus a twelfth that is going to be in a movie Swifty is in. The project is very diverse, lyrical, hard hitting then tapered with melodic and anthemic choruses. Swifty drops some real bars, he also squashes all rumours that their is any tension between him, Em or the rest of D12. The three of us are really proud of this project… due to the border being closed, we shot some footage yesterday in Hamilton and Swifty is filming in Detroit. Then our man Fatty Soprano is going to put it all together.

HipHopCanada: Can you talk a bit more about the singles or videos dropping in support of the album?

80E: Ya, we have tons of singles dropping and visuals… we have all this content sitting in out hard drives, time to unleash it all and a couple of surprises along the way. But records with Statik Selektah, Kid Vishus, Evil Ebenezer, Crooked I and many many more.

HipHopCanada: We got word that your track “Fit In” had hit DJ Premier’s radar. What kind of response did you get from the song appearing on Shade 45?

80E: Ya man, Premier is a legend and one of our musical heroes so that was dope. We have had a lot of great feedback for the song and are actually in the midst of putting a visual together for it.

HipHopCanada: Have you had the opportunity to connect with Fred’s camp since his passing?

80E: Ya, Luke has spoke to Fred’s wife and manager and waiting for their foundation to be up and running for charitable donations.

HipHopCanada: Aside from your own releases, who is going to have the hottest album of Summer 2020?

80E: Looking forward to all the Griselda stuff. Heard Busta is dropping something and anticipating something by Kendrick. Also, Italian rapper, Gue Pequeno!

 
Lucas and Adrian Rezza are 80 Empire

80 Empire (Photo: Mike Farkas for G3 Designs)

You can find 80 Empire on all major digital streaming platforms including Apple Music and Spotify via their label Gladiator Entertainment. Follow @80Empire on Instagram.


Written by Jesse Plunkett for HipHopCanada


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Jesse founded HipHopCanada.com in 1999 and is currently the organization's Co-President & Editor-in-Chief.

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