Local rapper Orion is one of a handful of individuals making hip-hop happen in South Florida away from the glitz and schmaltz of crappy-ass mainstream music. Does this make him any less ambitious than other MCs out there, reaping the wealth of dumb-ass consumers?
No, it doesn't. It makes him that much more of a threat.
In his travels and trials he has proven, not unlike the best poets of yore, that he is able to meld personal experience with bravado, family, ethnic pride, and a staunch opinion of the world around him. If hip-hop is poesy, Orion's our local poet laureate.
Esperanza was a pretty solid record. The levels and continuity were right. What can you tell us about the creation of that album?
Orion: I was very critical with it, I wanted it to be perfect. The majority of the album was recorded at Artificial Memory Studios in Hialeah. Me and the engineer there Tony Suarez put a lot of time and energy into it, and sometimes I felt we over-produced certain tracks. The material was basically two years worth of solo tracks that I had completed all at the same studio, except for one.
As far as subject matter is concerned, I wanted all the songs to be different, but still fit like a biopic film. The hardest thing about getting that album done was deciding which tracks would make the cut. I had a lot of leftover tracks that didn't make the album.
There was also a charismatic sense of family underneath the harder edges of the songs; how important is family and your heritage in your work?
I tend to write most of my music from a nostalgic place. I go off a lot from what I've lived. My family is very important to me; incorporating my family is something I don't do on purpose, it just comes out in most my songs. Since Esperanza was my first solo project, I wanted to treat it like my origins album, hence why it has a strong Latino pride vibe on it.
Which brings us to Balls to the Wall; at first glance these are two completely disparate albums, almost like a split-personality situation. What can you tell us about the attitude shift between the works?
When I started working on new material, I was knocking out songs faster. I wasn't overthinking the recording and mixing of it and was just letting things fly. I was writing all kinds of stuff and decided my next album would be like my ode to Genius/Gza's Liquid Swords album where the whole thing would have this dark, ominous feel. At the same token, I was writing some joints that were about love, sex, perversions, relationships, etc... all of those songs, I'm saving for another album.
In the end though, the album is undeniably you. The subject matter is comparative between the two, but there seems to be an angrier edge that's broken with some spot on samples and beats. Tell us about the process behind this album.
In reality, I was working on the Hunting Season album first, and had completed maybe 80 percent of it. However, certain situations started springing up and delayed me from finishing it in the studio. So I stayed busy recording and mixing new stuff at the crib and Balls to the Wall was born from that.
To put the albums in context, the songs from both Hunting Season and Balls to the Wall were being completed around 2009-2011. There were a lot of strange things happening in the world at that time. I was in a messed up place financially, baby on the way, house facing foreclosure, and a slew of personal issues. Add to that my disgust for anything mainstream that is forcefully pushed on us by pop culture.
You've also been appearing on other works, like Manifesto's new album. How do you compare your solo work with stuff you are featured in? How collaborative is the latter as far as your input is concerned?
In my solo work, I'm very selfish as to what I want to do. When I collab with someone, I try to compromise and reach a middle ground for a united vision of the song. If I'm producing the beat, then I might tell the artist a concept I have in mind, but I tend to let artist do what they do.
How do you conduct guest performers on your tracks? Is there guidance from you or do you usually work with like-minded artists and let 'em loose on the tracks?
I try to work with like-minded artists; just makes it easier.
Any featured work coming up soon?
There's a project I have in the works with four other Miami MCs, none of which I had ever made any music with before that is coming out real dope. However, that is the most I can disclose on that for now.
Let's shift our attention now to the Hunting Season project. What's the status on that?
Hunting Season is done and I will release it on July 4 of this year. It will be available through Bandcamp, CDBaby, iTunes, and more to come.
What's next for you, both musically and personally?
Musically, I have a lot of material in my vaults that I haven't released yet. I have another album done that I fantasize about making it into an old-school Rotoscope type film... Something kind of like Heavy Metal, Fire and Ice or the classic Wizards. I dream big so who knows when that will happen.
Personally, I'm enjoying life, being a father and a husband keeps me pretty busy when I'm not doing music.
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