ONE-ON-ONE With Lucas and Adrian Rezza aka 80 Empire
80 Empire wants you to know they’re aiming for world domination. That’s quite a lofty goal for two brothers who hail from the suburbs of Toronto, but give them a half-hour to share their story and suddenly their passion is not only palpable it’s plausible. Ladies and Gentlemen, prepare for new rules.
First: The number “80” in their moniker isn’t a not-so-subtle homage to an 80’s revival in music these days. Their songs are in fact informed by a cross-generational pastiche of Pop, R&B, and Club music. The “80” is the phonetic of “A-D.” As in Analog/Digital. Clever these brothers, eh? And quite appropriate. for Analog/Digital aptly describes their personalities to a proverbial tee. One, is emotional and impulsive favoring Antiques and things with age and patina (Analog), while the other is ordered and methodical with a penchant for Star Wars and all things technological (Digital). It’s a unique combination, just like their music.
ONETEN MAG: Please introduce yourselves to the readers: Hey what up yall we are brothers Lucas and Adrian Rezza aka 80 Empire and owners of Gladiator records.
ONETEN MAG: How dd two Italian brothers from Woodbridge, Canada get involved with making Hip-Hop music? We actually grew up in Richmond Hill and Maple and lived in North York for a year. When we got married Lucas moved to Woodbridge and our studio was there. We now live in the Niagara region. We were very fortunate growing up to have parents who exposed us to such a rich culture, from music and art to live theatre. Our parents were Big Fans of RnB, Funk, Soul music etc...when we were kids our dad brought us to see Beatstreet and then we were hooked. We loved every aspect of the culture from break dancing to rapping and making music. I think the fact that our parents also loved James Brown really influenced us growing up. Most kids in our neighborhood liked Duran Duran or Bon Jovi we looked up to James Brown and Big Daddy Kane. When Biggie said " Do you remember rappin' Duke da ha da ha you never thought that hip-hop would take it this far " - we related it to that. I used to DJ class parties with cassette tapes in the 5th grade and Da Ha was one of the Jams I would play. None of the other kids knew any of the tunes I ever played. We also dressed as Morris Day and the Time one Halloween and again teachers and kids had no clue haha.
ONETEN MAG: At what age did you guys start writing and making music? We started rapping and beatboxing super young but didn't really start pursuing it seriously until we were in our teens. Our mom aka Gangsta P would drop us off every Saturday at our cousin Justin's house and we would practice all day, Justin on drums, Lucas on the piano, and I would write and perform the raps and sing.
ONETEN MAG: Who first inspired you to make music? Definitely Gangsta P and Jabu aka Mom and Dad. They were and really are still such a vital inspiration to the musical blueprint that is 80 Empire and Gladiator records. We really owe our love of music to them. In terms of musicians and artists, James Brown, 2 Pac, Sam Cooke, Dr. Dre, Zapp and Roger Troutman, Smokey Robinson, Kid and Play, Ice Cube, and the list goes on.
ONETEN MAG: Now you guys have worked with some big names in the industry at one time? Who was the first major artist you had the pleasure of being in the studio with and how was that experience? We have been fortunate to work with some amazing artists over the years from Clyde Walter Orange of the legendary Commodores to quite recently doing songs with Conway the Machine, Benny the Butcher, and Crooked 1. I think working with Clyde had to have been the coolest experience for us. Growing up we used to go to Ontario place by the Toronto waterfront. They used to have a revolving stage called the forum. Our parents took us to see everyone from Chaka Khan to Ray Charles and James Brown. One of our fondest memories was seeing the Commodores in concert, so to work with Clyde so many years later at his home studio was so cool for us. Then he did a show at a casino in Ontario.... he's on stage and shouting us out " Luke, Adrian yall meet me in the back " we were geeked out over that acknowledgment, Clyde is a legend. He told us so many great stories in the studio, too many dope gems he shared with us from Michael Jackson to how he created Brick House... that would have to be a whole other interview.
ONETEN MAG: What would you guys be doing right now if it weren’t for your music career? I think we'd always be involved somehow... Adrian - I love antiques and vintage things maybe I'd get into the antique game. Lucas - Lover of horror films so probably something in that world, special effects.
ONETEN MAG: Now being producers and songwriters, please give us three of your all-time producers and songwriters that made an impact on your music and style? Has to be Dr. Dre, Quincy Jones, and a draw between Pete Rock and the Neptunes.
ONETEN MAG: What is the best advice you have been given? I think our parents have never steered us wrong and have always given us the best advice. Be kind, stay grounded and humble, treat others the way you want to be treated, etc... However, Levi Little of Black street once told us in his studio " when someone is willing to pay you, take the money upfront cause you may never see it again. " ( and not in those exact words ). We don't look at this like an avarice thing, we perceive it more as when you have an opportunity to jump on it and recognize your self-worth. This is a cut-throat industry and people don't necessarily play by the rules, so always have one eye open and watch carefully who you invite to the dinner table and keep the circle small.
ONETEN MAG: If you could change anything about the industry, what would it be? This is a good question, I think there are so many aspects of it that need changing but I think you find problems in any line of work, it's how you tackle those obstacles and your willingness to evolve and adapt to the consistent changing of the guard that ultimately determines your
success. I would like to see more diversity at larger labels, everyone is chasing the exact same sound, I think originality should be promoted as opposed to the flavor of the month.
ONETEN MAG: What are the essential qualities that make a good producer or artist? I think you need to be a great listener and observer. Creative people should be able to not only draw from personal experiences but feed off of the world around them. Confidence and belief in your brand, artistry, and sound is a must. Create your own style, inspire people, and set the standard. You should be authentic and original as possible.
ONETEN MAG: What’s an average day like for you? We are family men and especially with COVID we are with our families 24/7 which is great then it's hit the studio and work on new ideas and finish existing pieces. We also spend a fair bit of time on social media, it's important to have a digital footprint and let people know what you're doing.
ONETEN MAG: Now I know you guys are in Canada, but have you guys culture been affected by the current social injustice that has been taking place in the US? We have definitely been impacted by it. We are definitely tired of people saying All lives Matter. If people don't realize that no lives matter until Black Lives Matter then they are most likely part of the problem. We actually put out a song a couple of months ago called " To Kill a Black Man " we produced it and wrote the hook and spit a verse on it and asked some of our friends to jump on it, Balistic Man and Speedie da Icon from Buffalo and Rich Celeb from Philly. Rich even did an incredible visual for his verse illustrating the harsh realities that African American males face every time they leave their house and are targeted by the police. " the White House so unrighteous the aim is to divide us, it's all about the ratings black men eliminating, the moral fabric of social disintegrating the problem we all live with like a Norman Rockwell painting black mothers afraid to raise sons in a white world that hates them. " This is part of the Verse that I wrote... The Norman Rockwell is a reference to Ruby Bridges and Norman Rockwell's painting of her in 1964, it really angers us that our African American and Canadian brothers and sisters are still fighting for the same things and this is 2020.
ONETEN MAG: What do you guys see that needs to change for injustice? We need to start from the ground up. The system needs a total overall. Education is a key, the curriculum has to be more reflective of everyone's history, not just the euro male-centric perspective. We need more after school programs, community centers, and apprentice programs for kids. We need more diversity in politics, younger perspectives, and real solutions. Ethics and morals over the mighty dollar. The narrative must change as well as teach young African American kids that they are the descendants of African Kings and Queens with highly developed
societies and extensive cultures. Indigenous people also need to be recognized as the first true people of North America. They need to be celebrated for their immense contributions as well and both slavery and the butchering of Indigenous culture should be recognized as genocide. People also should try to support Black business owners and stand up. If people don't stand up we will not advance. This is not a time to be quiet and sit on the sidelines acting like everything is perfect. We have lost some friends and followers because of our pro #blacklivesmatter stance and we say - Good riddance if they can't see how horrific these acts of violence by the police have been then they really weren't our friends, to begin with.
ONETEN MAG: What is your favorite part about this line of work? Your least favorite? Why? Love getting a verse in by someone we are working with and truly respect, love hearing a mix and master, getting the final artwork. Dislike the politics and bureaucracy part of the business.
ONETEN MAG: What made you guys form Gladiator Records? We wanted an outlet to put out music we know our music is dope and don't need the bigger labels suffocating our creativity. With us creating our own platform we are the rulers of our own destiny, the owners of our catalogue and really we feel the potential is limitless.
ONETEN MAG: What advice would you have for someone wanting to follow in your footsteps? You need to be willing to lose, pursuing music, and having your own business is an emotional roller coaster. You have to have thick skin and you can't be afraid to make mistakes, you learn as you go.
ONETEN MAG: What are some of the projects that you guys are currently working on? We keep putting out singles for our Legacy project, Fit In ft Fred the Godson ( RIP ), Bishop Lamont, and Lazarus aka Dr. Kahn is one, Legacy ft. Conway the Machine and Balistic Man, We have a song dropping this Friday with Rx, Nicole Monae and with Kxng Crooked, just put out a smash of a reggaeton song with Wally La Amenaza, an 11 song album with Swifty Mcvay from D12, we have more music with Kxng Crooked and Ep with RX, songs with BG knockout, Grafph, An Ep with Doodle Bug from Digable Planets, and a lot more.
ONETEN MAG: Who’s your favorite top 5 artist dead or alive? James Brown, 2 Pac, Pavarotti, Dr. Dre, Stevie Wonder
ONETEN MAG: With the impact of the world’s healthy pandemic with CONVID-19, how are you keeping yourself busy and sane? Ya just being as creative as we can and reacting creatively in real-time as current events happen, putting out as much music as possible we are lucky to have a home studio and be a minute distance from each other. Spending time with the family and out in the backyard as much as
ONETEN MAG: Any shout outs you guys would like to make? Shout out to Joanna and Trill Will at Nova Music group, thank you to Katrina for making the introduction to yall and Peace to everyone who supports the 80 Empire and Gladiator movement nothing but love for all! Be safe and Love always wins!
Photos provided by Katrina Hirtz Kick Up Your Heels Entertainment and Gladiator Ent