The level of energy emitted by Lucas and Adrian Rezza when discussing their plans for 2020 seems to be enough to power an entire Niagara-on-the-Lake block for a week.
And they’ll need to maintain that energy level — the year has already kicked off with a bang.
The brothers, who moved to NOTL five years ago, following their parents from Vaughan, recently produced and co-wrote the new song from British star Tina Barrett, formerly of worldwide music/television sensation S Club 7. Mwah Mwah is a catchy hip hop/dance-pop number that name-checks Coco Chanel, Anna Wintour, Donatella Versace and Vanessa Paradis. The paean to shopping, fashion week and having her “black card maxed out,” was released last Sunday. Overnight, it hit number 29 on the iTunes pop charts in Mexico.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg for the brothers, who are known professionally around the world as 80 Empire. They’re musicians, songwriters, producers, scriptwriters, film scorers, clothing designers, and record moguls, the creative team behind Gladiator Records.
Between all the roles they play, the Rezza brothers also hold down full-time permanent jobs. Lucas is a district manager and product ambassador for Yamaha Music. Adrian, meanwhile, teaches music at Roselands Junior Public School in Toronto.
Each evening, they meet at Lucas’ home in the Old Town, where they have built a studio to ply their trade. A raised floor, two to three layers of drywall, sound dampers and more, make the studio completely soundproof. When they are cranking the volume while recording, producing, mixing and mastering in the space, Lucas’ wife and two children, nine and six years old, don’t hear a sound. The brothers spend up to six hours a night here, fuelled by espresso, working on their music.
Lucas, 41, is the producer and the beatmaster, working with the keyboard, the computer, and racks of sound equipment to create the tracks. Adrian, 43, is the writer and singer. It’s his falsetto punctuating the songs that will appear on their new album, Legacy, which will drop on all streaming services in late February.
The brothers have dabbled in all sorts of music styles since their teen days, growing up outside of Toronto. Over the past few years, 80 Empire had been concentrating on house music, a sound that originated in Chicago clubs in the early 1980s. The amalgamation of soul, funk and disco with synthesizers, repetitive vocals, and a “four-to-the-floor” kick drum beat, was designed to keep people dancing all night.
It was a chance to open for rappers Obie Trice and Swifty McVay, of Eminem’s D12 crew, in St. Catharines in late 2018, however, that rekindled the Rezza brothers’ love of hip hop. Their new focus was cemented with an opening slot last May for Snoop Dogg in Sudbury. And a new connection with a group of rappers from Buffalo comes to fruition with the new release.
Those influences are all over Legacy. Though the track list is not finalized, the brothers know the album will contain between 20 and 30 tracks, and will feature collaborations with Buffalo rappers Conway the Machine and Benny the Butcher, who are linked with both Eminem and Jay-Z. Another Buffalo rapper known as Balistic Man, Frank Castle from New York City, DMC (from Run-DMC), Ali Vegas, Masta Ace, Krayzie Bone (of Bone Thugs-n-Harmony) and Jadakiss, among others, are also featured on the album.
The songs they play for The Local in the studio are both gritty and wistful, mixing stories of life on the streets with catchy hip hop beats, punctuated with hooks sung mostly by Adrian. Much of the album runs on the Legacy theme, which is evidenced by the song Family Love, featuring all four of the brothers’ children (Adrian and his wife have two girls, aged 13 and 11), who attend St. Michael Catholic Elementary School.
As well, they’ve recorded a new version of the Commodores’ 1985 hit song Nightshift, with the song’s original singer, Walter “Clyde” Orange. The original eulogized Marvin Gaye and Jackie Wilson. The 80 Empire collaboration with Orange remembers late hip hop legends Eazy-E, Tupac Shakur, Biggie Smalls and Jam Master Jay. It has the potential to be a huge hit.
Beyond the Legacy album, they have a number of irons in the 2020 fire.
They speak enthusiastically of a film project they have in the works, involving Robert Funaro (The Sopranos, The Irishman, Ray Donovan) and potentially Jill Kimmel, sister of late-night host Jimmy. Though the script is not yet completed, the story is an urban update of the Little Red Riding Hood fairy tale.
Their production work will be featured on an EP by rapper Frank Castle later this year. They plan to release another 80 Empire house music project, and look forward to working with the Italian rap artists Bari Jungle Brothers, with whom they have collaborated in the past. The Rezza family originates from the Puglia region of Italy, of which Bari is the capital.
They’ve produced Balistic Man’s new album Guilty, as well as tracks for a new EP by Swifty McVay. As well, a collaboration with Toronto singer/dancer/actress Taveeta Szymanowicz (from the Family Channel program The Next Step), who is signed to their label, will be coming later in 2020.
And the brothers are collaborating on another film project, this one a documentary of Mario Machete Perez, who was linked to rapper Bushwick Bill. Machete spent 27 years in prison for a crime he did not commit. Lucas and Adrian are co-producing and writing the score for the film.
With January not even finished yet, the Rezza brothers’ calendar is quickly filling up. But with at least six hours of work a night, and lots of espresso, they are sure they have plenty of time to take on more projects.
The video for Tina Barrett’s Mwah Mwah, by the way, drops Friday. Give it a listen and a look on YouTube. You may recognize your neighbours, Lucas and Adrian.