By Adam Lovinus
By Lilledeshan Bose
By Gabriel San Roman
By Rachel Mattice
By Stephanie Zacharek
By Daniel Kohn
By Nate Jackson
By Mike Seeley
Huntington Beach duo LD and Ariano’s new album is decidedly personal
Most musicians readily admit that crafting a memorable album in any genre isn’t easy. But you won’t hear those gripes coming from Huntington Beach DJ/rapper duo LD and Ariano. It’s not because they’re conceited. They’re just thankful.
That notion might be confusing after listening to the events that inspired the creation of their forthcoming album—planned for Spring 2009—Color of the Music, a boom-bap diary of personal journeys packed with more intensity than a sweaty jog through a minefield. But if there’s one thing that a turbulent year of highs and lows can provide for two innovative hip-hop-heads, it’s the ammo for 15 tracks and then some.
From Ariano’s struggle to cope with his involvement in a deadly car accident to the election of a new president, the pair—founders of local hip-hop syndicate Technicali Sound—are poised to present a product laced with enough universal appeal to create a buzz that echoes beyond the underground.
“This is the most personal album I’ve ever written,” says Ariano.“But it’s also the most non-personal presentation. I feel like the album is presented in a unifying way.”
In January, the two met to record Color of the Music at the Technicali Tabernacle, a studio embedded in LD’s cluttered garage. They started the session working on “Sink or Swim.” He didn’t know it then, but Ariano’s improvised hook turned out to be some eerily prophetic shit: “Life, it’s all what you make it/Gotta earn, can’t take it.” Hours later, Ariano found himself standing over the body of a man he struck with his car. The man—who, according to police reports, was homeless and without identification—had been jaywalking across Beach Boulevard; he was taken to a hospital and later pronounced dead. (Ariano was eventually proven to be not at fault.)
Months later, the incident still haunts him. “There hasn’t been a day that I’ve gotten to make peace with what happened, and I probably won’t get that,” he says. “My heart jumps out of my chest just talking about it. I’ve had to be at peace with not being at peace with it.”
“That song happened on the day of the accident,” says LD. “It’s weird how the universe works.”
Though not quite as heavy and life-changing, other topics identify a country filled with broke and busy U.S. citizens constantly in search of life’s important answers, as well as some even-more-important questions.
Some stories behind the lyrics sound almost too dramatic to be true. Like the time Ariano describes cutting “California Fire” on July 29, when the 5.4 Chino Hills-centered earthquake erupted in the middle of recording the second verse. They scrapped what was already written and dropped a totally different freestyle verse inspired by the tremor.
Ariano is still surprised by the cathartic chemistry he shares with DJ/producer LD. “I hear a beat, and I just like . . . we’re not even writing songs at this point,” says Ariano. “The beat happens, and that cuts open the area where the song is supposed to leak onto it.”
Providing the neatly stitched sonic canvas for Ariano’s lyrical brush strokes, LD’s production and turntable skills are about as tight as it gets, especially on joints such as “Worldwide” that toe the line between old-school jam and new-school club banger. LD’s spider-like dexterity provides plenty of fireworks between Ariano’s punchy, baritone flows.
“It’s definitely very natural,” LD says. “I’ll just be like, ‘Ariano, I have this ?beat I’m making, and it’s for you, and ?it’s ridiculous.’”
A noticeable side effect of the album’s personal subtext is its lack of featured artists, a stark difference from the pair’s 2006 album, A Thin Line, which basically cleared the bench of available cameos from their Technicali roster. This time around, the guest list is narrowed down to two: Ariano’s 7-year-old son, Sage, and respected LA MC Medusa, who formed bonds with both artists through their mutual collaborations on projects by KRS-One and the Visionaries’ LMNO.
“I think that’s dope because a lot of commercial MCs nowadays count on that hot feature to push them over the top, and sometimes it’s just not necessary,” says Medusa, who guests on “Do Your Thing.” “They realized they don’t need all the extra frills.”
And after years of relentless hustle locally, nationally and abroad, these lifelong friends actually have a shot at being one of the few Orange County rap acts to escape the suburban stigma and deliver a type of hip-hop rarely heard on the national stage. Just don’t expect them to wave a banner.