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In the realm of local hip-hop, most rhyme-spitting crews would shy away from the pressure that comes with a name like Return of the Dream Team. So when Huntington Beach DJ/MC duo LD and Ariano—founders of local hip-hop collective Technicali Sound—formed a group with LA’s legendary female rapper/vocalist Medusa and DJ Flict in 2009 (all four are originally from OC), they had no choice but to cultivate an ambitious sound to match their larger-than-life moniker. The result is a refreshing, eclectic burst of club-banging hip-hop alchemy. Blurring lines between counties and cultures, the group’s ferocious four-pack combine Golden Age lyricism with world music and radio gloss. The pulsing, futuristic aesthetic of their first single, “Cali Quake,” (released in February) evokes Black Eyed Peas—in a good way. With a laundry list of hip-hop cred and a debut album in the works, it looks like Return of the Dream Team just might be living up to their own hype.
OC Weekly: How does Return of the Dream Team differ from all the other hip-hop projects you’ve done in Orange County or LA?
Ariano: We’re linked [to OC] through our past, but the music is pretty much like world music. And with OC, I think there’s this whole thing about “OC rap.” [For us] it’s so much bigger than that.
Medusa: I don’t think of it in those terms because it encompasses almost everything that I do. It’s exciting to express all the different sides of me as a vocalist, an MC and a writer. It wasn’t a step in any direction. It was all the directions.
So what made you guys decide to be a hip-hop/pop group like this?
DJ Flict: Originally, it was just gonna be an album for [Ariano and Medusa] and [LD and I] were gonna produce it. But the chemistry [among all of us] just came. And [Medusa] came up with this Return of the Dream Team concept.
LD: All I had to do was hear the name once. I was like “Return of the Dream Team?! Sounds huge!” [Laughs].
Ariano: And the type of beats [LD was making] inspired us. So, after writing “Cali Quake,” we said we should just make this a group.
How did you prepare yourselves to record an album as Return of the Dream Team?
Flict: Basically LD and I would come together and make skeletons [of beats], and we’d go through concepts and samples. But the whole point was to come with music that was not just your everyday music.
LD: We didn’t want to duplicate our beats, we wanted to come with a fresh sound on each track.
Flict: So when you hear the album, it’s like a roller coaster. First we’re doing reggae and then some Latin stuff, some club stuff and hip-hop stuff.
Return of the Dream Team also have a dynamic live show element. Do you cover a lot of that stuff in rehearsals, or is it spur-of-the-moment?
LD: We were blessed to have at least four months of rehearsal [before our first show at House of Blues]. We had moments where we had ideas and threw ’em out and brought more ideas to the table. We pumped out the whole set and practiced the hell out of it. [House of Blues] was our first show with a big platform, and we couldn’t disappoint anybody.
Medusa: The audience and the stage are two entirely different worlds, and we’re supposed to take the audience on a fantasy ride. You’re supposed to be entertained. So it was necessary, as we rehearsed, to have some visuals. And that’s something that’s missing in hip-hop sometimes, especially at the underground level. That’s what makes a $10 ticket different from a $50 ticket or a $150 ticket. So if we’re gonna come into this game, then we have to come like we’ve been here.
Return of the Dream Team perform at Sutra, 1870 Harbor Blvd., Costa Mesa, (949) 722-7103; www.sutrabar.com. Fri., 9 p.m. $15. 21+. For more info on Return of the Dream Team, visit www.myspace.com/returnofthedream.
Hey, Orange County/Long Beach musicians and bands! Mail your music, contact info, high-res photos and impending show dates for possible review to: Locals Only, OC Weekly, 2975 Red Hill Ave., Ste 150, Costa Mesa, CA 92626. Or e-mail your link to: email@example.com.
This column appeared in print as "You Might Say They’re Dreamers."