Interview: Northern Virginia Star Orion



In a music scene wrongfully placed in the dark when discussing DMV artists, Orion's music is a constellation that gives clarity to what Northern Virginia can bring. The trained-to-go rapper had very successful singles in the past like T.T.G. which had over six million streams on Spotify. The audio to the song has 1.7 million views and the official video has 129k on YouTube to this day. Another successful song of his is P90X which garnered over 2 million streams on Spotify. P90X is a single focused on having beautiful women dancing and feeling confident enough to stunt against their opposition while he's stunting against his opposition.


In the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, Orion released a twelve-track album Cyberpunk produced by Virginia producer Rasneek. Cyberpunk sounds are filled with electronic melodies, various flows from double-time rapping to slower cadences that listeners can bop their heads to. He plans to follow his album with his latest single, Tenet, and future projects dropping later in the year.



Jay: How did you begin making music?


Orion: The music-making came by accident. Around the end of high school, I moved to Virginia in late 2009-2010. I met Rasneek. I would throw these house parties and meet people at them. We would get drunk and high then freestyle in the garage outback. For some reason, I noticed I have always been a witty dude with a smart mouth. I would say witty shit during cyphers, like saying little jabs at people and I was getting better each time.


Fast forward to Rasneek going to VCU. At that point, SoundCloud started bubbling up. In high school, I was the type of dude to rap and throw up bars on Facebook and it would pop. Russ told me one day that I need to put the bars on wax rather than throwing away good bars for freestyles. One of the first songs we did was a freestyle to Chief Keef's I Don't Like before it popped. We put it on YouTube. We simultaneously started bubbling up thanks to the rise of SoundCloud and rappers like Yung Lean and SpaceGhost Purp. I did a rap on an A$AP Rocky-type beat Rasneek made one time and that did two thousand views. I thought I hit the lotto with two thousand views. By the third song, Rasneek's beat-making was going crazy. That made me go hard. Fast forward to now, it's been a relationship since.


Jay: Let’s talk about your chemistry with producer Rasneek. Rasneek has worked with other artists in the past like Stayathomedad and their album Sweet and Miss Me by Almira Zaky. You two worked on production for singles like Kirby, Air It Out, and the Cyberpunk album.


Orion: I think I'm lucky to grow with the homie. That's family first before the music shit. We can talk to each other easily. Our partnership is genuine because we work in symbiotic chemistry. He can translate what I'm thinking, I'm just learning how to record myself. I can hum something or make a drum pattern and he would know how to hear that and translate it to Logic or on wax. We're very honest with each other. We both know when we're not feeling something and respect it. We always treated this with a discipline of "we're going to be on. Make it to lit nigga standards."



Jay: Who were some of your influences?


Orion: If it's not obvious, I can give you my top three. Pharrell, Kanye, and then Timbaland. I was always heavy on the internet and listening to different types of shit. I had the early N.E.R.D. CDs and Kanye because it wasn't gangsta rap but it reminded me of me. I'm not a hood nigga but I'm with hood people. Their styles were different as they were bar-heavy artists that can still sing. I try to make the influences apparent in my music. All of them inspired me for the simple fact that for me growing up in PG county, this is a big go-go community, but in those early days, it was strictly go-go. All my homies from out there loved straight go-go or Gucci Mane.


Jay: As a native of Northern Virginia, the music scene isn’t too known compared to their regional counterparts in Richmond and the 757 (Eastern Virginia for non-Virginia natives). People don’t even know Kali Uchis is a native of Alexandria, Virginia just minutes away from DC. What are some possible solutions to improve the Northern Virginia music scene?


Orion: For me personally, I think NOVA's blessing and also its curse is the outright star power it has. You have Kali Uchis and Goldlink that come from here with music that's fire. Their music is so undeniable and clean-cut, that they that get out of here kind of quick. You don't have to wear the city on your back, if they ask then you can tell it. So many people don't know what's going on that it's too late when they find out about people like Kali.


It's plagued with the DMV inside joke of what is Virginia. That's where the white folk is at. I used to say it too. It's a lot of people in charge of reporting on what DMV is that they are late on it. It all has to do with the little scoff of "NOVA? We don't care about them." Honestly speaking, people need to nurture guys who are top tip shape ready in regards to image, and sound quality to make some noise. I feel like there are ten dudes out here that can make it out and have other outlets highlight us. We have some good-sounding music that sounds radio-ready.


Jay: The introduction of Cyberpunk was a tutorial on what to expect in the simulation. Throughout the album, some recurring themes are having a ride or die chick in Diabla, emotional awareness when things aren’t what it seems in Love/Switch, and balancing love and lust in Function.



From a listener's perspective, Cyberpunk can be a representation of finding some distinction between long-lasting feelings and short-term wants. There can be glitches within the matrix and figuring out how to reprogram one’s mental framing- the structure within the body formed by emotional sensibilities, implicit logic, and assigning roles to certain relationships. Did I describe the album well enough or am I missing some components?


Orion: You opened up an angle that I didn't realize until recently. The lust and interpersonal relationship... it's well said. I didn't initially make it that way but the song came out that way. That's how my life is kind of. The balance between the rapper shit and living the matrix. Working that 9-5 and getting into the party life as an entertainer. Shit. it's the balance. you can hear it in the lyrics. That's what I love about Cyberpunk. I didn't make the album until five songs in as those songs sounded similar sonically. Besides the point you made, it's a concept album because of the digital vocals. It's essentially my demo tape. Even though it's not a demo tape, it's a sample of everything I do with rap shit, pop shit, and everything in between.


Jay: Can you tell us more about your newest single Tenet?



Orion: It came out of nowhere as I'm working on my next album. The team sat down one day and we had twelve songs in front of me. My manager said, "Yo, let's build a buzz back up." We wanted to push a single like an album like how I did with T.T.G.


I found the beat on YouTube, caught the vibe, and laid three takes freestyle-wise. It's a reference to the move Tenet. It's a bit more aggressive than Kirby as Kirby is colorful and bubbly. This is more straight to the point of me popping my shit in case people forgot I make songs where I can rap more. It still has shades of autotune and melodic, but it'll be more rap-oriented. It's the first of many releases and a reminder to let people know what I'm on.


Jay: What was the best no that you have ever received and why?


Orion: I wanted to do film or TV. TV production was my first passion. I wanted to go to any art school with a TV production program and I remembered this one conversation with my old TV production teacher in high school. I asked him "Yo, do you think honestly me majoring in film and TV production makes sense for me?" The reason I asked that was I felt like my heart was somewhere else although I was a good creative director in film and TV. He said, "do you want the honest answer or an answer you want to hear? Your passion is on the technical side of things like writing but when it comes to editing and the way you shoot, you weren't good at it."


He knew I was way more interested in something else but didn't know what. That shit stuck with me and make the decision to tell my folks, let me go to NOVA Community College and figure out what to do. It made me reframe what I want career-wise for sure. I needed to look around me and see what I'm at. I'm not a jack of all trades type of motherfucker, if God gave me something, I'm going take that sign to try it out.



Jay: I remember having a conversation with Virginia singer Cay, and I have to ask you this. You know when you do something and it keeps giving you good favor? Have you ever noticed when you do that one thing, the more opportunities and blessings keep coming to you?


Orion: I look at some of this as destiny in my eyes. God has been throwing signs at my ass all my life. I never want to be the person that does not take risks. There are people that work a cubicle job right now and have hidden talents most people don't know about. For example, a person at that job can draw good shit they don't show anybody, but everybody that sees the art is moved by it and ask if they'll put it out. Imagine if that person never puts out those drawings for sale. There is much more to life than that cubicle job.


That person looks back at it and realizes that the signs have been there forever. That person could be helping people out with projects but wanted to go the other route because that person didn't want to do the art shit. Especially for music artists, if the data is loving you and you enjoy doing this shit, why would you leave while it's still hot?


Jay: Who are some indie artists that you would want to shout out?


Desperry from NOVA Sound-wise, he takes this seriously. Rasneek. Big Red. He's on a crunk Cali type of vibe. Shout out to Peter $un. He's one of the few rap guys that I can tell is genuine in his own individuality and he knows himself. He always has a cool vibe and is his music. He always makes high-quality music. AustinSkinner, Marques Berry (M. Dot) got one of the best pen games in the area. FridayNite is a great talent from NOVA. I'm missing a lot of other people.



Stream CyberPunk HERE and buy his merch at www.heyco.world


Orion can be found on all social media @o_delasoul


Written by: Jay Guevara. @justinhisprime on all social media.


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