As the clouds slowly convene over New York, the lonely fall begins to rear its ugly head with its characteristically eerie, foreboding textures. With the gloomy atmosphere and a global pandemic looming over the Empire State, there is an unsettling uncertainty in the air that we breathe — and although the light may be obscured for the time being, history shows that some of the best art emerges from the bleakest depths of the shadows.
Nestled in a corner right outside of Manhattan, The Bakery Studio in Whitestone is home to one of New York’s best-kept secrets.
As we at Lunar Space made way to the studio, we quickly descended unto a smoke-filled basement room reminiscent of your ideal frat house. Adorned in ornaments including some Lil Peep artwork and a variety of Funko Pops, the collective known as Divine Nine (D9) have managed to cultivate a workspace rife with inspiration and cultural appreciation. As affiliates and members of the collective filtered in and out of the room, we prepared to sit down with up-and-coming rapper and D9’s own CEO, Kenny Orlando.
Traversing dreamy beats with slick delivery and a penchant for profound introspection, Kenny Orlando is constantly working to show off his impeccable versatility. From the old school-tinged 2016 release of “Se9tember” and previous outputs to his latest work, “Virgo SZN,” Kenny’s progression as an artist quickly becomes omnipresent. Flows and new rhythmic pathways open up, hardened delivery gets traded in for a more melodic approach and boom-bap beats are replaced with cloudy, dreamy soundscapes.
“I love ‘Virgo SZN’ honestly, ‘cause like, it’s the only project so far where I really can put play from the start and get to the end,” Kenny said as he reflected on his latest project. “I have a lot of people that tell me that, ‘cause it changes as the whole project goes. It flows and you just kind of end up at the last song like, ‘Damn, I didn’t even realize I ended up here.’”
Tracks that feature more intense and active delivery such as “Vroom” seamlessly transition into the next — which in this case is the more melodic and cloudy (and one of my personal favorites) “Meliodas.” The tape works phenomenally to showcase Kenny’s versatility as he lane switches through different moods, from the party banger “SIP” featuring Lil 6 OZ and killmesumday to the introspective and heartfelt “Dprssd.”
Although Orlando has been working tirelessly for the past several years to cultivate an aesthetic of his own, the Long Island native has drawn inspiration — visually and sonically — from a multitude of different sources. Citing anime like “Hunter x Hunter” and “Soul Eater” to alternative metal bands like Breaking Benjamin and System of a Down, Orlando brings together a lifetime’s worth of influence into one uniquely cohesive brand.
“If I’m just gonna name drop off top, the biggest things to me were Breaking Benjamin [and] Three Days Grace. I was really big into them until they did like, what is it, ‘One-X?’” said Orlando. “System of a Down I was really big into, I was big into Disturbed, my brother was listening to Korn a lot… Story of the Year, Chevelle, Deftones, Incubus, it’s really random.”
Wearing the influence of the alternative metal bands of yesteryear on his sleeve, Orlando was able to channel that raucous energy and share that love with his fellow D9 members onstage.
“They were biker bars, not even rap shows,” Orlando reminisced about his humble beginnings. “I don’t even know why they made hip-hop shows, but I would go anyway and I would just get a dope reaction from the random three or four people and be like, if I can translate that energy to no crowd, like I can do that anywhere.”
“Once I started bringing my other friends onstage with me, we would look at each other for confidence and really just started feeding off of it. Honestly, that’s like what really got us the notoriety we have — was the fact that our shows, we get lit. We mob out, like Divine Nine is 15 people deep right now. Everyone makes different music, so it’s just like, you never know.”
When the hard-working Orlando isn’t working in the studio as a musician and engineer, he is out in the field honing his craft as a photographer, videographer and cinematographer. Citing filmmaking greats such as Stanley Kubrick and Quentin Tarantino as primary inspirations, Orlando melds these influences into visually striking music videos and pieces for artists — with no boundaries or limitations to his vision.
And when the multihyphenate isn’t recording, mixing, or taking part in a photo/video shoot, he’s hitting books at Five Towns College — working towards a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and Management!
Listen to the hour-long interview where Orlando discusses insane tour stories from Toronto to LA, what life was like growing up in New York and more — available now!
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