DLRN keeps their latest release, and those to come, close to the vest

It’s coming back around. Young artists are expecting more from their culture. Take the art of Kehinde Wiley, for example: He paints the stereotypical street hustler in gentlemanly poses against backdrops of elegant tapestries, juxtaposing the ghetto with the affluent. Sacramento’s DLRN is analogous to Wiley’s vision of celebrating the complexity of hip-hop culture.

Hip-hop has reached a reputable age, and decades deep it has its own version of royalty. As of late though, it has become less of a culture, less of an art form and more of an economic commodity. Sean La Marr, under the nom de plume 5th Ave, sees a potential for change without leaving the sleepy city of Sacramento. La Marr’s video for the song “Dear Langston” is a testament to his hometown pride, as it used Wiley’s art as inspiration–showcasing the city’s talented inhabitants mimicking the regal poses of the elite–the same poses present in Wiley’s portraits.

It’s clear La Marr loves Sacramento hip-hop with the sincerest of hearts. Our interview was intended to discuss the new record his group, DLRN, is dropping this week. Yet, it was during our post-interview hangout session that he revealed his passion for the local scene.

Last year DLRN dropped its No More Heroes record with the intention of introducing new heroes to the hip-hop canon and creating an alternate narrative not traditionally found within the genre. “From an MC standpoint, I was very disillusioned with it,” 5th Ave said. “I came to the realization that a lot of the faces of hip-hop these days I do not relate to. I don’t see them as role models or the influential voices that they once were.”

DLRN, formerly known as Delorean, consists of MC 5th Ave, born Sean La Marr, and producer Jon Reyes. DLRN is retro-fashioned and reactionary, operating in a space that is not quite conscious rap and not quite club rap either. “We’re a product of different time periods and different people, that’s part of how we came up with the name Delorean,” Reyes said.

Unfortunately, a Spanish trance-pop had already claimed the Delorean moniker.

“Our tastes are more eclectic than most acts you’ll hear,” La Marr said, which means they were aware of a possible conflict in their future if they kept the name. By dropping the vowels to DLRN, the group hoped to dodge any cease and desist suits or mistaken-identity tour dates.

“It’s funny because we knew about them when we decided to go with the name,” La Marr said. “We just decided we better blow up before they do. But, then they were on ABC, they had a national tour and became Pitchfork darlings.”

La Marr continued with an anecdote, “We almost didn’t get booked at a show in Seattle because they played at the same venue two weeks prior. We’ll have stuff posted on our Facebook page about events that they’re doing and vice versa.”

Reyes added, “We can’t really hate it, because they’re a really talented band.”

The duo is excited about the switch, citing MGMT and MSTRKRFT as other successful bands that dropped the vowels. Sacramento is now tallied at two non-vowel band names (the other being CHLLNGR) with potential to join the celebrated ranks.

The topic evolved into a discussion over the ethereal trends in cycle of kindred band name themes–such as bands named “wolf-something” or rappers named Lil’. Apparently, there was a birth explosion of Deloreans around the early Naughties. “We thought about adding a word to make it Delorean Brown,” La Marr said. Reyes interjected, “A good reference to one of the greatest wrestlers of the modern era, D’Lo Brown. “ La Marr continued, “But, it turns out there was a Delorean Brown already in Sacramento. Here I think we’re being clever.”

With a new name, DLRN sought out to craft its followup to No More Heroes. The Bridge was recorded at Pinnacle College in Rancho Cordova, which La Marr described as a “sterile” environment in comparison to Omina Labs, where No More Heroes was recorded. It took time, but DLRN enlisted the help of its student body to help them settle into the new digs. “It’s good working with people that you’re friends with outside of the music,” Reyes said. “It makes for very chill sessions.”

Reyes described the recording process for The Bridge, out July 20, 2010 as a free download, as a humbling and surreal experience. The students that volunteered were mostly fans of DLRN prior to the sessions. “Those are the people you’re making it for and they are sitting right next to you,” he said.

Accessing the privilege to hear the new record has been kept to limited company–possibly on a “nothing leaves the studio” policy. The reasoning is DLRN has a purpose with its messages. It’s encoded in the video for “Dear Langston” and on The Bridge. The two releases reference one another, and provide insight into the already planned third album. When I asked the name of the next record, I was met with stoicism and a round-about answer. “There is a hint in the last song,” La Marr said. “I hate to not tell it to you, but when you hear the next DLRN project it will make sense.”

I did not hear the hint in my exclusive The Bridge listening session. But I did hear a reason alongside the Cloud City record to be excited about local hip-hop in July. The Bridge’s first video features Prometheus Brown of Blue Scholars, while the record has further appearances by Hopie Spitshard, Illecism and Chuuwee. That’s all I am allowed to disclose.

DLRN has major plans to kick off August by celebrating the release of The Bridge in what La Marr hopes will be the biggest hip-hop event of the summer. After hearing the words “tequila tasting,” “kegs of free Miller High Life,” “free sushi” and “the Miller High Life girls,” I am not opposed to declaring it the event of the summer either. “I’ve been to a lot of hip-hop shows and I’d hate for this to be just another hip-hop show,” he said. The release party is Aug. 6, 2010 at Beatnik Studios.

In my brief tenure with Submerge, I’ve met a lot of local rappers, most of which have this ambition, rooted in frustration, to overcome their surroundings. It is a career plan that includes reaching or leaving for the Bay Area and Los Angeles markets. La Marr never once spoke with a belittling tone toward his hometown. Instead, we sat for an extra half-hour talking about our favorite Sacramento rappers, putting me on to a great local joint by Blee featuring Doey Rock. “You know what, come to the show and I’ll have a mixtape for you of all my favorite Sacramento shit,” La Marr said. I left thinking, it’s that kind of dedication to the scene that makes someone the founder of a collective such as the Neighborhood Watch. He’s got our best interests at heart.

Go to Beatnik Studios on Aug. 6 for DLRN’s The Bridge record release party. Free Tequila tasting and beer for those 21-and-over will be available. There will also be VIP wrist band bottle service. Come dressed as Alice in Wonderland and get in free. Prize awarded for best costume.

    Blake Gillespie

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    Bourbon enthusiast. Infrequent shaver.