There just isn’t enough time in the day for 80Empire to talk, make and listen to music. They can’t help it, music makes them tick. It is the epitome of their identities and has been for the last fifteen years as artists and now as songwriters/producers. The Multiple platinum Italian brothers from Niagara on the Lake, Canada, have burst on the scene in the last 5 years as eclectic production chameleons crafting big sounds for the likes of Kxng Crooked, Conway the Machine, Benny the Butcher, Fred the Godson, Kurupt, Layzie Bone, KRS ONE, MC Eiht, Nems,Swifty McVay of D12, Obie Trice, Bone Crusher, Masta Ace, Divine Brown, DMC, Maestro Fresh Wes, Jadakiss, Reema Major and the list goes on. Outside of hip hop, they’ve worked with the legendary Commodores, scored the theme song to the Real Housewives of Miami, and other TV projects and have even scored and executive produced some short films, that have made it to various international film festivals. Their production is fiercely loyal to the sounds of their youth yet possesses ambitious new schoolism. With influences as diverse as Jazz, Soul, Opera and Blues, they are truly sonic journeymen whose creativity often start in one genre and morphs into another by the end of the record.
Their aura falls somewhere between Beat Street and The Blues Brothers. While their ears are undeniably worldly and eclectic, they've never shaken hip hop’s strong influence on their lives growing up. Adrian and Lucas still talk about their trips back from Miami with suitcases full of cassette tapes in grade school. As teens in a predominantly Italian neighborhood just north of Toronto, they were often outcasted for their taste in music. But in their teens, spitting in the face of conformity, they formed a duo and started writing songs, both rapping and singing.
With such an accomplished list of collaborations and a seemingly limitless range of production work 80Empire are becoming a fixture in popular music.
"We can make music for every generation,” declares Adrian. “We’re less worried about following what everyone else is doing, of course you listen and pick up on new ideas, but we want to go in our own lane. That’s why one day we’re working on a film score and the next Swifty McVay is rapping on our beats. The only risk in life is not taking one.
ADRIAN REZZA, LUCAS REZZA
FOUNDERS - CEO
WIL VAN ZYL - Senior Entertainment and General Manager
Wil’s journey with music started very early in life where music permeated his childhood home in the suburbs of Ontario. His father, a gifted singer in his own right – immigrated to Canada in search of broader opportunities from their native Swaziland. The elder Van Zyl’s love of song led to music lessons for all of Wil’s siblings, yet Wil gravitated early on to the world of sport where he excelled in Soccer and Track & Field.
As fate would have it, while studying Business Management in college, a chance meeting on the bus one Sunday on the way to church led to a life-long creative and business relationship with his first management client, the Detroit bred R&B dynamo, Wade O. Brown. Wil credits Wade with igniting a latent passion for music and the mechanics of the music business. In fact, it was with Wade that Wil inked his very first publishing deal via the venerable Warner Chappell (Willi-Wade Music) – and the rest - as they say – is history.
Growing up in a household brimming with music, with a father who harbored a gift as an exceptional singer, Wil developed a keen ear for talent. Having no discernable musical gifts of his own, he quickly developed a reputation in artist circles as “the business guy” and found himself consulting in a broad fashion from business deals to orchestrating Street Teams. Joining forces with musician Wade, and style maven Christos, they set up shop as Morningstar Entertainment in the uber trendy Yorkville area of Toronto where they set about developing a range of creative artists who years later have gone on to have legitimate careers in music, animation and theatre.
In the late 90’s, it became apparent with Wade’s constant touring and the rapid expansion of Christos’ chain of salons that change was in the air. Setting out on his own, armed with the track record of success with Morningstar, propelled Wil to a lucrative consulting practice working with brands like Audi, Heineken, and Nokia and ultimately to the doors of an upstart boutique record label based in Toronto. Wil developed music packages of themed music, including a hugely heralded Jazz series, which were sold in Big Box retailers charting a path for success for the label. In a bid to expand the label’s musical footprint, they decided to venture into R&B. In the first of several “full circle” moments in his career – Wil reached back for his old friend Wade O. Brown who delivered a classically soulful album for the label which found success both north and south of the border.
It was during the Wade O. Brown album cycle that Wil hired and was ultimately mentored by Ramon Hervey – the esteemed Public Relations and Marketing master who first rose to prominence guiding the career of his then wife, Actress/Singer Vanessa Williams and later Multiplatinum Super Producer/Artist Babyface and Gospel legend Andre Crouch. Wil credits Hervey with teaching him two important lessons which he leans on until this day – First, the need for Quality; and not settling for second best and secondly, to remain humble even when presented with tremendous success.
Wil would connect with Adrian and Lucas Rezza (80Empire) and collectively decide that it was time to take destiny into their own hands and start Gladiator Records. The history is still to be written.