Prince and the New Power Generation, Sly and the Family Stone, Bob Marley and the Wailers, Elvis Costello and the Attractions; over the years there have been plenty of musicians who have become as famous as the solo artists that they support, however none of the vocalists in these legendary groups earned their claim to fame as rappers. Walker OG has never been afraid to deviate from the norm, so of course the next step in his evolution as an emerging emcee would be to add a full band to the experience.
“The biggest concert I remember going to was Jay-Z and he had a live band with him,” Dorian Walker, the stylish, bearded rapper from Richmond Heights recalls. “When you’re playing with a DJ, that record is set, but with the band you can customize what you do.” Walker released his debut album Everything’s Perfect last summer, featuring friends DJ Corey Grand, Mike Genius, and Sensei Mental on the eight-song release engineered by Brad Puette and Terence Elam.
The album is peppered with smooth jazz, trip hop, new wave, indie rock and soul, while consistently laced with witty lyricism and eccentric delivery. “This was the first time I took music seriously enough to try and make a career from it. Although it’s a rap album I feel it isn’t traditional,” he says, elaborating, “I’m proud of it, it got a lot of great reviews, but I look at it as something I can build on.”
Corey Grand served as live DJ during Walker OG’s performances from Lemur Fest to Gather in Glenville, but Walker decided to enlist drummer Dante Foley and bassist Todd Marshall for a new twist on his old material. Berdt Barrios approached them after a show with The Rainbow Emergency asking to play guitar in the group. Walker continues to add musicians to the Experience, including a recent guest spot by Marcus Alan Ward with whom he recorded the track “Trip”.
If Walker OG is the bone and muscle, then the Dorian Walker Experience is surely the brain of this musical machine. Walker’s work is so cerebral that it’s fitting this incarnation of Everything’s Perfect takes you a step further into the mind of the maker. “At the Five O’Clock Lounge show, the last song I did, ‘Orange’ is my favorite song off the tape. I got a little emotional doing that song because it just felt so real,” he confesses.
As time has worn on, the goal has drifted from adding to the tracks found on his album to being able to recreate the emotion of writing them for an audience. The band has debuted new material from Walker OG during their set, as well as created original music together as The Dorian Walker Experience. When asked what he would classify his new sound as, alternative hip hop comes to mind. “I don’t want to say that I want to be a rock star, but that’s tight,” Walker grins.
“It’s cool seeing all of the creative minds in the band come together,” manager Drew White pipes in. “You guys have that jam session where everybody free styles. It’s uncoordinated, but it looks like it’s a part of the set. It’s something different every time that they’re on stage.”
These days Cleveland’s music scene seems to be a crossover mecca when it comes to the genre-melding, improvisational work of groups like the Dorian Walker Experience. There’s an exclusivity and uniqueness to each of their shows knowing that the same line-up may never occur again.
“If I could collaborate with anyone, it would be Maddie Finn. She is amazing,” Walker decides instinctually. “I really like the dope music here in Cleveland. Samfox and Thaddeus Anna Greene, a lot of these people are going to take off and be gone. You’re not going to get a second chance to experience them in their hometown where they first started; you have to be there when it happens.”