In conversation, Zachary “Hooks” Rapp-Rovan is modest about his success. As one-half of Zeds Dead, he and creative partner Dylan Mamid (DC) have built a veritable EDM empire that has allowed them to travel the world, command an army of adoring fans, and collaborate with some of their musical heroes. If any of this has fazed Hooks, it doesn’t show. Beyond the joy of making music for a living, Hooks and DC seem to relish the opportunity to share their passion — rather than just their work — with followers.
“When you have an audience of people listening, you tend to want to give them entertainment, so to speak, but [also] put them onto things,” Hooks says. Recently, he and DC had the opportunity to collaborate with hip-hop figures such as Ghostface Killah in addition to personal favorites like Jadakiss and Styles P, both members of late-'90s hip-hop staple the Lox. According to Hooks, collaborations such as these come naturally, the result of years spent dabbling in different production styles and bumping a diverse array of records.
“We’d like to show [the audience]... what we think is dope,” Hooks says. “As hip-hop producers, we always wanted to work with certain people, and they might not be the trendiest new person anymore, but we’re stoked to do stuff with them.”
Their desire to continually expand their horizons can be seen in their latest effort, the record label Deadbeats. A little over a year into its existence, Deadbeats has asserted itself as a logical extension of Zeds Dead’s aesthetic, with artists and songs that fall under an EDM template but defy easy categorization.
Following the release of Deadbeats Compilation 1 in February, Zeds Dead is taking the label and its acts on the road with, appropriately enough, the Deadbeats tour. Dead and friends will stop in Miami September 3 with a show at Mana Wynwood. Accompanied by Slander, Kayzo, Space Jesus, and others, Hooks describes the tour as their take on the Mad Decent Block Party.
“What we’re trying to do with them is bring that intimate vibe to a larger show... with the stage production and the vibe of the whole thing,” Hooks says. “We want to give people an experience they remember... that stands out from just being a typical electronic music experience.”
Like Hooks' own act, Deadbeats artists are eclectic, encompassing the pantheon of genres under the electronic music umbrella. But even with all of the exciting developments occurring in the field, Hooks acknowledges that EDM currently represents the default template in pop music.
“EDM has become sort of the mainstream sound, and everybody is trying to copy it," Hooks says. "These trends pop up, and right now it’s very electronic.”
Hooks says he and DC are committed to remaining true to their own sound and style regardless of commercial concerns. But if Zeds Dead happens to make a few hits along the way, so be it.
“We never tried to make songs for the radio... but occasionally we’ll make something that we think might have legs in that world,” Hooks says, citing their popular collaboration with Twin Shadow, “Lost You,” as an example. For all of its achievements, Zeds Dead tries to keep things in perspective by noting the time it took to get here, as well as the work that was put in.
“It’s the sort of thing where you step back and you reflect on it from time to time,” Hooks says. “It wasn’t like we made a hit song and then we became big and it was a lot to get used to; it was very, very gradually.”
Deadbeats Miami. With Zeds Dead, Slander, Kayzo, Space Jesus, and others. 9 p.m. Sunday September 3, at Mana Wynwood, 318 NW 23rd St., Miami; 305-573-0371; manawynwood.com. Tickets cost $35 via ticketfly.com.
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