Tanner Bjorklund (“T-Strix”) was a gifted teenage rap artist who attended the Recording Connection because he wanted to try and record his own music. After graduating, he had the skills he needed, but as an artist, he still found it challenging to be both in front of the board and behind it.

Rodolfo Lopez (“R-Lo”) was a gifted audio engineer who also loved hip-hop and attended the Recording Connection to hone his skills in order to hopefully change the hip-hop game. Having already finished the Recording Connection basic course, he stayed on to work on the advanced program.

As it happened, both students were placed with Recording Connection mentor Donny Baker of ES Audio in Glendale, CA. And that’s where the story gets interesting.

“Donny was like, ‘There’s this kid who is pretty good at rapping. Maybe you should record with him,’” says Rodolfo. “So we set up a session. I met Tanner, we recorded one song and I said to myself ‘This kid has potential.’”

Tanner’s reaction to Rodolfo was similar.

“I was doing all my own engineering,” he said. “It’s hard to do it all on your own, trying to be an artist and manage all the other stuff…I came across Rudy, [and]I was like, ‘Dude, I need an engineer…I need to have somebody with me all the time.’”

Soon after that session, Tanner invited Rodolfo to build a studio with him at his home in Temecula, California. Rodolfo didn’t hesitate. “We built a 4 x 8 space, we insulated it,” he says. “It took a lot of time—blood, sweat and tears were put into it…We get very solid mixes in the studio we work in.”

With a shared dream to bring “cleverness” back into the hip-hop genre, the pair dubbed themselves “Clever Empire” and began working everyday in their studio to produce music—Rodolfo at the console, Tanner on the mic. The end result? A new EP released in July 2015 called The Future’s Present.

“The album is very diverse,” Rodolfo says. “You’ll hear one and you’ll hear the next, and you’ll be like, ‘Wow, this is really different!’ It just has a vast variety.”

Even with the album released, Rodolfo and Tanner are still at it, continuing in their partnership with a healthy respect for each other’s talents, and recording regularly in their studio. Rodolfo loves Tanner’s flow:

“Hip hop, where it is now, it’s so repetitive,” he says. “All they talk about is women, money and drugs…[Tanner] raps about different things. He raps about real events, his life.”

And Tanner appreciates his new engineer’s gifts as well. “What we are getting is sounding really professional,” he says. “Rudy records me and he engineers it, and it’s better than I’ve known how to do it.”

As for the future? “We are gonna keep making as many songs as we can a week,” says Tanner. “We’ve been making music everyday, living the dream.”

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