Abraham “AraabMuzik” Orellana is thrilled that his long-delayed second album, Dream World, has at last seen the light of day, but the acclaimed hip-hop producer has something far greater to be thankful for. “I was just fortunate to escape,” he says of surviving being shot during an attempted robbery that occurred this past February as he and his friend were exiting a Harlem parking garage.
Speaking publicly for the first time since the incident, the artist, long known for his imaginative live manipulation on the MPC drum machine, says he is still unsure how or why he and his friend were targeted in the shooting. “There’s a lot of predators out there,” he tells Rolling Stone as he recounts the life-threatening ordeal. Police believe Orellana was specifically targeted in the shooting but no official motive is yet known. One of the suspects reportedly convinced Orellana, who was driving, that he had dropped something from his car, prompting the producer to roll down the window, after which shots were fired with a .380 semiautomatic handgun. The suspects then fled on foot.
AraabMuzik underwent surgery, having suffering gunshot wounds to his jaw and right arm in the shooting; another bullet grazed his head. Looking back, he says he feels lucky to have been spared unlike other public figures gunned down in their prime. “I was lucky and fortunate to be blessed and stay calm, stay grounded and move forward and not really have that hold me back from anything I was trying to do,” says the producer, who survived a previous shooting in 2013.
To that end, AraabMuzik is making the most of 2016: In addition to releasing Dream World, an album that bridges his twin loves of hip-hop and electronic music, the producer, perhaps best known for his work with members of the East Coast hip-hop community including Cam’ron, A$AP Mob, Fabolous and Azealia Banks, is also working on a collaborative project with rapper Joe Budden entitled Rage and the Machine, in addition to logging studio time with both Swizz Beatz and his wife Alicia Keys for their respective new albums.
“This year’s looking pretty good,” AraabMuzik says in a conversation that touches on his surviving the February shooting, its affect on his mental state and his overdue new LP. “I’m just grateful and blessed.”
Let’s talk about the shooting. Did you ever learn how or why you were targeted?
It was pretty random. I guess it was plotted, or whatever – I don’t know. I’m a public figure. It’s just unfortunate that people like John Lennon or Christina Grimmie or Lor Scoota had to pass away to bring attention to violence. But unlike them I was just fortunate to escape that and still be here doing what I love to do and giving music and still performing.
Do you feel as if you attract attention when you’re out?
I’m someone that doesn’t really travel with a large entourage or security or a large group of people. One friend or 10 friends, I’m still recognized wherever I go. Luckily I didn’t die [laughs].
It’s impressive you’re able to look back and laugh on it now.
Yeah. What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.
How did you feel mentally in the weeks and months that followed?
It definitely was crazy. But I went forward. There are predators out there that seek to bring harm upon celebrities. I’m a public figure so things just happen. It can happen to anyone anywhere. It doesn’t matter. I was just the victim at that time. That’s pretty much how I dealt with it. But that didn’t really affect me as far as working. I just put more thought into creating music and really taking the time to reflect and sit back and think and just get focused. Really come back harder this time and stronger and really show the world what I’m really about. Now this is definitely proof that I’m not stopping and this is just the beginning.
Let’s talk about your new album. What feels different about this project versus the other mixtapes and EPs you’ve released over the years? KING and Goon Loops, released in consecutive weeks last December, were genre-specific, with the former showcasing your EDM chops and the latter your love of hip-hop, whereas this feels as if it covers more ground.
This one was obviously the main product, the main prize that everyone was really waiting for since [my 2011 debut, Electronic Dream]. But this one I really just needed to take more time and really break the barrier and show my growth throughout the years. Just show my progression. I pretty much made this album a collective body of work. I covered a whole bunch of genres and a lot of different styles. I accommodated both genres: hip-hop and electronic. I didn’t want to keep it based in one direction. And I didn’t want to go commercial by working with commercial artists and just going in that lane. I wanted to discover new artists, new talent. I’m always searching and have my ear open to discovering new producers or DJs or whatever whether it’s through SoundCloud, Instagram, wherever. I’m just open-minded.
This album has been hyped for a few years now. Why did it take so long to complete? Are you a bit of a perfectionist?
I just wanted to take my time. I know it’s been a long ride, but I thank the fans for sticking with me throughout the years and staying loyal. I actually accomplished the goal of making it happen. It’s been quite some years, but I’ve been through a lot so it kind of reflects on the music. I’ve been recording the album in different places, locations. I didn’t stay just in one place while recording the album. I’ve done tracks while I was out of the country, out on the West Coast, East Coast. I had different vibes when I was in different environments.
Producers are expected to travel so much nowadays. I imagine then it’s hard to find time to dedicate to a far-reaching project like this one.
Definitely. All that stuff takes time. So it’s about finding the time and the inspiration to actually work on these big projects and albums versus dropping a mixtape or an EP where you can just throw out a bunch of things you’ve worked on and just put it out. But when it comes to an actual studio album, it definitely takes a lot of time. It’s just different. You can’t be doing a lot of things at once — being on the road and consistently traveling — and make something like this because it affects the music.
And now that it’s finally out it must be a bit of a relief, especially considering what you’ve been through.
Oh, yeah. It feels good to finally accomplish such a big project and goal. Everyone’s been anticipating it for so long. I had scrapped the first album, which was last year — it was supposed to be released June of last year — but that was something I had put together quick. I started realizing I can’t just put anything out … especially if it’s an actual album that I want to put next to Electronic Dream. I resurrected my style. I took a different route this time. I had gone the EDM route for a little bit, but now I wanted something new and fresh that brought in hip-hop, too. I feel really good about it.
I know you’ve also been working on a collaborative album with Joe Budden, Rage and the Machine.
Yeah, man. Me and Joe just released a song off our collaborative Rage and the Machine project that we’re doing. It’s featuring Fabulous and Tory Lanez and it’s called “Flex.” So that is definitely one of the highlights of that album. … That’s a whole other monster right there. I produced all the tracks and Joe is really coming hard. We’re just staying busy.
Swizz Beatz is one of your closest friends. In fact, he posted a picture on Instagram with you as you lay in the hospital following the shooting. Have you two been in the studio together lately?
We’ve been working on a lot of different things. He has a lot of stuff going on too. He dropped that track “Waitin’ on Me,” which I co-produced, and right now Alicia [Keys] is working on her album. She’s releasing new songs.
I take it you’ve working on Alicia’s album as well?
Yeah. I’ve been helping out with that, for sure. That’s another big, big project.
You’re certainly staying busy.
This year’s looking pretty good. I’m just grateful and blessed.