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When Oren J. Schuable's cell phone rang on the morning of September 11 last year, he didn't want to pick up.
His group, Silver Medallion, had staged two off-the-hook gigs the evening prior in Scottsdale, and the 24-year-old hip-hop artist was sleeping off a hangover after a night of performing and partying.
When Schuable eventually answered the call, what he heard immediately caused him to sober up. Abay Lattin, his best friend and musical partner, was dead.
4426 N. Saddlebag Trail
Scottsdale, AZ 85251
Category: Bars and Clubs
Region: Central Scottsdale
Silver Medallion is scheduled to perform on Friday, February 11, at Bar Smith, and on Monday, February 14, at Pussycat Lounge in Scottsdale.
Lattin, known as Carnegie, had been killed by an allegedly drunk driver in Tempe hours earlier as he traveled from a solo DJ gig after Silver Medallion's shows.
For Schuable (who performs as Oren J.), nothing would ever be the same. He'd gone from serving as one-half of a rising hip-hop duo, opening for acts like LMFAO, to spending sleepless nights slaving over No One Ever Really Dies, Silver Medallion's latest album, which was released on Tuesday and, Schuable hopes, will be a fitting tribute and legacy for Lattin. And it all changed with the ring of a phone.
"It was so hard to wake up and hear the worst thing imaginable," Schauble says. "It was unbelievable. We did a show the night before in front of thousands of people and then he's suddenly gone."
Silver Medallion rose to prominence in 2008 and became one of the Valley's hottest hip-hop acts before relocating to New York City the next year. They'd returned to the Valley for a special weekend that included a gig opening for Girl Talk in Tucson, followed by the aforementioned Scottsdale shows.
Carnegie was riding home from a DJ gig at Philthy Phil's, a Phoenix bar, with recording engineer/hip-hop artist Hejus Trife. They were driving along University Drive near Rural Road in Tempe in Trife's Chevrolet Caprice when a Ford Expedition driven by Kathryn Hetrick, a 17-year-old who, police say, was intoxicated and leaving a party at the Quadrangles apartment complex, slammed into their car. The 25-year-old Lattin was killed instantly and Trife sustained fractured ribs and a broken leg, After being taken to Scottsdale Osborn Medical Center, he recovered. A motorcyclist was also killed when he ran into the wreckage. (Last week, Hetrick was indicted on one count of manslaughter and two counts of aggravated assault.)
Shortly after the accident, Joel Davis, a longtime Silver Medallion collaborator who spins under the name DJ Epidemic, summed up the feelings of Lattin's nearest and dearest.
"It's a total clusterfuck and tragedy," he says. "Carnegie was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. It sucks because they were only in town to do [those] shows . . . and then this had to happen."
Schuable says he's spent the past six months thinking about Lattin and working on No One Ever Really Dies, which will consist of four new songs completed before Carnegie's death and previously released tracks that have been remixed and "transformed into something better."
"I think about him every day. We spent so much time together and did so many things together and Silver Medallion was our whole lives. It's still the majority of my time that I can't help but think about him constantly. Our music is playing all the time; even maintaining our social media is a constant reminder," he says. "It's been hard, finishing what we had all by myself. We used to spend 90 percent of our time together, always bouncing ideas back and forth. It was very interactive, both of us clicking with each other on music."
He and Lattin began clicking from the moment they met in early 2008.
Schuable, a Boston native raised in Hawaii (hence his blond surfer boy appearance), was working at a Tempe recording studio when Lattin came in to lay down some tracks for a solo project. Lattin, who was born in Phoenix, had recently returned to the Valley after a long gig as a hype man in Hot Rod's posse, spending years collaborating with the local hip-hop breakout (who was signed to 50 Cent's G-Unit label), appearing in his music videos, and rubbing elbows with such stars as Mary J. Blige.
They struck up a conversation about music, particularly the B'more and electro remixes that were a trendy staple of New York City's club scene at the time.
"I'd briefly lived in NYC and saw how acts like Santigold, Spank Rock, Chromeo were blowing up. When I came back to Phoenix and said, 'Yo, I wanna make music like this,' all my friends were like, 'You're crazy,' but Carnegie wanted to do it," Schuable says. "We had access to a studio, literally made 14 or 15 songs, including 'Gravity,' and immediately realized we had something. We set out to make some different music, and it turned way better than we expected and way more interesting than anything either of us had done alone previously."
And that was due in large part to Lattin's mad vocal talents, which local producer Stevie Thunder described (in a blog eulogizing Carnegie) as "on par with heavy-hitting punchline artists of the East Coast."
"His flow was seasoned, and he possessed one of the key elements that makes a great lyricist, and that is the ability to stay on beat," Thunder wrote. "He was really comfortable on the microphone."