Spinning Platters Interview: Zion I

by Matthew Blake on July 28, 2010

“Hip-hope” perhaps?  Their music blends genres of rap, electronica, reggae, jazz and other sounds, invoking spiritualism and awareness on social issues.  They have risen to the top of their class, working with such greats as De La Soul and Run D.M.C.  As Oakland’s MC Zion (aka Zumbi) and DJ/producer Amp Live prepare for a hometown reunion of sorts, opening for the infamous Black Star collaboration at the Fox Theater on Saturday, July 31st before setting out on a nationwide tour, they had a few moments to share with us to discuss their craft.

After achieving success last year with The Takeover, what should listeners expect on your forthcoming seventh album?

ZUMBI – Our long term fans know that each of our albums is like a new chapter in a book.  In this latest edition, we’re taking the sound in a new direction that I feel all will appreciate.  We have to leave a bit of mystery!

AMP – Well, for one, we are doing it all live instruments and sprinkles of other stuff, so the experience of the music is going to feel way different.  Its also being put together faster so the music may be more similar.

With a show scheduled for 7/31, opening for Black Star at the beautifully restored Fox Theater and a nationwide tour to follow, how conceptually different will the sound of your live set be compared to your records?

ZUMBI – The only difference between the live set and the records, is that the live set is more emotionally charged than the recordings.  There is a very tangible connection in person, that adds to the depth of the music and the feelings involved.

AMP – We try to make our show be the same or better than the album.  Our show songs have different breaks in them than the album versions and different order.  We also make up stuff on the spot.

Zion I have been considered quite a versatile group in that you have collaborated with a wide range of acts over the years, from rappers in the local Hyphy scene to more abstract hip-hop artists.  What direction do you see yourselves heading musically into the future and what is your take on the future of the Bay Area hip-hop scene?

ZUMBI – We always enjoy experimenting with new and emerging sounds and styles.  I feel that musicality and eccentric rhythms are the wave of the future.  Bay Area Hip Hop simply needs to keep on pushing itself to evolve.  In this day, the music moves so fast and really represents the mindset of the people.

AMP – Just keep on pushing it.  Hopefully we will do collaborations with people like Nas and Andre 3000.

(To Zumbi)  Your skills have drawn from many influences such as Q-Tip of legendary hip-hop pioneers, A Tribe Called Quest.  You also practice a more technical approach to your lyrical delivery while touching on social issues within your writing process.  How would you say your style as a lyricist differs from other rappers in the game?

ZUMBI – I work to keep my style versatile, so that I sound natural, riding to any style of beat or music.  I enjoy being technical, but I can also be emotive and simple.  I strive to supplement the beat with my own unique melody and rhythm, then when that’s done, slip some jewels and inspiration in to feed the mind and spirit.

(To AmpLive) Your recent productions have incorporated more dance and rock effects.  Describe your evolution from the early stages of creating abstract beats as a youngster to later appealing to wider audiences with a more diverse sound.

AMP – I just do what I feel at the time.  I still do abstract beats, I am working on a hip hop jazz instrumental album as we speak actually.   I have always done electronic beats also, Mind Over Matter was filled with them.  Electronic music is big now, so its more fitting for those sounds to shine at this point.

You have both recently recorded tracks paying tribute to the late Oscar Grant.  With that in mind, what message have you tried to convey to the public through these songs?

ZUMBI – Initially, I tried to convey the anger and frustration that we as the community felt to bear witness to this senseless killing.  Yet, there is a spiritual component that we must learn to respect human life, regardless of color, religion, sex, or creed.  As we move forward, we are going to need to put our petty differences aside in order to deal with greater issues such as war, destroying the environment (BP), and the clash of religious philosophy.  The planet is smaller than before, there is not enough room for ignorance to continue to exists, without it destroying us along with it.

AMP – Think differently, spread your feelings, and realize we still have a ways to go with recognizing the inner racism that is still within us.  It’s a  sad tragedy.  They actually had a Pro-Meheserle rally out here the other day. Some people have the nerve to think he doesn’t even deserve to get involuntary manslaughter for “accidentally” shooting Oscar Grant….wow.  Put a different face to the victim and unfortunately,  I am sure these people would think differently.

Read Also:

{ 0 comments… add one now }

Leave a Comment

{ 1 trackback }

Previous post:

Next post: