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Thursday, April 18, 2024
Zion I at the Majestic

AmpLive (left) and Zumbi (right) compose Bay Area hip-hop duo Zion I.

Just Zion and I: A Q & A with Zumbi and AmpLive of Zion I

The Daily Cardinal got the chance to speak with Zumbi and AmpLive of Zion I prior to their show at The Majestic on Saturday, Feb. 4. 

DC: Atomic Clock seems to embody your desire for progress-how do you see yourselves changing and progressing in the future?

Zumbi: That's true, that was our effort to bring live music all the way into our mix. I have always seen Zion I as a bridge to other dimensions of hip hop and soul music. I envision further experimentation with emerging sounds, as well as paying homage to the classics. I think there is something enigmatic in mixing the past and the present with the unknown.

AmpLive: We just want to keep being innovative and making music. We definitely want to travel more and combine with different groups, so our fan base expands.

DC: How do your roots in Oakland, California, play into the style of your music?

Zumbi: Oakland has a distinct regional feel as per hip hop culture, but we love and support all aspects of music. The arts scene is huge and there is fertile soil to explore new styles and directions. It is also a place that keeps you grounded because it is a small city and the community will check you if you get out of pocket. I appreciate the energy, as I think it is one of the most progressive cities in the US.

AmpLive: The Bay Area has a very wide range of the types of artist that have come from it. You have artist like Too Short, E40, Mistah Fab to Green Day, Hieroglyphics crew, Quannum, and Bassnectar. When you interact and do music with so many different styles of musicians, it will rub off on you.

DC: What artists have most inspired you?

Zumbi: One of my favorite MC's is Andre 3000. His catalog personifies the evolution of a true artist in my opinion. I also love Mos Def as he is such a naturally charismatic presence on the mic. As of late, I've been vibing off of Frank Ocean real heavy. I appreciate his innovative approach on soul music. Bob Marley is the artist I always turn to when I'm feeling down. He epitomizes the fusing of spirituality to secular music for me.

AmpLive: I am most inspired now by a lot of the new artist coming out. All they are using is the Internet and their marketing is very on point.

DC: How did you two meet?

Zumbi: We met at Morehouse College in Atlanta. We lived in the same dorm and were hanging out from the first week of school. After chasing girls and getting accustomed to college life, we discovered a mutual love of music. The rest is history.

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DC: Who is your favorite group to collaborate with?

Zumbi: I'd have to say the Grouch. There's something unique when we come together, and I feel that the chemistry pushes us to be very clear in our intentions to create.

DC: Amp, you are known for your unique production techniques. How did you develop those skills? Just a lot of experimentation?

AmpLive: I grew up listening to every type of music. I would listen to hip hop with my cousins and family members. Then at school I would listen to a lot of country music, skate punk and techno music. My father played jazz piano and organ, so I always heard jazz, soul and gospel music. Every few months my Mom would make me go to symphonies and do a report about what I saw, so I began to appreciate classical music.

DC: Do you have any pre-show rituals?

Zumbi: No doubt. I always do my stretch routine from Wu Shu to ready my body for the upcoming gymnastics that I'm about to put it through. I also do vocal warm ups. Finally, we pray together and give thanks for the opportunity to share our experience with the world. I think the routine gives us consistency between large and small shows, it helps maintain the intensity regardless of where we are.

AmpLive: I am usually really chill and focused, sometimes I will tap on stuff.

DC: Do you ever get sick of each other? Has performing changed the relationship you guys have with one another?

Zumbi: We've known each other for so long, over 20 years now. We've been through so many ups and downs, personal and professional. Amp is my brother so yeah, I get irritated with him sometimes, as he does with me. It's just like a regular family. But, at the end of it all, respect and true friendship bonds us. We've definitely evolved over the years as we both have families and children now. Yet, the respect for one another and the music is what it's all about.

AmpLive: From years of touring you learn to take breaks and find things that keep your head straight on the road. So everyone creates their own mechanisms to cope with each other.

DC: What is the most ridiculous thing you've experienced at a show or backstage?

Zumbi: Wow. There's a lot I could talk about, but one of my fonder memories is when we performed at Zellerbach Hall on the UC Berkeley campus in 2006. It was some sort of benefit so we were doing a short set to a packed house. Once we dropped into "the Bay" the whole spot exploded and kids just started rushing the stage! If you don't know, Zellerbach Hall is one of those esteemed buildings for the University. By the time I hit the middle of the first verse there must have been around 200-300 people onstage! I couldn't even see the rest of the crew, and had to mosh my way back to the front of the stage to finish performing. The whole stage was quaking, and later I heard that the stage was broken from all the weight. There's footage on YouTube. Crazy, but in a good way!

AmpLive: We cant tell you the super crazy stuff, but I definitely have seen some people act a fool to get back stage and nobody is even there. People who cry at shows are always a trip because you wonder what you have done to make them that happy to see you.

DC: How were you "discovered"?

Zumbi: Once I left Atlanta and returned to the Bay, I immediately started doing small shows and handing out the cassettes that we had created while in the Atl. Slowly, we started to build a buzz. After doing a show in San Jose, Rasco approached me and said he liked the set. I gave him a tape, and he hollered at me the next week about this indie label he was working at. That ended up being our first label, Ground Control. Boom!

AmpLive: When we came out to California we became friends with the artist Rasco. He introduced us to the owner of Nu Gruv Alliance, who at the time was distributing Stones Throw and Quannum. They liked our music so we signed with them to put out Mind Over Matter.

Want to see Zion I perform live? Head down to the Majestic on Saturday evening. Doors open at 8 p.m., show starts at 9 p.m. Tickets are $13 in advance, $15 day of show.

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