Zion I cut their debut release, Mind Over
Matter, in 2000, they garnered the respect of an underground community
looking for the next sound. Since that debut, the combination of un-earthly
production from AmpLive along with mutating lyrics from their dread-locked MC,
Zumbi, has yet to fail.
Mind Over Matter, Zion I has put out
five LPs marking their dominance in Hip-Hop as the advocates of spirituality
and freedom in our world of beef and violence.
after lending their efforts to a project with The Grouch of Living Legends
entitled Heroes of the City of Dope,
they are back to the original recipe as the group prepares to take over Hip-Hop
with the aptly titled The Take Over, dropping February 17th.
AllHipHop.com: Why The
Take Over? What is going in
your minds at this point that you feel you need to swoop up the entire game?
Zumbi: Its not so much like a military
takeover of Hip-Hop or something like that. Its not physical either like, Were gonna
take over! Its more us taking it on a spiritual vibe, you know? When people get possessed by the spirit it takes them over and
you got to do whatever you are given to do. We looked at it more like the
traditions through out Rap music history in terms of being in America. We are basically
paying homage to the music traditions that the ancestors layed down and thats
why we called it The Take Over.
also called it that because we feel like this is the complete and best work we
can do as Zion I. Its like the pinnacle
of what we are capable of because we really took our time on this record and
put the best foot forward, so to take over in that way too. Also just to take over Hip-Hop and
bring it back to being just creative and fresh, not really chipping off
convention but just being original.
The principles this culture was bounded on in this day and age, they are
a lot of times forgotten so we are just taking it back like that.
Zion I “Juicy Juice” Video
AllHipHop.com: As we push farther into 2009 Hip-Hop has
been pushed in many directions, some being not appreciated as much by the
purists in our culture. How has
this affected Zion I?
I feel like its forced us to stay on the cutting edge of what we do and
be grounded and humble in our lane that we follow in terms of the style we create.
Also, staying true to ourselves and why we even formed the
group in the first place is important. We chose the name Zion I because
we knew that it would help us maintain the focus in terms of us being uplifting
and bringing a positive message to people and being inspiring. What everybody
is really into is like escapism in the moment most of what they call
commercial Hip-Hop. Fans like stuff that represents the street and its like,
I dont give a f**k basically, if its about a woman or my money or my
out of that system and thats all cool because in this climate it kind of
reinforces what we do. There seems
to be a lack of people trying to drop something for the head. We want to entertain people and keep
them moving and just make stuff that hits hard but were also trying to sneak
some jewels in there so people can smile when they are at the show. We dont want people throwing up fists
the entire time because thats not really what we are about.
Thats the challenge of always being an artist, just staying hungry to the
game and not sitting back and saying, Oh I got this. As soon as you say that there is a
youngster coming up that is hungry who will outshine you. AmpLive
AllHipHop.com: The Zion I sound has been ever changing
for the past decade. What are you
trying to achieve differently that shows your fans you are on a new level of
Zumbi: We included other aspects of our
personality in the concepts of this album. The way we come off on a record
usually is serious and theres not too much humor. Most of our stuff has a social political tone and all of it
is us, but I feel like this record is the most rounded
in terms of actually who we are and how we are in real life and how we get
down. Its not like were straight
hella militant all day long, we chill too and have a good time so I think this
record really represents all of those facets.
AmpLive: I thought it was more a combination of
all the albums. I think we went
back to how we did Mind Over Matter
because when we did that we didnt really care about what was going on we just
did music and brought in natural things that we listened to.
AllHipHop.com: Is it easier now that you have such a
strong following to convey your strong messages and ideas?
AmpLive: I think as an artist its always a
challenge man. I dont think as an
artist you can sit back and say that its easy to do this. My opinion is if you do that you might
get soft and you might not try as hard.
And when you do that people will feel it and music is always about
energy and potential when your doing it and how much
your feeling and how emotional you are about your message. Thats the challenge of always being an
artist, just staying hungry to the game and not sitting back and saying, Oh I
got this. As soon as you say that
there is a youngster coming up that is hungry who will outshine you. Then all of a sudden youre second rate
and you got to make up ground. You
always have to be on that edge of being creative and you know just being
AllHipHop.com: DJ DJ recently surfaced on the Internet. Obviously the track has a Planet Rock
essence which was also conveyed by Commons single
Universal Mind Control. What do
you think of his efforts compared to your own?
Zumbi: We did DJ DJ before we had heard it [Universal
Mind Control]. I was on the Internet
one day and I saw Universal Mind Control and I heard and it is kind of in the
same direction but its kind of a different thing too because we are paying
homage to the DJ culture and how essential it is to Hip-Hop. A lot of times in Hip-Hop its all
about the MC and the producer.
Graffiti artists, DJs, and dancers dont get as much recognition so its
paying homage to them. Also that
song went through a lot of changes.
Its started out one way and then it continued to evolve and Amp kept
putting on different layers to it.
I think Commons joint is tight too its just that Hip-Hop is moving and
there are different aspects to it.
People can be on the same wave length and they
catch that vibe and they just create.
Hip-Hop is the culture we exist in but we grew up in it so its life. Looking around and looking at the
world, the people I see arent rich and they dont have 15 women hanging on
them and they dont kill people everyday. -Zumbi
AllHipHop.com: Is Afrika Bambaataa an inspiration to the music you make being that
he represented peace and all of your music has those same positive images/themes?
AmpLive: I mean I even went further then Bambaataa,
Kraftwerk was the real machine behind that stuff.
Like a lot of those songs were straight off of their albums. I listened to a lot of that and Im
really heavy into electro music so I wanted to combine all those elements. Then when the song [DJ DJ] came
together I sort of saw how it was relating to what Afrika Bambaataa
was putting out. In terms of the
inspiration, it was just electronic music and where it came from including the
Hip-Hop and the electronic Hip-Hop sound from the 80s.
AllHipHop.com: Positivity, spirituality, and freedom are
important topics that you push in your music. Why do you feel these are so important especially when we
are in such a negative state in Hip-Hop?
Zumbi: Well we make music about life. Hip-Hop is the culture we exist in but
we grew up in it so its life.
Looking around and looking at the world, the people I see arent rich
and they dont have 15 women hanging on them and they dont kill people
everyday. Hip-Hop is very much an
extreme caricature of real life.
People have those experiences and then Hip-Hop glorifies a certain
aspect of our reality as people of color, Black folks specifically. I dont necessarily have that
experience and I dont uphold that.
I look at life and what people are really living and thats kind of
where the music comes from. Just
because everybody in Hip-Hop is doing the same thing doesnt mean I should
follow that. Im still Hip-Hop and
can be totally different, I can dress like a punk rock dude and still be
Hip-Hop just because its my culture.
I dont think Zion I is built on following anybody else, I feel like
weve always stood on our own to make good music.