Amoeba Music San Francisco Hip-Hop Top Five: 02:20:09
1) Zion I The TakeOver (Gold Dust Media)
2) Madlib Beat Konducta Vols. 5-6 (Stones Throw)
3) 40Love BANGERANG! (No Label)
4) P.O.S. Never Better (Rhymesayers Entertainment)
5) Various Artists NASA: The Spirit of Apollo (Anti)
Thanks to Luis at the San Francisco Amoeba Music for this latest Hip-Hop Top Five, compiled from weekly sales figures of new hip-hop full-length CDs at the Haight Street store. And in the number one (with a bullet) slot is the off the hook just released Zion I album, The TakeOver on Gold Dust Media. This is the sixth album from the Oakland based duo who released their first full-length back in 2000. Comprised of producer AmpLive and emcee Zumbi, who moved out to the Bay Area from Atlanta, GA thirteen years ago where they first met up as students attending Morehouse College, Zion I just get better and better as time goes by. And The TakeOver is without a doubt their finest release to date. It is also their most musically diverse, incorporating elements of hyphy, boom bap, dirty south, power pop rap, and more.
And impressively, much of the music is live, not sampled. "On this album we wanted to keep it more live and also electronic so as to just have it as a tight combination," AmpLive told me recently, noting that the drums on the New Orleans flavored track "Gumbo" are all recorded live. Meanwhile, guest artists on the album include Rhymesayers emcee Brother Ali; Oakland power vocalist Jennifer Johns, whose numerous other collaborations include recording with former Amoebite DJ Platurn; Devin The Dude, who collaborates on the infectious, hit-bound "Country Baked Yams;" female vocalist K. Flay, whose vocal style is reminiscent of Sinead O' Connor; and talented UK emcee Ty, who deserves more attention Stateside than he has gotten to date.
The TakeOver is packed with wall-to-wall potential hits, but standout album cuts include the gospel-y "Antenna," the tribal drum-driven "Geek To The Beat," the radio ready "Radio," which sounds like some of the best Outkast output, and "Juicy Juice," (see video below) which, due to its bone-shuddering 808 fueled track, is similar in ways to the Cool Kids' equally infectious "Gold & A Pager."
And for the robotic electro rap track "DJ DJ," Zion I are inviting DJs/producers/remixers to participate in a remix contest of the song via the site www.mixmatchmusic.com where they have posted all the elements of the song to be chopped up and reworked.
Never idle, Zion I seem to be either always in the studio producing music or else out on the road bringing their music to fans near and far. In fact, they have tirelessly built a fan base not just by touring across the States and Canada, but also from trekking round clubs in Europe and Asia. "Basically, anywhere there is hip-hop we are trying to touch down," laughed Zumbi. "We like to think of ourselves as the Green Berets of hip-hop or the Navy SEALs of hip-hop. You might see us walking through Tokyo with like 20 bags between 3 people and getting on the train and making it happen and all just for the music." And he ain't lying. They are most passionate about music.
Even when the pair have a free moment off from Zion I responsibilities, they are busy working on other projects. Zumbi's many collaborations include teaming up with J-Boogie (you might have seen him perform at an Amoeba Music SF instore a few months back), while AmpLive has earned himself a reputation for his remixing work over the past year or two with both MGMT and Radiohead. His excellent Rainydayz remix of the group's last album In Rainbows that featured vocals over Radiohead's music by Zumbi, Too $hort, Chali2na of Jurassic 5, Codany Holiday, and Del The Funky Homosapien won the approval & praise of Thom Yorke and company. Expect The TakeOver to rightfully make Zion I pop stars by the end of 2009.
Zion I "Juicy Juice" from The TakeOver (Gold Dust Media, 2009)
Speaking of Del, the Oakland hip-hop collective Hieroglyphics' most prominent member, he is one of the numerous emcees, singers, instrumentalists who appear on the guest-heavy NASA: The Spirit of Apollo collection which is number 5 on this week's chart. The NASA project, which stands for North America/South America (and features lots of Brazillian based flavor), is the baby of DJ Squeak E. Clean and DJ Zegon. Their stated goal for the project is to "break boundaries and borders set for us by society" and to use this musical project as a way to create "a cooperative effort with our counterparts all over the world."
On the numerous (mostly impressive) tracks, there are collaborations such as Q-Bert with the aforemention Del the Funky Homosapien and such unlikely (but highly effective) pairings as Kool Keith with Tom Waits (a man who in the past was very resistant to any hip-hoppers even sampling his music). Other guests on this impressive lineup include RZA, Chuck D, David Byrne, M.I.A., DJ Z-Trip, Seu Jorge, Karen O, and Kanye West. Equally as impressive are the visual artists lined up to create the first video for the NASA single "Money" feat. David Byrne, Chuck D, Ras Congo, Seu Jorge & Z-Trip, which is actually not one of the better songs on the release. The video (below) was directed by Syd Garon (Wave Twisters) and Paul Griswold, and features the instantly recognizable artwork of Shepard Fairey.
"Money" feat. David Byrne, Chuck D, Ras Congo, Seu Jorge, & Z-TripAlso on the Amoeba SF Hip-Hop Top Five this week is homegrown, unsigned act 40Love, featuring female vocalist/emcee Haze, emcee G-OFF (who works at the SF Amoeba as well as at Om Records), producer/emcee Mikos and producer/DJ The Whooligan. Their debut album, Advantage, dropped two years ago, earning them a lot of attention, albeit not enough to get them signed -- not just yet anyway. But their recently released new ablum, BANGERANG! just might do the trick and get this young Bay crew signed to a big label.
With an impressive array of diverse guests including Black Spade, The Jacka of the Mob Figaz, L*Roneous, and Keelay and Zaire, and an attention-grabbing sound that straddles the divide between mob/street and boom bap rooted hip-hop, 40Love's hard work might be about to pay off.
Although if they took out the unnecessary and at times forced- sounding frequent of curse words, it wouldn't hurt. In addition to their work in 40 Love, G-OFF and The Whooligan were recently featured on Mushroom Jazz 6, the Om Records release by DJ Mark Farina. For more information on 40Love, hit up their MySpace or email their mainman at email@example.com.
Ten days ago, February 10th, marked the three year anniversary of the tragic death of James Dewitt Yancey, better known as Detroit producer J Dilla or Jay Dee, who so sadly passed at the young age of 32, a victim to both an incurable blood disease, TTP, and lupus. Tragically, now his own mother has lupus -- a serious autoimmune disorder which effects organ systems, skin, joints, and internal organs.
Dilla's mom, Maureen Yancey, is a former opera singer who is now fondly known as Ma Dukes. She is in need of help with her medical bills and to help out in this matter Shepard Fairey and B+ have teamed up on a collaborative poster and a benefit show planned for this Sunday in LA to help raise the needed funds. The poster (left) of Dilla is a 400 limited-run and is sized at 18" x 24". 50 prints of this poster, priced at $55 each, will be sold at the Benefit Event on Sunday, Feb 22, titled “A Suite for Ma Dukes” -- a part of Timeless and put on by the good folks at Mochilla.
Carlos Niño and Miguel Atwood-Ferguson with a forty-piece Orchestra are part of the event's line up plus DJ Sets by House Shoes + J.ROCC. Also promised by the organizers are "very Special Guests TBA." Once again, the benefit is happening this weekend, on Sunday, Feb 22nd at The Luckman Arts Complex on the California State University campus, 5151 State University Drive Los Angeles, CA 90032-8116. Tix available via Ticketmaster or at the box office. For more info call 323 343 6600.
And in more J Dilla news, Rapster has just announced that it will be releasing the first in a series of J Dilla dedicated material on March 31st when it will drop The Dilla-Anthology: Volume 1. This will be the first in a series dedicated to the producer, whose countless admirers include Pharell Williams and Kanye West -- both of whom name him as their major inspiration. This first volume includes Dilla tracks produced for a variety of artists including the group that he was a member of, Slum Village, plus tracks he produced for The Pharcyde ("Runnin’" + "Drop"), Common ("The Light"), De La Soul ("Stakes Is High"), Busta Rhymes ("Show Me What You Got"), The Roots ("Dynamite"), and others.
The first volume will be followed by future volumes focusing on his remix work and on his own production. Speaking of which, if you don't already have a copy of J-Dilla's Donuts on Stones Throw, which was released 3 days before his untimely death, go get it at Amoeba now. It is honestly one of the greatest albums of all time and one that you will never get tired of listening to.