Yesterday super-talented, longtime Oakland hip-hop group Zion I headed out on the road for the beginning of an intensive two-month tour in support of their soon-to- drop new album Atomic Clock on Gold Dust Media which will be arriving in Amoeba Music on its November 9th release date. To download an advance free copy of the new album track "Many Stylez" featuring Rebulution (with whom they are out on tour with)_ click here. Yesterday while en route to the airport for the kickoff of the intensive Zion I tour (approx 40 dates over the next eight weeks).
I caught up with the hard working duo's emcee Zumbi to ask him about his and musical partner/producer Amp Live's latest album, which is their seventh full-length. I wondered how lyrically Atomic Clock is different from past Zion I releases, in particular their last album, The Takeover (Gold Dust), that dropped back in early 2009. "It's different from The Takeover because on The Takeover it was, I would say, a very conscientious process, like revising a lot of the record. Like I wrote [the song] "Antenna" about four or five times. There was just a lot of thought about every aspect of that record, like editing little phrasing and a lot of hook editing over and over again, just different phases of redoing the songs," he recalled.
"But with Atomic Clock, in contrast, it was a very instinctual record. We just did it. We only had a short period of time so everything we did was kind of on the fly. And, honestly, it felt a little better that way because I felt we were been a little more honest in that way," said Zumbi. It isn't always a blessing having unlimited time to fine-tune and tweak a recording project, he added, because often when you do, "Sometimes you take away some of the good stuff, some of the erratic-ness, the quote unquote mistakes in your effort to make everything perfect."
Sampler of Zion I's "Atomic Clock" (Gold Dust)
With such a diverse musical style (e.g., the new album track "North Star" would fit in on a station like Live 105 while others sound like KMEL material), I asked Zumbi who he and Amp Live see as Zion I's audience. "Pretty much anyone with an open mind. Not really any one type of person. I see all types of people at our shows so I think it is just more of a philosophy type of thing and more about identifying with the philosophy of what we are talking about."
While most groups would be content to simply work within their main framework, the ever-prolific Zion I duo never stops making music both inside and beyond Zion I. A few months back Amp Live released his incredible hip-hop/electronic fused solo album Murder At The Discotech (Childs Play/OM) which featured a ton of guests, including Zumbi, Eligh, Trackademicks, Fashawn, Myka Nyne, Hot Tub, Yak Ballz, and The Grouch. Living Legends member The Grouch is a regular collaborator with Zion I. In fact, they teamed up with him to record the 2006 album Heroes in the City of Dope (Om Records) and are currently putting finishing touches to a new full-length with The Grouch. "The Zion I/Grouch album we are working on right now should be out next March. It's about 80% done right now," confided Zumbi. Click here to watch a video of The Grouch and Zion I performing and an interview at Amoeba San Francisco.
Zumbi's collaboration with Houston based Trackmasters producer The Are will be released next week on October 12; called The Burnerz (JahWorks), it features cameos from OneBeLo, Martin Luther, The Grouch, and C-Holiday. I asked Zumbi how this project with The Are differed from the production/recording process with Amp Live. "We did that whole record via email. All we did was iChat and email and talk on the cell phone and tell each other if we liked it or not, whereas Amp and I, he's been knowing me for so long. We used to live together. We're always in the studio together so it's a totally different process. The Burnerz was more like The Are would send me a batch of like twenty beats and I'd pick like three or four of them. I'd record them, then send them back, and then email, and then do another one. It was a totally different process. It wasn't better or worse, just different."
Before letting him go I asked Zumbi where he would like to see Zion I five years from now. "That's a good question," he laughed, "But I would say headlining festivals worldwide, authoring books, screenwriting films, and raising families." And finally, for Sunday night's invite-only listening party at the New Parish in downtown Oakland, "We're inviting family and friends, DJs, and folks we know in the community to come out with us and we will do a little performance. J-Boogie is going to be on the turntables. Yeah, we're gonna make a party of it," he laughed.
Atomic Clock will arrive in Amoeba on November 9th. For more info on Zion I follow them on Twitter here.