So last week I got to see Zion I perform in Sacramento at Assembly. This comes a year and four months removed from their last visit through, on the ShadowBoxing tour. After the show I met up with Zumbi and Amplive to ask them a few questions. NOTE: This is not a verbatim of what they said. You can listen to the attached copy to hear exactly what was said. This was slightly edited for it to “make sense”. The audio is not edited, but it is there in case you want to listen to it.
Josh Alvarez Mapp: So how do you feel the reception for ShadowBoxing was?
Zumbi: I think it was good man. It opened us up to a different fan base. Took us deeper into the EDM scene a bit. I think honestly it turned off some hip hop cats because they don’t necessarily mess with that so they left it alone, but it opened us up to EDM which is what happens when you try different stuff, it’s back and forth – it is what it is.
JAM: Was the ShadowBoxing tour everything you had hoped it would be?
Z: I thought it was a good tour still. It brought us to new markets we’ve never been to, especially on the East coast and down south, and South East. Like we never go down there. So definitely Minnesota helped us down to Florida and South Carolina, Virginia and all of that.
JAM: What was the craziest moment from that tour?
Z: For me it was seeing backstage, a lot of drugs. That was kind of weird to me because in Hip Hop it is like weed and drank, but with the shows we were doing it was like powdered stuff. For me, I just wasn’t use to it so it was kind of crazy to me. I remember this show in Boulder or Denver maybe, and these kids were backstage doing powder. This dude had coke over his nose, like a movie. And cats was like, “yo man, he’s walking into the crowd. You got s*** all over your nose” and he’s like “Ahh, it’s coo.” He just walked out the back and I’m like “Wow, that f***ing crazy.” I’m just not use that kind of stuff ya know, so it was different.
JAM: What was your favorite moment from that tour?
Z: My favorite moment, in Atlanta, it was both my favorite and worst moment because I had hurt my back before going on tour on the East coast, and in Atlanta, some of the folks were homies I grew up with who came out. And I was freestylin’ and I threw my back out so I was like, “oh s***,” shuffled off the stage and go freestyle. And one of my homies I grew up rappin’ with, hadn’t rapped in like 15 years, and he jumped on stage and was so hyped and yellin’, and he’s rappin’ and rappin’, and it was an all ages crowd, and there was these little girls in front, and he’s yelling in front of this girl like dun dun dun dun, “SHUT THE F*** UP!” right in her face. It was like classic comedy dude. Knowing his personality and knowing he hasn’t rapped in so long and he was so excited, and he’s like cussing at this girl in her face. It was just hilarious. And I’m sitting there and laughing with my back twisted. It was like a dual thing going on.
JAM: When did you start writing and preparing the Masters of Ceremony EP?
Amplive: Like last year.
Z: 2013, probably like June.
JAM: And then there’s going to be two more EP’s for the series.
JAM: Why release the music as EPs? Why not release it as a full-length album?
A: Try something different. People have ADD. They want it fast and short. We haven’t really done that. We use to do it when we first started. A lot of people are doing it. It’s easy, it’s more of a buildup.
Z: It also feels like it is more consistent because it is a short pocket of songs and a video, than another short pocket of songs and a video. It is more of a consistent flow of music rather than save up this big thing for an end of the year push or middle of the year push for one album, than takes another year to pony up all these songs again. I feel like letting fans more into the process of what we are actually making instead of holding off ‘this is what we want to present you,’ it’s more of, “here, interact more.”
JAM: And why release it free?
Z: Same reason; interact more.
JAM: And will there be tours for the next two EPs or no?
Z: That’s a good question. I don’t know. At some point, I’m not sure if by the next exact one, but probably on the third one. We might go to Canada. But not this route again, it is too soon.
JAM: What was the inspiration for Masters of Ceremony?
Z: I wanted to take it back to rap music, because we travel around a lot style-wise. I just wanted to get back to beats, raps, some kind of simplicity or minimalism a little bit. Also talk about the state of hip hop where it is right now. I really love the culture and we were raised off it. But there are things I love about it and there are things that I don’t. It is kind of a forum to discuss those, both of those – the beauty and the ugliness.
JAM: What do you hope the listeners will get from listening to the EP?
A: Hope they feel good. Depending on their response, I think people will like the hip hop sample elements.
Z: Feel inspired and think about what they listen to in rap. I love hip hop, and it is not about skill level or talent, it’s more; I’m more concerned what we are telling the youth. I feel I’m an OG now. Other guys in my era or near me are selling ideas that are whack as f***. I’m not gonna say any names, but just like to think about what we consume. As our minds goes, so does our behavior. As our behavior goes, we shape our destiny and our character of who we become. As we feed ourselves these things we must be mindful of what we feed ourselves.
JAM: Are the other EPs done or are they in the works?
Z: They are in the works.
JAM: The last time you guys came through, you had Vokab Company and Minnesota, this time you guys have Sol and Mike Smith, is there any rhythm or rhyme as to why you have such a wide variety of people you tour with?
Z: Keeping it fresh. Like Sol is like the young homie from Seattle, but he’s dope. The first time we met him he was the hype man for this other dude, and that was like eight years ago. He use to be hype for Scribe. So now he’s doing his own thing and he’s got his own following. It’s just dope to see a young cat get his momentum up and stay focused and prosper, so it’s good to be out with him. And Mike Smith is a dude that’s been producing with us lately out in Oakland, so it’s like supporting another dude from around the way; very talented who needs an outlet. So it’s good to bring him out and put him on his own.
JAM: So New Year, do you guys have a new project beyond the EPs?
A: Should lead up to another album.
Z: I feel like the EPs are kind of like warming up for the World Cup. You know how you play friendlies, EPs are like the friendlies and the album is the World Cup match.
JAM: So what has been the impact your children have had on your musical careers?
A: It’s hard to say because they are in different stages, but it has all been good. It makes you work harder; you have more of a purpose, but I think as they get older it will probably be more true because they will start to understand more, but right now they sort of get it but not really, but as they start to get more into music and express themselves, “Oh yeah I like that” it will be more intertwined, but right now it’s more like I gotta feed the family.
Z: I say for me, it’s cool man, my son hella likes music, especially Human Being. Right now he’s at the point where at night he wants to do concerts, “Put on dad’s song.” He knows some of the words to Human Being, so when I see that, I don’t want him to grow up to be an emcee necessarily. If he wants to pursue music, it’s cool. Whatever he wants to do is fine too. But I’m his dad so he sees me so he probably wants to imitate me, but I also see the music is kind of in him because he just likes it naturally. Like I’ll put on the radio and he will be like, “I don’t like that,” but I put on A Tribe Called Quest and he’s like, “oh I like that.” I put on James Brown and it’s automatic. But then I put on some weird Power Rangers rock music and he likes that too. So he has his own thing, so when I see him vibing like that, I want to be very conscious of what I create. Not like self-conscious to where I am limiting myself, but very intentional because I know he’s going to absorb it and he’s going to listen to it. He’s at the point where he’ll be like, “put in your CD. I don’t like that. I don’t like that. Play this one.” And the ones he likes he listens to over and over again so I know he’s absorbing the message, so now I want to be very clear when I create music. I’m not going to limit myself but I want to be clear; I don’t want to be muddled or confused and “Oh God, I’m trying to figure out my life.” I want to be like, “Alright, I’m going in with this feeling and this is what I want to create.” I know he’s gonna get it, so it has made me sharper I think.
JAM: So kind of a random quest but, do you guys have a favorite children’s book, TV show, or movie you like to share with the kids?
Z: There’s one book we read all the time. It’s called Animal Kisses. It’s all these different animals. He can touch it and when he does it’s like “dog is wet” or “cat tongue is scratchy” so he can feel all these things. It’s kind of silly, but we make the noise and he identifies the animals so that’s cool. He really likes the Power Rangers. He just wants to fight and get a sword – that’s really his thing.
A: They were into Power Rangers, but I have two kids so they were fighting each other. The young one, I have a two year old and he likes Yo Gabba Gabba right now. He likes to dance and sing a lot and that’s kind of cool cause Yo Gabba Gabba has pretty hip music. It’s like a ride. It changes every two months. It can be Dora then it will be this then we will watch Ninja Turtles. It just changes.
JAM: Do you guys have a tradition you do when you get back from tour with the family and kids?
Z: Man I get the kid and go straight to the park. If my girl’s not home I pick him up and kick it at the park; we just ride around and play. I re-establish what I am here for you know. It’s kind of hard when you leave and we are not home, I’m not sure if he knows that Dad’s doing work. I just want to make sure that father-child; that’s the first thing I’m going to. Just kick it with him. Whatever it is, it don’t matter, I just want to be with him.