Lead Vocalist MC Zumbi Credits Colorado to Having “Good Sense of Music”
By Christian Wallis and Quentin Sickafoose
The lights go out. Then comes the introduction of Zion I to the Fort Collins crowd. The beat from AmpLive’s laptop drops and the colored flashing lights turn on, revealing the well-known hip hop group standing on stage at our very own Aggie Theatre.
The lights also reveal the hundreds of people in the crowd all screaming and throwing their hands into the air.
Zion I opened up with their hit “Juicy Juice,” a track that was released as a single before it appeared on The Takeover album in 2008.
The group continued to capture the energy of the crowd by immediately following the first hit with a track titled, “The Ceiling,” which had everybody in the Aggie reaching their hands as high into the sky as they could.
By the end of the show, Zion I had performed an hour and a half long set that included 4 different freestyle sessions by both Zumbi and DJ AmpLive and 17 of their most popular songs.
When asked about performing in Colorado, the group responded by saying that, “It’s just big love out here, not sure why but it seems that the crowds out here are more sincere.
[In Colorado] it’s just more energetic, more people are feelin’ it, they put their whole body into it and start dancing. It just fits with the kind of music we make. There is a good sense of music appreciation here. It must be the colleges or the mountains or something.”
The duo consists of two hip-hop junkies from Oakland, California; MC Zumbi and producer DJ AmpLive. Originating in 1996, Zion I has recorded seven studio albums and four EPs.
Zumbi and AmpLive claim some of their biggest musical influences include Dr. Dre, OutKast, NAS and Bob Marley.
Out of all of their albums, both musicians agreed that their 2000 debut Mind Over Matter is some of their best work.
“I always just felt Mind Over Matter was [our] truest essence because there was just a pure authentic joy in making music,” says Zumbi. “When we made Mind Over Matter we had no expectations. When you have an expectation it’s really like a boundary that you have to abide by. Now it’s all about trying to strip the expectation down.”
Zumbi explains how Zion I has evolved over the last 16 years; “We have a fan base now, and we have people who expect certain things from us. We’re also more professional so we get straight to the point and make stuff sound better a lot faster.”
Although most rappers in today’s media are seen as explicit and trashy, Zion I counters the stereotype with their spiritual and respectful attitude towards music. “Music is all about learning and expressing who you are,” says Zumbi.
Speaking of spirituality and respectfulness, the stage name Zumbi came from a Brazilian man who led a revolution that countered 17th century struggle for political justice. He decided to go by Zumbi because of who it represented.
As far as the group name, “[The name] ‘Zion I’ kind of evolved…for me it represented creativity, spirituality, and being free because that’s what the music was, an escape route.”
Both had a lot to say regarding the evolution of hip-hop music from the 90s to the new day.
“When we started [the scene] was like major-label driven, but our blossom point was the independent game. Back then you had to go to a studio and $20k, now you can have a studio in your room. Its totally different.”
Regardless of the changes the duo has encountered over the past two decades, both musicians are at the pinnacle of their career. For more information on the band including tour dates, merchandise, and free music downloads, visit ZionICrew.com
Zion I Setlist
April 19, 2012
- 1. Juicy Juice
- 2. The Ceiling
- 3. Hit ‘Em
- 4. One
- 5. Antenna
- 6. -MC Freestyle-
- 7. Silly Puddy
- 8. DJ DJ
- 9. -AmpLive DJ freestyle-
- 10. Many Stylez
- 11. Fingerpaint
- 12. Bird’s Eye View
- 13. -MC Freestyle-
- 14. Geek to the Beat
- 15. Don’t Lose Your Head
- 16. –MC Freestyle-
- 17. Coastin’