With four albums under their belt, Zion I’s history in the hip-hop scene is a long and colorful one. Most recently, Heroes in the City of Dope (2006) a release they recorded with Living Legends member, The Grouch, was hailed by the press including The Source, 944, Scratch, Vapors, among others. This summer the track “Hit Em” from Heroes in the City of Dope, was featured on EA’s Madden NFL 08 video game sound track, one of the biggest selling video games in history.
Of course, making beautiful, provocative music is nothing new for the Oakland-based Baba Zumbi (also known as MC Zion) and Amplive, who exploded onto the national hip-hop scene in 2000 with their debut LP Mind Over Matter. The record melded hip-hop with drum & bass and jazz elements and is now viewed by many as an indie classic. In 2003, the group dropped their much anticipated follow-up, Deep Water Slang, which garnered both Source and VIBE award nominations for ‘Best Independent Album of the Year,” and pushed the group on tours and live appearances with the likes of Kool Keith, Lyrics Born, Del Tha Funky Homosapien, De La Soul, Jurassic 5, Mos Def and The Roots. Zion I was a mainstay on the MTV 2/Mountain Dew Circuit Breakout tour as well.
Zion I’s third release, True & Livin’ (2005) was powerful, soulful journey tracing the influence of hip-hop culture throughout the group’s childhood and adult existence. The record featured Talib Kweli, Gift of Gab, Del Tha Funky Homosapien, Aesop Rock and social activist Fred Hampton Jr.
In addition to numerous records, Zion I was also featured on the Grammy –Award winning group Linkin Park’s remix album, Reanimation. Zion I have been named Best Independent Album of the Year in 2001, 20002, 2003 and 2005 by The Source magazine.
And, while the duo are currently in the studio putting the finishing touches on their sixth LP, both Baba Zumbi and Amplive have numerous side projects in the works. Amplive is featured on Sony Playstation’s Traxxpad mobile video game, alongside producers like G-Unit’s Shaw Money, Traxxamillion, and others. The popular game transforms the Sony Portable unit into a powerful beat-making system featuring over 1000 sounds, from drum samples to exotic instruments. What’s more, after a two year stint deejaying on Alice 97.3’s “The Hooman Show,” Amplive is getting noticed by others. He produced Kafani’s latest hit single “Fast Like A Nascar,” and has been working with Akon, Flipside, Nicole Scherzinger from The Pussycat Dolls, Keak tha Sneak, among others. Fact is, Amp has always been a producer with a creative, intuitive talent, but he has unparalleled technical skills as well. Currently, he’s sponsored by both Protools Digidesign and the software instrument company Toon Tracks. Finally, Amp contributes the tech column, called “Ask Amplive” for Murder Dog magazine each month.
Baba Zumbi is also doing side projects while making the forthcoming Zion I release. The Oakland based emcee is working on a record with a Houston-based producer The Are. Together, they are The Burnerz, and their debut release will drop next year.
“The name change signifies a regeneration,” explains Zumbi, adding that he got the name from the infamous Brazilian freedom leader of the 17th century. “As an artist, I’m always trying to evolve so my new name marks my next phase.”
Baba Zumbi was recently featured on KRON TV for the Madden video game soundtrack, where he spoke on the topic new ways indie artists can market their music.
Undoubtedly, though, Zion I are most known for their stirring, energetic live shows. And as a result, they are demand all over the world. The duo have toured throughout their careers both nationally and overseas in countries like Germany, Japan, the UK, Southeast Asia, and Canada. They have performed with the likes of Kool Keith, Lyrics Born, Del Tha Funky Homosapien, De La Soul, Jurassic 5, Mos Def and The Roots.
Another top priority for the guys remains their label, Live Up Records. Residing in Oakland, Live Up records has a number of upcoming releases for 2008, in addition to their own, including R&B vocalist C-Holiday, Zumbi’s The Burnerz, and an Eletronica project from Amplive.
Putting final touches on their fifth record, the duo is poised to prove that not only have people been sleeping on their immense talents for far too long, but that there’s no longer any other independent group out there that can make music like Zion I.