Zion I

The Takeover

BY Luke FoxPublished Jan 26, 2009

Another release from Bay Area indie rap darling Zion I means another label stamped on the record sleeve. The Takeover marks the duo's fifth North American full-length release and fifth home. Outlasting former bosses like Raptivism and Ground Control, MC Zumbi and producer/DJ AmpLive have blessed Gold Dust with their most commercially viable disc yet. Referencing the long history of black music both sonically and verbally - stirring pinches of house, rock, jazz, funk, blues and hyphy into the pot - while making 13 tracks sound cohesive is a deep order. But AmpLive (perhaps better known for his Radiohead remixes of late) marries the classic and futuristic with ease, balancing rock-candy break beats and tribal 808 drums with slick synths and robotic voice effects. Zumbi pays homage to legends as diverse as Rakim, Afrika Bambaataa, Miles Davis and Robert Johnson, showing youngsters where the funk originates with one hand while pushing it to virgin frontiers with the other. And the journey peaks at the end. "Country Baked Yams," featuring Devin the Dude (as all songs should), a breezy ode to confident Southern women, is as tasty as its title indicates. And "Peppermint Patty," the closer, sounds precisely like Jam Master Jay and the Beach Boys writing a bittersweet ode to the Statue of Liberty - crazy creative. If marketed correctly, Zion I could have their most popular LP to date.

Describe your most seminal hip-hop memory.
MC Zumbi: I was in Philadelphia driving around with my grandfather - all my family's from the East Coast - and [Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five's] "The Message" came on. The song was playing, we're driving, I'm listening to it and I'm really paying attention to the lyrics. It was just painting a picture for me as I watched all the buildings go by and all the people on the street. I was feeling really connected to the music. And when the song went off the radio, my grandfather looked at me and said, "Yeah, I like that song." I was like, "What?" Because here was a cat who always listened to Thelonious Monk, Dizzy Gillespie; he used to stay on the jazz station. So when he liked it I was like, "Wow, this music is very powerful. It's bridging the gap of 60 years between us." I fell in love with hip-hop at that moment because I was really close to my grandfather.

Zion I have been a critically acclaimed indie group since the late '90s but with this album there's potential for crossover appeal with catchy songs like "Country Baked Yams" and "Radio." Was that your intention?
We really wanted to show people that we can do a well-rounded record that can garner mass attention. Throughout our career we've always been this avant-garde underground group and at this point in our careers, I listen to T.I., Jay-Z, Nas and Snoop just as much or more than I listen to MF Doom and Brother Ali. It speaks to who we are at this moment. When we first started we were college kids making music and now we're in the club a lot more. With our message and with what's going on in the world right now, [accessible beats and hooks] should make it easier to spread consciousness and awareness at this time in history.
(Gold Dust Media)

Latest Coverage