Notorious San Francisco duo Zion I talk Huck through their creative process.
In Huck 44, we get deep into Tommy's Guerrero's past, present and future - much of which goes down in his home city of San Francisco. But what is it about SF that makes it such a hot bed of creativity and free thought? In our Bay Area Blood web series we explore that question, going straight to the beating heart of SF, led by the people who love and know her best.
The Bay Area is an amazing incubator for hip-hop. What other place on earth can boast the insanity of the hyphy movement, the pimped-out stylings of Too $hort, and the twisted weirdness that is Lil B? But of all the artists who call the Bay their home, few are more progressive, or harder to pin down, than Zion I. Producer AmpLive and MC Zumbi have been dropping music since 2000, when they rocketed off the launch pad with the astounding Mind Over Matter.
Amp’s spacey, boundary-pushing production and Zumbi’s ability to rap over just about any beat thrown at him meant that they just got stronger, throwing out classic songs like ‘Bird’s Eye View’, ‘Boom Bip’ and ‘Temperature.’ The duo are notorious for changing up their style and 2014 has seen them releasing more music than ever, including their second EP of the year, Libations. Here, Zumbi talks us through their prolific process.
Bay Area Love
“The Bay is a different place, man. We’re close to Los Angeles, but we’re not Los Angeles, so in a way we’re viewed as the underdogs. We’re not a Los Angeles, a New York, an Atlanta, and it feels like we have to work extra hard to get noticed. In a way, it’s good because there are so many unique cultures that have been built up here. You’ve got the hyphy movement, the whole custom car scene, the other great music that’s coming out… everything. Artists in the Bay have always been ready to try new things.”
Names to Know
“You look at artists like IAmSu! who are doing such great things. We don’t know IAmSu! personally, but he’s an amazing musician, and then of course Clyde Carson [of The Team] is a good friend of ours. There are so many different styles out there right now. Macklemore [who guested on the Zion I track ‘Polarity’ long before he blew up] is crazy. Nobody has had more hits and stayed independent – and when we did that joint with him, you could hear that he was different to everybody else. We didn’t know how big he’d get though!”
Tech Tech Boom!
“The tech boom [thanks to Google and others] that’s happening now in the Bay has really been going on since the ’90s. San Francisco and Oakland have become two completely different cities – San Fran is this world-class tourist destination, whereas Oakland is like one of the top ten murder destinations, you know what I mean? A lot of people have been moved out, and the prices have just kept going up and up. It’s really hurt our communities. I’d prefer it if it wasn’t like that, but as an MC I draw on what I see around me.”
Prolific Pays Off
“We’re trying a new type of release schedule with these three EPs, trying to shake things up. The first was The Masters Of Ceremony, and Libations has just dropped too. It’s about making sure we’re always releasing new music for our fans. In the past we’d release an album, then it’d be six months before we released another one. With the way we’re doing it now, I can keep my sword sharp, lyrically. Fans never know what to expect from us. We always do things a little differently with every project that we put out, but with this one we’re trying to create that classic hip-hop sound.”
Check out Zion I.
Our Bay Area Blood web series expands on a feature that originally appeared in Huck 44 – The Tommy Guerrero issue. Grab a copy of the magfor more on Tommy G, San Francisco and culture-shapers of all kinds.