Interview by: Jacki Moon
Electronic music and hip-hop have long been intertwined, but the genres still seem worlds apart in our particular scene. Amp Live and Zumbi of Zion I are a living, breathing reminder of the symbiotic relationship between the two styles of music for today’s basscentric culture. Zion I is a refreshing change of pace in both the festival scene and the hip-hop community, as their music has genuinely relatable and uplifting lyrics, while always possessing a danceable and body-moving bassline.
In addition to a packed festival schedule, Amp Live and Zumbi have both stayed busy on a wide variety of projects. The pair is currently working on an EP, Sun Moon and Stars, as well working on a completely live album as Zion I. Amp Live is also working on a solo album called Headphone Concerto.
I got the chance to sit down with the busy duo at Northern Nights earlier this month, and ask them a few questions. We discussed the ongoing relationship between bass-music and hip-hop, and how it has evolved and changed over the years, as well as how technology has changed the face of the game.
Jacki Moon: How would you describe the Zion I experience to someone who is completely out of the loop?
Zumbi: I would say it’s eclectic, feel-good music – soul hip-hop.
Amp Live: Ever-changing music that makes you feel good and move.
Jacki Moon: What do you think adding electronic bass elements does to the hip-hop experience?
Zumbi: That’s where hip-hop started in the mid 80’s with Mantronix and all of that, they were adding bass to it. That is the original hip-hop style that has transformed out, then came back in a full circle through EDM. It’s nothing new, trap and all of that; its old school hip-hop. It’s circular, more than just incorporating something new.
Jacki Moon: One thing that I really appreciate about your music is that it’s extremely uplifting. It seems as though hip-hop can sometimes have a bad reputation. What do you think that up-and-coming hip-hop artists can do to be more conscious of the messages they are sending?
Zumbi: It’s interesting, because I was actually talking about that on the drive up here. I don’t feel like [being conscious of messages sent through music] is important to people right now, but it will be. It’s one of those things that comes and goes. Hip-hop at one time was super-conscious, and then it totally went anti with gangster, then it had this resurgence, and now it’s kind of back to ‘we don’t really care about that,’ but it will return. I just feel like its where people are at in their lives. [Hip-hop is] like the blues; you talk about what’s important to you, and what your window to the world is like. You have to feel that way to express it with conviction; if you don’t feel that way, it’s just going to be wack. It’s is a thermometer, a determiner to what people feel. I think that eventually the conscious-vibe of people wanting to feel good and reach enlightenment, to awaken and be better than our communities, will take precedent. Those of us who are on that vibe [of conscious hip-hop] need to champion it, even when it’s not cool too.
Jacki Moon: What do you think that artists can do to champion that, to set that example [of conscious messages through music]?
Zumbi: I feel like its cool to be like ‘I don’t give a fuck, I’m so high that I fell down, I had three girls last night’ and that is cool, to a certain point. But as you get older, those things change. I feel like hip-hop needs to mature a little bit so that more subject matter is still embraced as being cool and not being corny or wacky, just because it’s not dealing with young elements. Fools have families, mothers and fathers and kids. A lot of the MC’s, who are much younger than us, have more kids than us; you take care of your kid, but nobody is rapping about their kid because its not really cool to the audience. As the audience matures, that will change.
Jacki Moon: You [Amp Live] just released a new remix track, right?
Amp Live: Ya, I did a song called “Penny, Nickel, Dime” off of my new album that is about to come out. A guy by the name of Dirt Monkey did a dubstep remix to it. It’s blowing up and I appreciate that.
Jacki Moon: Are there any side projects or anything else that you’re working on right now that we should have on our radar?
Amp Live: I’m putting out an album next month called Headphone Concerto – it’s kind of like a modern day concerto with live strings and hip-hop mixed in.
Zumbi: We’re working on a new EP called Sun, Moon and Stars – it’s going to be a free release on Soundcloud that should be out by the end of August. We’re also working on a new live album of all of our songs from our catalogue. We’re going to preform it live than record it live, so it’s a completely live record. That should be ill, it’s something new that we’re trying, so it will be a challenge and fun.
Jacki Moon: You mentioned the upcoming EP is going to be a free release. Why do you choose to give away music for free?
Zumbi: Times have changed and I feel like it’s a good way to spread the word and give love; people have been supporting us for so long. We’ve never really given away music, so this year we gave away mixtapes and stuff. This was the year that we decided do something different, be more constant with our output and just give people music to try to increase the awareness of what we’re doing, and show that we appreciate all of the support. We’ve been doing this for so long, and a lot of the people have come and gone since we’ve been here. It’s an appreciation thing, but it’s also to show that we are dedicated to trying to make good music. There’s a higher idea to why we do music; we stuck to something that is important to us, about trying to raise awareness and enjoy life. The best way to do it right in this moment was for it to be free, but we’re going to sell some music too.
Jacki Moon: You mentioned that people have come and gone, but back in the day hip-hop music was a little more enlightened. Are there any other striking changes you’ve seen in the industry?
Zumbi: The technology. Obviously, our whole society has been transformed by it, and music is no different. When we first started you had to pay a certain amount of money to get into a studio, because obviously you couldn’t own a studio – it was so expensive. You had to buy a two-inch tape that cost $200 for 15 minutes of recording time; there was so much involved in just getting into the studio. Now everyone is at their house making tracks; a thirteen-year-old can now make tracks. It’s been democratized; everyone can do it. I think it’s empowering, but at the same time it creates a lot of white noise. It’s a two-fold thing; it can be harder or easier, depending on who you are. It’s not better or worse, it’s just more open and I feel like that’s the frequency the earth is on. Ideas are traveling more rapidly; music is in-and-out of people’s ears faster. People used to listen to an entire album, then wait a few years for the next one to come out. Now cats are like, you drop and album and two weeks later they’re ready for a new one. It’s turned up the frequency, but it is what it is. If you love the music, then you will keep making it passionately and ride the wave.
Amp Live: Like Zumbi said, everything is free. So there are a lot more people making more music and putting it out faster, and not expecting anything from it. I think music is taken for granted, big time, so [we’ve] kind of got to fight against that. You’ve got to keep on doing it regardless.
Jacki Moon: Is there anything else you want to add about yourselves or projects?
Zumbi: Check out our Soundcloud, Facebook, Twitter…stay in with us.
Amp Live: Check out my website www.amplivesworld.com. We’re doing pre-orders for the upcoming album [Headphone Concerto]. Stay up on the technology and social media stuff.
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