MC Zumbi and AmpLive are no strangers to the game of hip-hop, solidifying their well-deserved position since birthing Zion I in 1997. The Oakland-based duo has been an unstoppable force since then, consistently unleashing conscious tracks that don’t fizzle out after a few months, but remain relevant for years to come. This is the sign of a true artist, laying the foundation for nostalgic bumps like “Finger Paint,” “Bird’s Eye View,” and “Temperature,” amongst countless others.
In 2012, the duo unveiled their eight-studio album; a hard hitting, speaker knockin’ release aptly entitled ShadowBoxing. The LP once again amalgamated MC Zumbi’s fiery vocals and brazen flows with AmpLive’s reflective instrumentations, further venturing into the world of electronic music while never forgetting their roots. Now, just in time for festival season, ShadowBoxing: The Remixes has arrived. The album includes fourteen bass-laden reinterpretations from artists like Richie Cunning, Butch Clancy, Robotic Pirate Monkey, 9 Theory, and Bassnectar, each putting their own spin on Zion’s potent sound.
It’s been a big twelve months for the Oakland crew, and things are only getting bigger. Read below as MC Zumbi spills the dirt on summer tour dates, upcoming music, and recent festivals like Wakarusa and Hangout.
Jordan Calvano: Big ups on all the new music, we’re diggin’ the vibes. How was the idea for a ShadowBoxing remix album birthed, and what were you trying to achieve with the finished product?
Zumbi: We felt that the sound of the album lent itself to interpretation, so we wanted the homies to flip it and explore new directions in the production. ShadowBoxing has a hip hop meets EDM vibe, and we knew that if the right people got a hold of it, that it would sound like a brand new album.
JC: Can you tell us a little bit about some of the artists you chose for the release, and how the songs were divvied out to each producer?
Zumbi: Basically, we let cats know that we wanted to remix the album. Folks pretty much gravitated to which tracks they felt naturally drawn towards. It was a simple process, but very effective.
JC: The summer shows are looking crazy, definitely going to stop by a few dates. Give us a little insight on the entire tour, and are there any specific cities or venues you’re most excited for?
Zumbi: True indeed…It’s the Good Vibes tour with Zion I, Rebelution, Matisyahu, and Collie Buddz. This is an amphitheater tour, so it’s going to be the largest we’ve ever been on. I’m super juiced because I know the energy is going to be fresh because of how creative all the artists are. I’m really looking forward to rocking the Berkeley Greek. I remember seeing Sunsplash there back in the day, so it’ll be like coming full circle actually rocking a set there.
JC: You guys recently performed at Hangout Festival and Wakarusa, both featuring incredibly diverse lineups.What other musicians did you enjoy watching at these festivals, and any memorable stories worth divulging?
Zumbi: At the Hangout Festival I got to check out Steve Aoki, Ellie Goulding, Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Stevie Wonder. At Wakarusa, I got to rock with Soja. Unfortunately, I didn’t see that much at Waka because the weather was so crazy with all the rain, lightning, and tornado warnings. Not to mention that the ground was completely muddy. It was definitely an intense experience, but well worth it.
JC: In the last year, we’ve noticed that both Zion I and your fellow artists like The Grouch and Eligh have beenplaying shows and working with more electronic artists. How did this transition come about, and was there any specific event that sparked this?
Zumbi: I can’t speak for G&E, but Zion I has always involved different electronic elements into our music. On our debut album, I rhymed to drum and bass before many hip-hop heads even knew what it was. We got a lot of flack for it at the time, but slowly, folks began opening up to it. I just enjoy good music, it doesn’t matter the genre. If it’s dope, I want to add it into our gumbo. Hip-hop from the beginning has always been about taking different elements, tweaking them, and creating something beautiful and unique in the process.
JC: What artists in the field of electronic based music have you been digging the most, and do you see yourselves working with more producers in this genre?
Zumbi: I really dig Flying Lotus. Mk Smth is another young producer from Oakland that I’m very impressed with. I’m open to collaborating with anyone who has dope sounds. I’m all about pushing the envelope and seeing what lies on the other side.
JC: On the other side of the spectrum, we have hip-hop. Are there any artists or specific works you’ve been inspired by recently?
Zumbi: I really like Kendrick’s album. There are some young cats from around the way like A-1, and Rglnd X Duckwrth that I’m feeling. I really like anything that feels authentic and has an original take on the artform.
JC: You released The Vapors EP in April, and have mentioned that another full-length album is slated for this fall. Can you give us some information on that LP, along with any future plans for Zion I?
Zumbi: I’m just sinking in to working on the new album right now. There are a few songs written, but I’m bout to zone out for the next couple months and see what comes thru. I’m excited about really pushing myself and giving the world a clear window into my existence. I’m also working on a Book of Rhymes. Stay tuned…we keep it lit..bless up!!