is an interview I had with ZionI, member of the bay area group of the same
name. I had received their cassette in the mail and liked it so much, I
thought it warrented further digging into why they make their music. Along
the way ZionI happens to share he's philosophy on the underground and his
views of the industry that is required reading for all aspiring artists.
INTERVIEW WITH THE BAY AREAS ZIONI
ZionI "PEACE,Word!!! Big Ups for showing us love!
Its dope when heads really appreciate what u do."
DIDNT KNOW ABOUT YOU BEFORE THE TAPE SO TELL US WHO ARE THE PEEPS THAT
MAKE THE GROUP AND WHAT IS EACH PERSONS FUNCTION?
The trio is composed of: Amp Live (main producer and background vocals),DJ
Khallid (cuts and production),Zion (rhymes & production).
HOW LONG HAS THE GROUP EXISTED AND HOW LONG HAS EACH
MEMBER BEEN INVOLVED WITH MAKING MUSIC?
group Zion I has been together since late 1995. Originally it was composed
of Amp and I (Zion). We were both left over from another group we were
in before called Metufour which was signed to Tommy Boy between 1993-1995.
Well, to be extremely brief, we got jerked by the label and the group
began to disintegrate around early 1995. The same time that we also dropped
off the label. I was still juiced to do music, and Amp and I eventually
resumed making music together without the other two cats....and here it
is now, Zion I. DJ K Genius is a new addition to the group bringing the
element of the hardcore, fiery b-boy.
I've been rhyming since I wuz a youth...at least in terms of memorizing
everyone else's rhymes, thats what made it easy to learn how to do my
own....The old school like Kurtis Blow, Grandmaster Flash, Run DMC had
already taught me how to flow. But, I officially wrote my first rhyme
in 1989. I messed around the first couple years,
but began taking it seriously when other MCz started dissin me...it gave
me fuel to be dope. I've been doin beats since 1995.
has been making beats since around 88-89 also. His pops used to have this
old sampler layin around, and having the gift of music within him, he
was just naturally drawn to it. DJ K Genius has been on the wheels a steel
since 1984 when he was the youngest DJ on the air in his hometown of Columbus,
MY LIMITED KNOWLEDGE ZIONI HAS ONLY DONE 4 TRACK CASSETTES, WHY IS THAT
AND IS THERE ANY CHANCE OF VINYL IN THE FUTURE?
to this date had 3 cassettes which we've made....(titles) Enter the Woods,
New Dimensions, and Starship. We've been on one compilation...the Blastoff
Compilation outta Southern California (on vinyl). We make our music out
of our house and make tapes for promo to save loot...if we had a whole
bunch a skrill, we woulda been released some wax. But, lo and behold,
God is good....we'll b droppin some vinyl around late September and mid-October
on the independent label
TAPE IS NICE. I FEEL SOME OF THE DOPEST ARTISTS NEVER SEE THE LIGHT OF
DAY CAUSE THEIR MUSIC ISNT AVAILABLE. HAVE YOU HOOKED UP WITH ANYONE WHO
CAN GET YOUR MUSIC DISTRIBUTED NATIONWIDE?
Control has distribution throughout the United States and some parts of
the world.(Europe, Canada,etc.)
YOU FEEL ITS IMPORTANT FOR AN ARTIST TO BE IN CONTROL OF ALL ASPECTS OF
If theres one thing that we learned from our experience with Tommy Boy
is that artists need to have their hands on everything that involves them...from
contracts, to publishing, to artwork, to which song is gonna b the single,
everything!! No one's gonna take
betta care of you, than you! With Ground Control, its like we just have
longer arms for what we were doing before. We choose promotional strategies,
songs to record, we contact magazines ourselves, they allow us to stretch
THE GROUP SEAKING A MAJOR LABEL/ DISTRIBUTION DEAL?
yet at least. We wanna see how this first project goes, and then we'll
b checking folks out. Whatever happens though, we need to b in a position
where we're making the decisions and the distributor
or label is basically support staff. Besides, Ground Control has good
distribution now, so theres no worries.
SO 418 IS STRICTLY A PRODUCTION COMPANY?
Word. 418 productions is building its clientele by working with artists
who are in our family, as well as folks who just need beats.
YOU GUYS HAVE REGULAR 9-5s?
has a 9-5 working with kids, I'm currently on summer break from teaching
elementary school...but, I'm working towards making music my 9-5.
BAY SEEMS TO HAVE A HUGE UNDERGROUND SCENE, ARE THERE ANY OTHER ARTISTS
YOU FEEL DESRVE TO BE HEARD?
SHO!!! There's hella folks out here...Rasco, got the straight forward
b-boy bragadocio...Mystik Journeyman, Bay Area pioneers in terms of making
underground hip hop a worldwide commodity ,Keepers of Tyme, hip hop improvisationalists
strong poetic woman with soul fo dat ass...Planet Asia, straight skills...the
lists goes on and on!
The Bay Area is over run with creativity and talent!
FIND IT SO FRUSTRATING THAT THE TALENTED ARTISTS ARE HIDDEN AND ALL WE
READ ABOUT THE BAY AREA IS PIMPIN AND NEGATIVITY!!!!! IN CALIFORNIA -
ITS THE SAME, ALL YOUR READ ABOUT IS GANGSTER SHIT, WHILE THEY HAVE TALENTED
ARTISTS LIKE ACEYALONE AND ABSTRACT RUDE. WHAT ARE YOUR VIEWS AS TO WHY
artists in Cali are not enuff of a "commodity" to recieve love
in this Babylon system. Seen? The gangster is a negative portrayel of
the black male image, its what white America wants to see, thus its easy
as hell to sell!!! White teens are the largest buyers of hip hop...they
have extra skrilla to break off like that...the gangsta shit is just a
supply for the stereotypical demand imposed by the hip hop buying market.
The underground shit is way too thought provoking to b exposed by the
larger media...Babylon is a wicked beasts...but, he is very cunning...he
knows exactly what to do to maintain control. The main means of brainwash
in American society is the media...so, in short...young artists with revolutionary
views are not going to b the image most wanted by "the powers that
DOES THE WORD UNDERGROUND MEAN TO YOU?
a trip, cuz the word "underground" seems like its actually becoming
commercial. Its becoming this buzz word for hip hop thats not on a major
label. But to me, underground is the shit!! Its the esoteric vibe thats
communicated between true artists, and true fans!
Its much more than "Yeah...I love the beat and the rhymes are phat!"
Its much more of a feeling and an understanding. True underground artists
love their art, and are compelled to perform their duty at all costs...if
theres money involved, thats cool...if theres no money
involved, thats cool. Its being in tune with why u do what u do! Its more
than being on an independent label, or being strange for effect...its
being urself. For instance, Gang Starr is an underground group to me,
even though they get alot of exposure...they're just artists doing what
they're suppossed to do. In short, underground has
less to do with how u get it done, and more to do with why u get it done.
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE "MUSIC INDUSTRY" AND THE WAY THAT
COMPANIES CHURN OUT "MUSIC"?
The music industry is just that an "industry"...straight
business, thats all...no compassion, no love, no sympathy or emotion.
When I think of hip hop it always reminds me of sharecropping. Sharecropping
was a phenomenon during the Reconstruction era in the U.S., right after
slavery had (so called) been abolished. In it....the slaves,
still not having anything after just leaving the plantation, went right
back to a slightly more conceptual type of slavery. The landowners would
give them land to work and tend to...and when the land finally bore its
fruits the sharecropper would give up the goods for an nsignifigant wage.
The catch was that the sharecroppers had a shack to sleep in, and a job
that barely sustained them. They were still slaves. Thats how I think
of the industry. They give u studio time, a video, some promotion, enuff
drugs to keep u confused ( u have to pay for it all)...and finally, u
get 10-12% of the royalty after they sell the material that u've worked
ur ass off for. These companies turn out music cuz they can....they don't
care about the artists...its about skrilla for them. These fools could
give a damn about ur ghetto behind!! All they see in u is dolla bills,
and hit singles (4 a couple of years). Add that to the fact that they're
able to use the old tax write off skit...and things get real ugly. Thats
why so many cats are doin it indy...its alot harder work, but its more
gratifying and more humbling.
IS YOUR OPINION OF THE STATE OF EMCEEING?
state of emceeing is in an awkward position right now. I think that cats
have phat styles and flows, but the content is lacking. I remember listening
to Chuck D, KRS One, Brother J, Rakim...these cats were droppin jewels...stuff
to make u sit back and say "Word?" U know what I'm sayin? They
helped to expand ur mind thru their art...thats what I thinks is dope...when
u can help people to feel good about themselves through the beauty of
ur artistry..thats the shit!
ARTIST /GROUP WOULD YOU LIKE TO WORK WITH IF YOU HAD THE CHANCE?
far as other artists...we would like to work with Dre from Outkasts....Rakim...and
DJ Premier. We respect these people artistically, as well as the way that
they pay homage to this gift of music we call hip hop.
ELSE YOU'D LIKE TO MENTION?
Much Love and Respect to the HIP HOP MASSIVEWORLDWIDE!!!!! PEACE