NEW DIMENSIONZ
INTERVIEW WITH THE BAY AREAS ZIONI

This 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.


ZionI "PEACE,Word!!! Big Ups for showing us love! Its dope when heads really appreciate what u do."

I 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?

The 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.

Amp 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, Ohio.

TO MY LIMITED KNOWLEDGE ZIONI HAS ONLY DONE 4 TRACK CASSETTES, WHY IS THAT AND IS THERE ANY CHANCE OF VINYL IN THE FUTURE?
We've 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
Ground Control.

YOUR 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?
Yeah....Ground Control has distribution throughout the United States and some parts of the world.(Europe, Canada,etc.)

DO YOU FEEL ITS IMPORTANT FOR AN ARTIST TO BE IN CONTROL OF ALL ASPECTS OF THE PRODUCT?
Definitely!!! 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 further.

IS THE GROUP SEAKING A MAJOR LABEL/ DISTRIBUTION DEAL?
Naw...not 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.

DO YOU GUYS HAVE REGULAR 9-5s?
Amp 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.

THE BAY SEEMS TO HAVE A HUGE UNDERGROUND SCENE, ARE THERE ANY OTHER ARTISTS YOU FEEL DESRVE TO BE HEARD?
FA 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 and experimentalists...Omolara,
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!

I 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 THIS HAPPENS?
Underground 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 b."

WHAT DOES THE WORD UNDERGROUND MEAN TO YOU?
Its 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.

INTERESTING, 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.

WHAT IS YOUR OPINION OF THE STATE OF EMCEEING?
The 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!

WHICH ARTIST /GROUP WOULD YOU LIKE TO WORK WITH IF YOU HAD THE CHANCE?
As 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.

ANYTHING ELSE YOU'D LIKE TO MENTION?
Just Much Love and Respect to the HIP HOP MASSIVEWORLDWIDE!!!!! PEACE