Just 10 days after releasing their eighth studio LP “ShadowBoxing,” Oakland hip-hop duo Zion I will return to HumBrews on Friday night for a collaborative performance with Santa Cruz dubstep yoda Minnesota.
Boasting features with the likes of electronic star Bassnectar, dancehall great Collie Buddz, R&B singer Goapele, Living Legends cofounder The Grouch and more, the new LP from vocalist Zumbi and producer AmpLive is centered more around beat-heavy sampling than the live instrumentation heard on their previous effort, 2010's “Atomic Clock.”
”We created art based on what we were feeling and gave ourselves time to feel out the process (with 'ShadowBoxing'),” said Steve Gaines, also known as Zumbi. “Unfortunately, 'Atomic Clock' was a severely rushed album. We did the entire thing in two weeks and there were a lot of strange things happening with management at the time -- we had a different manager back then who we left soon after 'Atomic Clock' dropped.”
With new management and plenty of time to focus on concepts and collaborations for their recently released record, the Oakland duo buckled down and decided to explore “seeking awareness in the darkness of one's own psyche” and blending genres with their collaborators.
The duo's new track with Bassnectar, “Human Being,” is a progressive, time-signature-shifting electro-hip-hop masterpiece.
”Bassnectar is a great guy to collab with because he always pushes in a bit of a different direction than I would normally go in,” Gaines said. “He has a vision for what he wants it to sound like and is very open about communicating those images. He is also incredibly meticulous. I've never had anyone dissect a verse like he does. He will literally take four or five words out of an entire verse and just use that! It's a trip, but I really respect his art and his creative process because it is unique to him.”
AmpLive's slicing synths, Zumbi's crisp rhymes and Collie Buddz' melodies on “Sex Wax” portray Zion I in a newer upbeat Island-esque light.
”Collie Buddz is a good guy that we got to chill with while on tour earlier this year,” Gaines said. “He is a very mellow and humble soul -- easy to get along with. We wanted to get him on the album, so I asked the homies what he's feeling these days creatively. They let me know, so when I penned the song I had him in mind. Luckily when he heard the tune he really liked it and jumped on instantly. What a blessing that was because the song came out dope.”
In a photo shared via Zion I's official Facebook page (facebook.com/zionicrew), Zumbi can be seen dressed as the late martial artist Bak Mei -- one of the Five Elders of Shaolin -- for a music video shoot for the new album's title track.
”Bak Mei is one of my favorite characters from the old school Shaw Brothers films because of his eccentric personality and his wild shifts from good to bad,” Gaines said. “One of my fave films is 'Fist of the White Lotus.' I just think it's cool that he's perfected his golden-bell technique where his skin has become invincible through qigong. The thing is, he has one weak spot but he is able to move it around his body according to the hour of the day. It's just so cool how the hero has to figure out how to attack him. Plus, its cool that he actually existed and his story is real. I picked him for the video of 'ShadowBoxing' because I thought that he was a significant character that kung fu heads would recognize and because the sample in the song talks about having 'one weak spot'.”
In addition to listening to the new multiple-repeat-worthy LP, Zion I fans can also download the duo's new mixtape “Bomb First” for free at zionicrew.com -- a collaboration with Brooklyn mixtape DJ J.Period (John Legend/TheRoots/Lauryn Hill).
”We've known J.Period for over 10 years so it's almost a crime that this is our first mixtape,” Gaines said. “We stay at his house when we go to NYC and I know his entire family. The concept of (the mixtape) is to host a mix of artists that are inspiring to us right now and that we feel rep hip-hop the right way.”
Zion I and Minnesota will “rep” hip-hop the right way on Friday night in Arcata.
”Minnesota is a guy that our management introduced us to,” Gaines said. “They are also a booking agency, so they had done a few shows with him and were impressed by his music and professionalism. They thought we would make a good combo. When I checked out his music I agreed.”
Set to hit more than 30 cities on their current tour, Gaines said he plans to finish his work on “Book of Rhymes” (an examination of Zion I's lyrical history) and write a kung fu screenplay.
”I think it's best to be creative on the road because there is so much to pull from in the moment,” Gaines said. “It'd be a shame to waste all that good material.”
Advance passes to the 21-and-over show at HumBrews on Friday night can be purchased online at humbrews.com.
”It's always a good time coming up north,” Gaines said. “Folks are always open to the vibe and down to party up there. Check the album before you come to the show so you can get a full perspective of what is happening onstage and if you're on instagram hit me up at zumbizoom. Love and light!”
If you go
What: Zion I, Minnesota
When: 9:30 p.m. Friday
Where: Humboldt Brews, 856 10th St., Arcata
Admission: $20, 21+