Positive vibes from Zion I & the Grouch
March 25, 2011
Zumbi, the MC of the Bay Area hip-hop duo Zion I & the Grouch, said people have become arrogant and are itching to be humbled.
"If you look at the world in the state it’s in, it’s as if human beings have become egotistical and think the universe is centered around them," Zumbi said during a call from the tour van on the road near Eugene, Ore. "People are valued by the kind of car they drive or how much money is in their bank account."
People need to change their attitudes and start respecting each other, he said.
"We need to become a collective, like ants," he said. "I know it sounds funny, but ants sacrifice themselves for the better of the whole. It’s not about one ant."
In fact, every natural organism, except human beings, reflects that philosophy, and it appears nature is getting angry, Zumbi said.
"Look around and take into consideration the Mayan prophesies, the Hindu prophesies, the I-Ching prophesies and the Cherokee prophesies," he said. "Think about what’s happening with the economy, the wars and water shortages and natural disasters across the planet. I think we are about to get checked and put back in line."
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The state of the world is why Zion I & the Grouch have made a mission of creating positive music, Zumbi said.
"We’re trying to remind people that they should do what’s really important like spending time with our family and serving others," he said. "There is a need for positive, uplifting and empowering music."
Positive music has been a big part of Zumbi’s life.
"One of the first songs that made me feel good was the Sugarhill Gang’s ‘Rapper’s Delight,’" he said. "I remember roller skating to that song when I was a kid and having a great time. After that moment I was hypnotized."
A few months later, Zumbi realized music could also be a powerful tool for spreading messages and philosophies.
"I remember driving around with my grandfather in Philadelphia doing some errands when Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five’s ‘The Message’ came on the radio," he said. "I liked the song and turned it up."
When the song finished, his grandfather said, "Yeah, I liked that song, too."
"When he said that, I was taken aback," Zumbi said. "I thought if he can like that song and be in his 60s, and I liked that song and was a little kid about eight years old, I knew there was something powerful about it.
"From that point on, I intuitively understood music could potentially bring people together somehow."
When he got older, Zumbi thought about trying his hand with hip-hop, but was insecure about his voice, he said.
Then he heard A Tribe Called Quest lead emcee Q-Tip.
"Q-Tip has a similar vocal tone to mine," he said. "So when I heard his voice, I thought, ‘Ah, man I got this.’"
Since 2006, Zion I & the Grouch have been bringing their positive beats to audiences around the country. They have collaborated with Linkin Park, Too $hort and Rebelution.
"I always wanted to create that type of music people could listen to and get some intellectual nourishment," Zumbi said. "I didn’t want to talk about drinking and partying until you pass out. I wanted to create something that means something to people’s lives, beyond just having a good time."
That goal has kept the duo going for seven CDs.
The latest, "Atomic Clock," was released last fall and marked a subtle stylistic change for the group.
"We wanted to do something more organic than the past," Zumbi said about the CD. "We’ve been on tour with Rebelution and have been getting the reggae vibe for the past year. So we wanted to make a recording that reflected our experience with that band."
"Atomic Clock" is a little more grounded and rootsy, but still has those trademark electronic elements, Zumbi said.
"It was exciting for us to do this, because we didn’t want to recreate the same music we did the last time," he said. "It’s like writing a book. When a chapter is finished and ready, the writer doesn’t go back and rewrite the same chapter. If that happened, why would the reader continue reading the book?"
Zion I & The Grouch and Jazz Mafia’s Shotgun Wedding will play the Star Bar, 268 Main Street, on Tuesday, March 29, at 9 p.m. Tickets are $15, of which $3 will benefit Park City’s Art-Kids. Tickets can be purchased at http://www.healingthenation.inticketing.com/events/139337/Park-City-UT .