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Zumbi & The Grouch You can be a hero too Is there any other rap album that reflects or criticizes today's Zeitgeist more accurate? Like some true visionaries Zion I and The Grouch once again put their finger on the pulse of contemporary society with their latest collabo 'Heroes In The Healing Of The Nation'. Long before Egyptians stood on the Tahrir Square to take back the power, they were in the studio composing conscious songs to motivate the crowd and stand up. Zion I and The Grouch's latest effort isn't just a music release it's a 'turn-over'...

You're recruiting heroes. What people can apply for the job?

The Grouch: Anyone can be a hero. We all have the capability, the whole idea is to inspire people to recognize that and encourage them to live up to their highest potential while encouraging others around them.

Zumbi: It's about finding that sacred space within self. All of us have it, not everyone takes the time to find it, however.

Define ‘nation’. Is this album made out of some disappointment with a certain government?

G: Nation doesn't mean USA per say. I feel like there's a lot of misguidance out there right now. From governments to celebrities, parents, teachers, you name it. I think the world can use more conscious people and positivity overall. I know that's a general statement but that's what I feel will actually help our situation. Basic concepts like how can we waste so much money on war, prisons, jewelry and cars while there's so many homeless, jobless and starving? A lot of things we celebrate and applaud and strive for are so fruitless and detrimental to others. It's an all across the board thing not just a political 'our government is fucking up thing'. We gotta get the basics down before we can expect major improvement. We're all one. Cities, states, nations, continents it's not about that it's about where your heads at.

Z: It is about the entire planet. 'Nation' is just a term used to describe a mass of people in this sense. Yes, there is frustration with the government, but I don't focus energy on that. I feel that the true power is within the people, and this is where the healing occurs, within hearts and minds, not politics.

A healthy nation needs a health plan! Unfortunately due to the latest elections Obama's hands are tight down...disappointed?

Z: Indeed, a healthy nation should have a health plan. Listen, Obama's election looked and felt great, but he's still just the President. I didn't expect life to be perfect upon his election. We are under the rule of an imperfect system, full of inequalities, it will take more than one man to change that. But, yes...free health care for all would be dope!

G: I can't rely on what hearsay is out there on the news or in papers. I don't like to count chickens before they hatch. I'm not a big fan of Western medicine in most cases. I try to live a lifestyle that's going to prevent my family from needing that type of care as much as possible. I can say that I feel for those who are in need of doctors and medical care and can't get it because of a money situation. That's a damn shame. I think we need to start learning how to heal ourselves.

How do you think society has changed since your last album ‘Heroes In The City Of Dope’?

G: Peoples attention spans have gotten shorter. A lot of peoples bank accounts have gotten smaller. Technology has made major advancements for the good and bad of the state of the world.

Z: Society has continued to speed up. Technology has an even firmer grip on us now. Governments are toppling over with the help of social media. This is radical change, and we are in the middle of it.

G: People are starting to reawaken and realize anything is possible and we can make change.

Speaking of which. Has this record been released a few months ago in Northern Affrica/Middle East already? The people marchin the streets in Tunis, Egypt, Libya,…

G: (laughs) I think that as chaotic of a time that we're living in, we're on the brink or even in the midst of a good change in the world. This is all a part of people standing up for themselves and saying enough is enough. I think these changeovers are empowering to the people. There's a definite shift of consciousness happening.

Z: I think that the great changes in the Middle East will serve as beacons across the world. It is time for humanity to evolve and care for itself in a more holistic fashion. Dictators and oppressive governments live off the blood of the people which they dominate. The revolutions in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Bahrain, Yemen, and Iran reflect the need of the people to have fair and equitable leadership. The rich getting richer is done. We need systems that care for the family. We are living in an intense period of history. It is a blessing to be alive in this moment.

Social media has helped people to stand and rise up against governments, but in your music you’re not that positive about online social networks…

Z: I don't have anything against social networking. I do have a problem with getting so caught up in the internet that other aspects of life assume less importance. I love nature and interacting with people in person. Technology can get in the way of these things easily if we let it. The message is to caution people against falling into the pitfall of thinking that an online identity is actually your real self.

G: In some instances it helps yes. But I don't feel like that in this country technology is more often than not being used for the best purposes. Our minds are on gaining personal wealth, fame and sex. A lot of folks are addicted to being on the computer. Cell phones to some are a false sense of security like a cigarette. I feel like everyday human interaction is suffering. A lot of times I wish there was no cell phones and internet.

Were there songs that were deleted or re-worked or hard to finish because you had to fit them into the concept of the album?

G: Not really, we're just talking about what's going on in our worlds and the world around us. Everything we say is pretty much going to fall in line. For the song 'Journey to Forever' I think we had some ideas that we wanted to convey that just weren't conveyed when we first wrote.

Z: 'Like a G' was a difficult song to finish, because it didn't really fit the feeling of the rest of the album. The first version didn't feel right, so it took a bit of work to get it going in the right direction.

G: We simplified, and added a couple of other artists to shape into what it is now. I'm glad we did. Other songs I just had to wait until the flow came, there can be different ways to approaching art. Art has no rules. I don't even want to say you can't force it because with art you can do whatever you chose.

On this record, you worked with The Rebelution just like on the last Zion I record, This adds a very ‘live instrumental’, melodic touch to your music…are you aiming to work together with this group more often in the future? Because they are really becoming a part of the Zion I-sound…

Z: We toured all last year with Rebelution. They are good people with a good message. I appreciate their work, and look forward to future collaborations with them.

G: I like Rebelution a lot. I'd love to work with them more in the future. On Grouch projects as well.

'I don't listen to negative music', this brings us to Roy Ayers, he’s like the embodiment of positive music...what was the reason for having him? How was it like to work with him?

G: We decided to redo the song 'Be A Father To Your Child' for one, because we all loved Ed OG's early 90's original version and two, the message is something we felt like is relevant for this album. Ed OG sampled Roy on his version and we didn't want to use the exact same beat but rather remake our version but still keep the 'Roy Ayers feel'. Amp Live had some of the samples replayed live by musicans but then it came time to clear the song. Zion I's manager is heavy in the jazz world and happened to have a connection to Roy. He played him the track and instead of charging an arm and leg to let us use the interpolation he decided he wanted to be on the track! We all are excited and feel very blessed to have him on the album. As a hip-hopper who grew up studying and souring his records for samples, to have his blessing means a lot.

Z: Roy Ayers is simply a legend. I hope that we can introduce some folks to the heavy vibes of his classic work.

'I used to be a vegan but I missed Mozzarella'...nice track, nice concept...where did the idea came from?

G: We wanted to do something on the album that touched on healthy eating but wasn't so cliche. Amp had a super hard beat that he said he had given to Too Short already but hadn't heard back on. When he played it, me and Zumbi started throwin around concepts. We came up with that one and thought the pairing of concept to beat was a little odd so we ran with it.

Z: What we thought was healthy at one point in our lives, was now just another experience under our belts. I used to be a hardcore vegan, and when I look back at myself, I can't help but laugh because I was trying so hard to be perfect. Back then, everyone had to see food the same way I did, or they were flat out wrong. I think it's good to laugh at one's self. When we take ourselves or life too seriously, it's hard to have a good time.

'Drop It On The I’; we have to admit this was a hard nut to crack…this would be the most hardcore track on the record, were you aiming to take it to a certain limit with this one?

Z: It's just about going hard. That's how I look at it, riding the beat, enjoying the moment, and doing the damn thing. That's it. This is one of the few songs that's not conceptual.

G: The beat is hard, with old school elements yet extremely current. I'm from Oakland and that beat is too. Amp revamped it a couple of times and it's so simple but well put together, it was a no brainer. We kept the topic light and just tried to go of the 'Drop It On The One'-sample.

Your purpose is to open minds, elevate souls, did you get feedback from fans, listeners, sometimes, how they tell you how you have helped, motivated them…?

G: All the time.

Z: I always get feedback from fans about our music or shows and the effects experienced. At this point in the game, we've been active for so long, that there is an awareness of what folks enjoy about our music. We work to give them the best of ourselves, so the music can continue to effect positive change.

Have you ever considered being a social worker or doing social work aside...or do you consider what you do now 'social work'?

Z: I've worked as a volunteer and as a teacher in the past. I've always appreciated working with youth. That's all I did building up to this music career. I do consider some of what we do to be social work, in that we keep the reflective outlook on society ever-present. Yet, at the same time, big up to all the folks who are in the trenches and really keeping it alive for the youngsters.

G: For now music is my main outreach to people. We are helping support a different positive organization in each city on our 'Heroes In The Healing Of The Nation' tour by donating 100% of all ticketing fees to them as well.

Without fatherhood one is a different person and/or rapper, agree?

G: Having a child has helped turn me into more of a man faster than any other event in my life. It's ongoing so I keep learning. I can't rap about nonsense (not that I would) and then look at my daughter and feel right about me. She keeps me on track with so many things.

Z: Truly, being a father changes everything. It is such an inspiring and humbling experience. Life is no longer just about me, it's about my family, my lady and the child that we have co-created. It gives a grander perspective on what life is really about. There is a divine continuity that is felt, in that the energy and love gets passed on from parent to child, and they will in turn do the same. A wonderful understanding comes along with having to care for another being. It is a lesson in patience, awareness, and love.

The last few years, 'heroes' are 'hot'...we've all seen all kinds of movies with all sorts of heroes...what were/are your favourite superheroes?

G: My Mama, my wife, Bob Marley, Fela Kuti, Brother Ali, Deepak Chopra...

Z: I always like Wolverine as a kid. He was dope because he didn't have all the powers, but his gruff attitude and relentlessness made him one of the illest. It's a trip to watch all of the comic books come to life these days. I also like Ip Man..Bruce Lee's master. He was sick warrior and individual, and fought for the good of his people. Of course, I also completely respect Zumbi de Palmares, who I derive my name from. He was a great leader of a free community in Brazil during slavery. He represents the ultimate in power to the people.

Grouch, how ‘American’ is Hawaii? Is there a lot of differences?

G: They play very little baseball out here and we don't eat much apple pie! I feel like there's a family vibe on the island and people have more of a concern for the well being of others than a lot of places. There's not much billboards and advertising all in your face. People aren't glued to the TV or computer, they'd rather outside surfing or hiking. Our fruit tastes better but our public shool systems are bad. There's no Target or Mac Store but there's Walmart. The only folks in a hurry to get somewhere are tourists. 'Slow down this ain't the mainland!'

In March and April you're touring US...when do we see you guys in Europe?

Z: We will be in Europe this coming Fall...can't wait!

What’s next for you guys?

Z: I'm currently working on a mixtape and a solo record for the end of the year..hold tight!!

G: Lunch then beach. Thanks for the good interview.


POSTED 03|11|2011
conducted by cpf

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