Ten years after the release of their debut single, Oakland hip-hop duo Zion I return with The Takeover, a filler-free new mix of jabs, roundhouses and uppercuts that continue their streak as one of hip-hop’s most diverse groups.
For Takeover, which features guest spots by Houston legend Devin the Dude, UK emcee Ty and Rhymesayers’ Brother Ali, producer AmpLive and emcee Zumbi incorporate the best parts of their live show—perfected through nonstop touring—and bring that vibe to the studio.
“Zion I has a reputation of being very spiritual and serious,” notes Zumbi. “I think The Takeover is a lot more fun than our past records. We still touch on serious subject matter, but this album shows the other sides of our personality.”
Over the course of five LPs and numerous EPs and mixtapes, the group has proven to be a welcome enigma in hip-hop. Lyrically, Zumbi runs the gamut on a range of issues both serious and frivolous, discussing problems and pleasures both spiritual and worldly. Throughout, his fanbase keeps coming back for his smooth delivery and ability to raise issues without sounding didactic. Musically, Amp draws from both the usual (funk, soul) and esoteric (house, drum n bass) to create soundscapes that work as well on an electronic music mixtape as it does hip-hop. An accomplished remixer as well, Amp has remixed everyone from Linkin Park to MGMT, and most recently released Rainydayz Remixes based on Radiohead’s In Rainbows. Every production and remix, though, always brings it back to his main job in Zion I. “I started using way more effects on this album,” says Amp. “So I was able to bring in more elements that I’ve been using for some of the dance and indie rock stuff.”
Despite living a few miles from each other, technology facilitated the making of Takeover, as the duo would e-mail verses and beats back and forth, with each member continually making notes and suggestions on both parts of the song. This fully collaborative effort ensured that both Amp and Zumbi would have a say in the final product during the entire production process. “Our songs go through many different styles and iterations,” admits Amp. ““Caged Bird,” for example went from an Electro R&B joint to a drum n bass track to its current version [as a soul-inflected, string-laden beat].”
While the final work is still Zumbi and Amplive, the two are quick to point out how their writing process has changed this time out. “We have an inner core of people who we let listen to the album in different stages and got feedback on what they liked,” says Zumbi. “On other albums, it was generally us just making whatever we wanted and then they’d just say what songs they like. Our skin is thick enough and we’re honest enough with ourselves that we can take criticism.”
This new method of recording was essential to the finished product, but the group always has a definite idea in mind, looking at their tracks as fans as much as musicians. “We try to make music that falls into a crack and fills a void for us as fans of music,” says Zumbi. “We discuss what we want the album to feel like and then we just let the unconsciousness take over and let things go. We just allow that process to take on its own life.”
From the electro-rap homage “DJ DJ” to the spacey futuristic synths of “Antenna,” The Takeover encapsulates the diversity and versatility that have made Zion I Bay Area stalwarts for over a decade. As with any Zion I album, there’ll never be any compromise away from deep thought, but as anyone who’s seen the pair live knows, that means nothing if the crowd ain’t entertained.
One listen to the album, and you’ll know The Takeover may be the most appropriate title of the year.
Christian Bauhofer at first glance comes off as the unassuming dude yawning next to you in class, a kind of lumberjack-nerd fusion in his glasses and scruffy facial hair. However, wait until the sun goes down and add a couple drinks and a whole lot of bass — and quiet, smiley Christian assumes his party-crushing alter-ego: Minnesota.
"My goal is to make bass-heavy dubstep/glitch-hop music that'll get you dancing, but is not the same old, three-note transformer-step ... I try to focus more on the melodic side of dubstep, and hopefully, make quality songwriting a more relevant factor in the genre." Bauhofer says.
In the past two years his producing has taken off, with both originals and remixes gaining great popularity on sites like Soundcloud.com. In Minnesota productions, big influences show through from songwriters Bauhofer looks up to — artists such as Mimosa, Martyparty, and Modeselektor. His first EP "Panda Snatching Tycoon" was released to great acclaim in January 2011 on Tycho Records, featuring three original tracks: "Push It," "Purple Daze," and "Twisted."
Minnesota tracks are heard in dubstep/glitch sets all over the world, including those from Bassnectar, PANTyRaid, Mimosa, MartyParty, LowRiderz, and Tokimonsta,to name a few. His latest and greatest remix of "California Dreamin'" by the Mamas & the Papas has been getting tons of play — most notably by dubstep trailblazer Bassnectar a.k.a. Lorin Ashton, on his current U.S. tour.
"Quickly becoming a staple in my sets," Ashton said about Minneosta track "Push It," "Perfect for when I need a track that is epic and churning but also melodically hype."
One of the best things about Bauhofer is his incredible diversity in both his production and DJ sets. Any promoter can be assured that a bill featuring the name Minnesota on it will be pleasing to any crowd. He has opened for a wide range of acts, from Flying Lotus to Ghostland Observatory, Rusko to Benny Benassi, RJD2 to Excision, and many more.
The future looks bright for Bauhofer, so much so that he is taking a break from UC Santa Cruz this spring to focus strictly on music. With multiple EPs coming out on MalLabel and Simplify records in the next few months, this might be Bauhofer's smartest move yet.
“New York City is everything. We wouldn’t have made this project if we didn’t live here. There are so many people, personalities, stories, sounds, etcetera everywhere you turn,” explains Weekend Money lyricist Ne$$ of the theme behind their new EP Naked City, due out September 11th this year. “The city is the muse for this project."
Weekend Money, compromised of aforementioned NYC/Philly MC Ne$$ (member of Dead Prez affiliated group A-Alikes) and Brooklyn by way of Iraq producer/vocalist Baghdaddy, aren’t the first to cite the city of New York as a major influence on their work. New York has it’s fair share of acts in a flourishing hip hop scene, but the duo are a perfect example of New York’s multicultural melting pot and their music is no different. Weekend Money’s debut EP, Naked City, is a contagious blend of underground hip hop, ‘hood street swagger and spaced out beats that play like a diary of a NYC hustler touching on his experiences and thoughts and revealing both the glamour and grime of the city.
“Naked City speaks to what we were going through while recording the EP. It’s about New York and our perceptions of it. If you line the tracks up by date of creation, they tell the story of our past year and the trials we went through - the hope, the pain, everything,” says Baghdaddy.
The duo first came together when a mutual friend introduced them at a party. At the time, NE$$ was working on a solo effort and was seeking producers for the project. Knowing that Baghdaddy had never produced for a rapper before, NE$$ was interested in hearing what he could bring to the table. The two began experimenting with different sounds and ideas eliminating samples from all production and using everything from Fisher Price xylophones to the sound of drumming on trees for beats. The recording process saw the duo learning from one another with NE$$ educating Baghdaddy on the history and elements of hip hop and Baghdaddy introducing the rapper to chord progressions, new production techniques and music theory.
The result is an album that’s much more than a mix of rap and electronic music, but rather a unique fusion of layered and complex sounds built on NE$$’ quick witted, street style in conjunction with genre-bending production aimed at taking the listener into a world that is as brazenly ambitious as it is stripped down. One has to look no further than the syrupy, reggae dancehall-tinged groove of “Coke ‘N’ Coffee,” with its head nod inducing chorus; the Timbaland-esque sirens and handclaps of the psychedelic “Yellow” or the sharp rhyme flow and trunk rattling violence of “Impala”.
Naked City’s first single—the two-fisted, synth-driven soundclash “Insomniac”—serves as the initial collaborative spark for the EP’s creation. “I remember asking Baghdaddy to play some beats he was already working on and one of them being this beat he named ‘Savage’ which really stood out,” NE$$ recalls. “I laid down a mumble track to it and took it home where I wrote the first verse and chorus to ‘Insomniac’. When I came back the next session and spit what I wrote, we both knew we needed to make a whole album together and the rest is history.”
What may have at first seemed like an unlikely pairing, Weekend Money is an example of two passionate musicians coming together to grow and expand their artistic palette, mining their own sonic differences and tastes. Naked City serves as a glimpse into the life of a hustler but also sets the stage for a new burgeoning music scene - one that blurs genres and allows artists to move beyond any previous set boundaries.
“We just create and work toward making something special. I don’t think we’ve ever tried to sound like someone else and that’s reflected on the album,” explains Baghdaddy. “New York City took me in and I belong here. The whole music scene is wide open and we can make whatever we like.”
Hailed as a “music guru” by Rolling Stone and cited among the “world’s Top DJ’s” by The New
York Times, J.PERIOD’s vast musical repertoire bridges cultures, generations and styles with
innovative blends and seamless transitions. As Music Supervisor for the Brooklyn Nets’ inaugural
season at Barclays Center, J.PERIOD’s signature sound has become the defining soundtrack for
the franchise, and set a new standard for the role of music in the NBA arena. A 10-year veteran
in moving large crowds, J.PERIOD has served as official Tour DJ for artists including Lauryn Hill,
Q-Tip, The Roots, and international icon K’NAAN, performing at venues from NYC’s Central Park
Summerstage to Johannesburg’s Coca-Cola Dome. His production resume boasts collaborations
with Grammy-winners Kanye West, Common, John Legend, and Mary J. Blige, and his “audio-
documentary” mixtape series – remixing everyone from Bob Marley to Bob Dylan – has prompted
music icon Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson (The Roots, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon) to label
J.PERIOD “the most creative mixtape producer of all-time.”
J.PERIOD’s latest release, ”The Next Chapter (Still Love H.E.R.)” featuring COMMON, is
currently featured on Billboard.com: http://www.billboard.com/articles/columns/the-
J.PERIOD is also the producer of the Brooklyn Nets new theme song, written by Grammy-winner
John Forte (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/11/sports/basketball/nets-have-new-anthem-for-
brooklyn.html?_r=0). “Brooklyn: Something to Lean On (J.Period Remix)” plays before Nets’
starting lineups are announced at each Barclays Center home game.
For more information about J.PERIOD, please visit: www.jperiod.com