Zion I: “Hip Hop Is About Empowerment.”

Zion I Talks Vaping, Fatherhood, Systematic Oppression in Hip Hop and More

Zion I has been a staple to the independent underground hip hop world since the first album Mind Over Matter in 2000. Since the first release Zion I’s positive intellectual lyricism and innovative vibrant production has created a discography of more than 2 dozen remarkably crafted albums, mixtapes, EP’s with distinct collaborations. Originally consisting of MC Zumbi and producer Amp Live, Zumbi is now flying solo. Earthlings Entertainment sat down with Zumbi and talked about everything from Yung Thug to how his cannabis use has changed since he became  a parent.


[Earthlings Entertainment] From the beginning Zion I has kept a certain level of positivity and stayed away from the top 40 “Bitches, Hoes & Money” personna. Why is this important to you?

[Zion I] For me, Hip Hop and art in general is all about authenticity.  What I enjoy about experiencing the writing, visual art, or singing of other artists is the unique window and perspective which they bring to this reality that we share.  I’ve never been a “bitches hoes and clothes” type of dude, so why would I present that in my music?  A lot of MC’s don’t believe in that either, but succumb to what I feel are the false tenets of the culture so they can gain popularity and make some dough.  Inauthentic.

Now, there are some folks who really vibe that way, I find no fault in their expression.  Hip Hop is about empowerment in my opinion.  When it was created, that was the strongest impression that it left on me… so I seek to pay homage to what it gave me.  Culture and art are incredibly powerful and influential, we have to be mindful of that power.

Q: You mention Young Thug’s dismissive response about Ferguson in the recent Boombox Collection video series and you responded “what about the issues, family, protecting our communities, not being exploited, not being manipulated…” Who do you think is really making music that speaks to those values of family and community in the hip hop world right now? Do you feel as though comments like Young Thug’s are detrimental to those values?

A: I feel like J Cole, LeCrae and Kendrick are really holding that space on the commercial side.  Of course there’s Run the Jewels, and a slew of more underground artists who hold it down on a more grassroots level.  I feel like people want that vibe in the music, but a certain aspect of society would rather see the tragic caricature that consumes many of us: drugs, violence, and criminality.  All of it is real, the good and the bad, but I feel like the negativity is played up as a way to compartmentalize people of color and Hip Hop in general.  It’s like it’s easier to believe that all young black men would rather sell dope, than to believe that these same young men want to do something positive with their lives.

Its disappointing to me when cats like Young Thug who have the platform to really influence change, blow it off because they are already placated by fly cars and clothes.  It sometimes feels like the brilliant minds that come from our communities are being paid off to play stupid, as if they don’t recognize the systematic oppression that is the United States.  That is why I truly respect those in the limelight who are willing to sacrifice their personal gain for the good of the greater collective.  The game is already set up, the board is laid out, now… do we choose to play or do we change the rules?

Q: The end of the first verse off of Trains & Planes on Heros in the City of Dope goes, “I miss my bed, marijuana and mushrooms/They treat me hella bad when I’m sittin’ in customs” Marijuana has really has become a staple of hip hop in many ways. Visually lyrically and culturally it is very present. Is this how you were first exposed to marijuana? Would you say your first experience was a good one? Tell me about that.

A: My first experience with weed was… READ MORE

Luna (Shontelle)

Luna (Shontelle) Reyna is the Chief Editor at Earthlings Entertainment. She has made it her mission to propel the company and the arts/artists featured through passion and dedication to her team and taking her knowledge of, and that same dedication, and applying it to her infatuation and respect for the arts. She is also the editor at Bridges Unite, a “diverse network that looks to be inspired and empowered by connecting with like-minded women, strongly committed to expanding their knowledge and connections. She believes in the power of journalistic activism and the social responsibility. She works to utilize the platforms given to work toward bettering the status quo. As a writer with Dope she has tackled many of the social justice topics that may not be getting the coverage they deserve within the cannabis industry as well as inclusivity when it comes to race, sex and the LGBTQ communities (to name a few). Outside of these she works with a rad group of creative creatures that design larger than life puppets that you may have seen at one music festival or another as The Colossal Collective, has an amazing daughter, writes poetry and has a small jewelry line.