54 North Orange Avenue
Orlando, FL 32801
Monday, Nov. 19, 2012
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.