How did Zion I first come together?
We first met in Atlanta while attending Morehouse College back in the day. We had a very long run together…but since last year Zion I has become me as a solo artist.
Who are some of your favorite MCs and why?
Nas: for his poetic sense and balance between the streets and consciousness.
Andre 300: for his positive vibe with a ghetto-centric perspective.
Kendrick Lamar: for keeping the empowerment alive in hip hop for today’s youth.
What inspires you lyrically?
My family, God, injustice throughout the world, struggle and happiness.
How often do you find yourself writing lyrics?
I write 4-5 times a week. I find that when I stay focused on my craft, I get better and better.
How did you first meet the Grouch?
I was a fan of his and wanted to get him on our first album Mind Over Matter. I appreciated his sincerity and conviction when he rapped. I took the beat over to his studio to play it for him, he liked it, and we’ve been cool ever since.
How did the track “Coastin'” come together?
Amp made the beat and I wrote about 4-5 rhymes to it. None of them really captured the correct tone however. At that point, we sent it around to a bunch of artists to try recording a hook to it. K-Flay came with the best one. I edited her version and then wrote my verses based around the new energy that was coming forward from it.
What qualities do you look for in great beats?
I look for immediate emotional content, so the beat has to move me somehow and some way. There has to be an energetic connection between my spirit and the music. That way, I don’t have to think too hard, and it just comes to me. I think that makes the best vibe in creating music.
What do you enjoy most about the music scene in Oakland?
I enjoy the diversity of styles and cultures in Oakland. There are so many different perspectives and cultures brimming together that it makes for a unique stew to pull from.
What have been the biggest obstacles you’ve had to overcome in your career?
I think it would be ego. Thinking that I should be successful now, because I’ve been successful in the past. Becoming lazy and expecting things to rock without putting energy into the world. The universe doesn’t work like that. If you want love you have to put it out for the world to feel it from you.
What advice would you give to musicians just starting out?
I would suggest setting up a team that can support via videos, producers, writers, artists…just a squad to keep the team sharp. You also have to be true to yourself. It’s too easy to imitate whats hot in this current era of music. Its dope to be inspired, but its whack to clone. To keep hip hop fresh we need to keep it creative and alive with the spirit of inspiration and genuine perspective.