Voices of reason: Amp Live and Zumbi of Zion I

It’s obvious that music is powerful. It’s possible to subsist intellectually only on music and still be in tune with pop culture and politics. Music is often combined with activity, whether it’s exercise, shopping, studying or sex. It’s a currency of humanity, and the most potent bonder of strangers.

So, it’s a wonder then, that the industry (particularly in rap) has succumbed to a saturation of product placement and an over-glorification of leery behavior. Beyond the oft-debated issues of the treatment of women in rap or of the use of particular words in music, is a glaring omission of real substance that we’ve seen in popular music over the last decade.

Thankfully, there are artists that swim against the tide, and Amp Live and Zumbi of Zion I have been creating some of the most compelling works since their first album, Mind Over Matter in 2000. They’ve been collaborating with other acts (like The Grouch) to produce forward thinking music that pushes past boundaries and explores our collective issues.

They’ve really grown into their sound and have achieved a perfect ratio of bangers to just vibe to, mixed in with music that’s obviously very influenced by the tense socio-political undertones being felt in Oakland and the rest of the United States.

The synchronicity of Amp and Zumbi is nowhere more apparent than when they’re performing. Zumbi’s commanding presence is matched by Amp’s enthusiasm as they move seamlessly through track after track, weaving through a chemistry that has survived nearly two decades. They perform each song through fresh eyes, Zumbi blaring through “Coastin’” even more enthusiastically than the crowd.

We caught up with them after their performance and asked them about each other, the power of their music and the influence that living in the Bay Area has had on their music.