Oakland, CA emcee Zion I presents “2 Eyes”, his new single out now on Mind Over Matter Recordings. Zion trades bars with Washington D.C. emcee Born I over the track which is produced by Los Angeles beatsmith Nathan Fields. Zion I has brought his brand of conscious genre-blending hip-hop to over two dozen releases spanning two decades, collaborating with the likes of Linkin Park (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=arIr7nzLol0) and Black Thought (stream “Come Together”) and K. Flay (watch the music video for “Coastin”), and performing at Coachella and Rock The Bells.
“I made this song with Nathan Fields and Born I, two artists that I met over the internet” Zion says about the new track. “Nathan sent me the beat and I recorded the first verse and the hook. Once he heard it, he recommended the second verse feature Born I, as we share similar vibes. The song is about standing firm and being grounded in one’s self, no matter the circumstances being faced.”
What’s your biggest lesson learned from all your years in the game?
I would say staying true ton one’s self is key to sustainability and success. Although, it sounds cliche, it is a difficult thing to achieve when fame and success hinge on the way that “You” are perceived as an artist. Creating an image that feels like it will sell, is not the best way to go, because once you start to evolve out of the constructed persona, the fans who dug that character fade quick. That, and being tenacious af. As an artist, we have to have deep belief in our reservoirs of talent in order to hold up for the long haul.
How has the audience’s reaction to conscious hip-hop evolved since you got into the game? Pros and cons?
When I first hopped in the indie game, in the late 90’s, conscious hip hop wasn’t the most popular medium, but it was an inspired counter to commercial rap. Now, it feels like the culture has turned into fractals of itself, each holding a small subset of ideas, sounds, and energies…one surging forward after the next. Those who vibe to conscious vibes are those who are working to find more out of the life they are being presented with. A few mainstream artists continue to carry the torch, but its more of a niche than it used to be. It feels like nihilism is celebrated as the cause of existence for the youth, because as KRS said way back in the day, its all about “Sex and Violence.” These are easy things to sell to the youth, unfortunately.
With such a storied career under your belt, what do you think is next for you musically?
I am excited for the next chapter coming out of this cocoon that the pandemic has created around me. I’ve cliqued back up with all my OG homies from Atlanta, where I first started taking music seriously. I was reunited with two of my close spiritual companions because we lost one of our best homies last summer.
Beyond that, my old crew I was in before Zion I has been on Zoom calls plotting on how to release music in this new era. It’s dope because we all have a similar perspective on the music, as we’ve been rocking with each other for decades. I look forward to creating a bridge into the future for the youngsters and the OG’s to meet, and share ideas and stories.
The pandemic has affected everyone in different ways. How has it affected you most?
It’s forced me to really take a close look at my demons and what has been holding me back. I mean it has been intense spiritually and emotionally for me. I have lost family members and friends, not to COVID, but to the situations that it has created in their lives.
I’ve had to really look at the thoughts I feed and carry around within myself. To take accountability for the situations I have created for myself. One of my homies told me that diamonds are created under immense pressure, and I am running with that analogy.
What do you think 2021 is going to be about collectively and globally?
I feel like its an opportunity for us to actually clique up with our tribes and show more love to those who are in our soul family. That’s how it feels to me. I feel blessed that I have reunited with so many old friends, all the phony ones faded into the dust, so its all good.
I’d rather have a few real ones riding with me, than a gang of fair weather friends. Globally, we are shifting into a different paradigm. Technology has life feeling like a sci fi novel to me. Society is collapsing, and rebirthing itself simultaneously. Old systems are falling by the wayside, and making way for new and emergent ideas to be born. It is an exciting, albeit taxing time to be alive!!!