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Interview: Amplive of Zion I

Posted by Maximum Fun on 24th February 2008

Amplive is the producer of the Bay Area hip-hop duo Zion I. Along with MC Zion, Amp has stood at the forefront of the second generation of underground hip-hop in the Bay, following in the footsteps of artists like Hieroglyphics and Hobo Junction. More recently, Amp has broadened his production resume, producing among others Kafani’s hyphy hit “Fassst Like A Nascar” and Goapele’s R&B hit “Closer.” Zion I’s most recent album is a collaboration with Living Legends’ Grouch called “Heroes in the City of Dope.” (See the video for Hit ‘Em f. Mistah FAB above)

Amplive recently made national headlines with his album “Rainydayz Remixes,” a full remix album of Radiohead’s recent “In Rainbows” release. After receiving a cease-and-desist from the band’s management, Amp has finally obtained the rights to legally release the album free over the internet. It features Bay Area hip-hop superstars like Too $hort and Del tha Funky Homosapien. I interviewed Amp via email as he prepared for Zion I’s “Fresh Coast” tour with Mistah FAB, which kicks off February 29th in San Jose.

Jesse Thorn: You’ve continued to consolidate your underground success with Zion I, but you’ve also produced a few local radio hits that are more Hyphy than “backpacker.” To what extent are you serving two separate audiences there? Do you do it consciously? Does the uniqueness of the Bay Area scene contribute to how this all plays out?

Amplive: I just make the music that I feel and like. Out here in the Bay the audiences arent as separate as you think. There are a big variety of national groups that come from here. you have groups like Souls of Mischief, DJ Shadow, Blackalicious, Lyrics Born, Anticon to groups like E40, Too Short, Mista Fab, Kafani, and The Pack. Those audiences merge all the time. That;s what makes making music in the bay for a producer like me easy.

JT: You’re a hip-hop producer, though you’ve produced some R&B records and certainly have a lot of other influences in your work. What’s the connection between hip-hop and Radiohead?

A: Well, one of the reasons that I really started digging Radiohead was that they always had a few songs on their record that had a hip hop feel to it. Whether it was the drums they used or the steady pattern of the beat, it had a hip hop feel. You have a song like “National Anthem” or “Karma Police” that not only sounded tight but you could actually spin in a mix. Those elements set them apart from other rock groups.

JT: What separates hip-hop and Radiohead?

A: Well honestly, the way music has merged so much these days, the only thing I think that separates them from hip hop is that there they aren’t rapping.

JT: Was there a track on the remix album that was particularly exciting for you? Why?

I would have to say that remixing the song “Weird Fishes” really felt good. The original sounds so damn good. Every step I took in tweaking it just felt great and I didnt make any changes to what I was doing. That rarely happens.

JT: Is remixing a Radiohead album part gimmick? Why do a whole record?

A: I dont know what the gimmick would be if it was one. I am a music producer and I create remixes. I liked the In Rainbows album so much that I wanted to remix all of it.

Amplive’s Rainydayz Remixes is available free here. You can find Zion I online at zioncrew.com.