I’ve always been a tad outspoken about my disdain for rap music. Not to say I hate all rap, but I just really don’t see any artistic merit in image-driven, bump n’ grind, bitches and hoes rapping. It’s the, as my friend Christian puts it, “bells and whistles” crap I can’t stand.

Last Thursday night was something of a change of pace. I went to my first ever rap show at a local bar in Santa Monica with De Pretis, Trevor Scott, and our friend Sable. My expectations weren’t very high, but I figured I’d check it out to look for the reason why rap is popular. Plus, I like beer.

The venue: Santa Monica Central Social Club. The event: The record release show for rap group, Zion I’’s new album Atomic Clock.

Photo Source: ZionICrew.com


We arrive at the bar, grab some brews, shoot the shit, and wait for the show to start.

The opening act was okay. Full band with bass, keys, turntables, guitar and drums, and the MC, a rapper with an impressive Afro. They weren’t anything spectacular, but it was cool seeing a full band and I spent most of the time observing their musicianship. Solid playing, decent bass grooves. Average effects-driven guitarist. I couldn’t really get into the rapping either because of poor vocal miking. A lot of “C’MON! GET YO HANDS UP!!!” stuff. Meh. Give me a mediocre metal band over them any day. Not enthused.

Opening Act

After the opening act, I was contemplating leaving. But Trevor came to the rescue with a round of Tecates and had the ultimately and infinitely genius idea of going to his place to smoke a bowl. Brilliant. We left, smoked and returned to the pub, and waited for Zion I. I drifted into the right frame of mind for the full live rap experience.

My ears were now opened up and I started to feel the beat. Much like other shows I’ve been to, there was that excitement and anticipation leading up to the headliner’s entrance to the stage. Here we go. Zion I.

A four-man group- DJ Amp Live and MC Zumbi, plus drummer and backup vocalist take the stage. From their first song, I could tell that these guys were very seasoned and well rehearsed. Their performance was tight and infectious. I bobbed my head. I put my hands in the air. I didn’t care.

I dug the music. Atmospheric electronic, hip-hop and even reggae tracks provided an diverse and intense musical backing for Zumbi’s rapping. MC Zumbi really commanded the crowd. You could tell he’s a pro. The drummer had a great attack and slayed two drum solos. The backing vocalist was very soulful and contributed a unique harmonic compliment to MC Zumbi. It was rap. But I enjoyed myself.

Zion I has musicianship and talent, which of course gained my respect. But they also aren’t glorified pop-rap artists like Lil’ Wayne and $0.50. There’s real artistic merit in their music. They’ve been together for over 10 years and released 7 albums. Zion I keep their music honest and clearly strive to release quality albums and give great performances. That’s metal.

Apparently DJ Amp Live is a widely accomplished music producer and DJ, providing music for videogames, television, and other big-time music artists. He even did these remixes of Radiohead’s last record In Rainbows. “Rainydayz Remixes.” Very cool.

I’m glad I was exposed to Zion I. Rap will never be my favorite music, but it was great to see a crowd of people enthusiastic about what’s in front of them. It’s the brilliance of a live music experience. I’d definitely be down to check out more rap shows.

But before I start spitting rhyme and wearing FUBU, I will be seeing BLACK LABEL SOCIETY this Friday night at The Wiltern. It is sure to be an all out assault of insanity and heaviness. I’m going to try to bring De Pretis and Trevor to the show so they can experience a true metal concert. HAHAHAHA!! Post will sure follow after the physical and mental recovery.

In the meantime, check out some Zion I. I’m really liking the Radiohead remixes too.

Plus, my latest article, Buying Your First Guitar: Part 2 is now live on GuitarMessenger.com. Guitarists should really visit this site. Great stuff.

And not to sound like an utter Human Abstract fanboy, but their first single, “Faust,” of their upcoming album, Digital Veil is now online and can be purchased on iTunes and Amazon. Get excited.