Aug 16, 2010 - 9:53 PM
I live in the East Bay so I know how Oakland gets on a Saturday night, especially the night of a big show. People everywhere, cars honking nonstop and madness in parking lots is not something I get excited about, so I slide through to Fox Theatre early to get prime parking and have enough time to get situated. But it doesn’t even matter. The photographer, John Coyne, is on the press list but I’m not. After hella phone calls, we meet up with Zion I’s manager who gets us in with no hassle. Then out the cuts, dude asks me if I want to interview Zion I. This is my first concert review, so I had no idea I was going to get this opportunity. I respond with a cool and collected “Hell yeah!”
Me and John head up to the stage where we watch DJ Mr. E spin joints ranging from Bob Marley to Slick Rick to Common and everything in between. Bodies sway and heads bob but there is little excitement in the crowd’s faces. Anticipation for a live act was making the audience restless.
Kicking off their west coast tour in Oakland, emcee Zumbi and producer/DJ Amp Live of Zion I hit the stage to perform their set to an almost-full Fox Theatre. I’m still trippin’ that I’m able to watch the show from literally right next to them. Doing their best to get the less-than-hyped crowd going, Zion I starts off with “TakeOver” and gets the crowd chanting “…it’s the take over!” It works, and the crowd goes crazy, throwing their hands in the air and reciting every verse with so much energy you could’ve sworn they wrote the songs. Now I feel like I’m at a hip-hop show.
Zion I perform multiple tracks from their most recent album, The TakeOver, including “Coastin’” and “Antenna.” They also do a crowd favorite, “Bird’s Eye View,” off 2005’s Tru and Livin’. Zumbi definitely owns the stage. He’s working the entire crowd, moving from all parts of the stage. I guess this is why I saw him stretching before their set. At one point, Amp comes out from behind his turntables and takes his MPC to the front of the stage. The crowd goes bananas! This is probably as loud as the crowd gets all night. But when they perform “Don’t Lose Your Head,” the front row audience looks confused. It becomes obvious that most of the audience is here to see Black Star.
After Zion I finishes, DJ Mr. E hits the turntables while John and I head to Zion I’s dressing room. Probably not the best planning, but I have no questions prepared and I’m sweating balls when I get into the room. Talk about star-struck! The interview probably lasts no more than seven minutes and mostly consists of me fumbling my words with, “Uh, so…” At the end of the interview, Zumbi asks, “Oh, that’s it?” Wow! Welcome to Amateur Night ladies and gentlemen!
John and I leave and make our way back to the stage to watch Black Star. I look around and I’m the only female from a publication there. Awkward much? Then Black Star takes the stage and it’s a whole different game. Rarely performing as Black Star, Talib Kweli and Mos Def concentrate significantly more on their solo careers, making this performance all the more epic.
Talib and Mos perform favorites off their 1998 classic like “K.O.S.” and “Definition,” accompanied by not one, not two, but four DJs. It’s pretty insane. They also perform joints from their solo catalogs, rocking a set that lasts nearly two hours. Throughout the show, Mos Def is dancing and gigging like he’s trying to win a contest while Talib is much more chill in his approach. Although both men have completely different execution styles, both have the ability to so effortlessly spit fire and pump up a crowd.
Walking out of the venue, I’m not gonna lie, I feel pretty badass. I had an “All Access” pass on my shirt, I saw a great show, and I met Zion I. Not bad for a Saturday night.
Lauren Fitzgerald Villasana is a new contributor to Oh Dang!
John Coyne is a Jersey cat doing that photography thing in the Bay Area. He's got a love for the grit and grime of the city and he's out to capture the beauty of the streets to the best of his ability. See more of his work at www.caughtinthescramble.com