WAIT... THERE'S MORE STUFF
Dumi of Zimbabwe Legit interview
By: D.J. Fisher
I'm here chilling with Dumi of Zimbabwe Legit, what's good man?
Just getting everything together for the upcoming ZL House of Stone record, laying the groundwork and foundation with promotion, publicity, marketing, and building a buzz and awareness. I've also been getting things together business wise, to ensure that I have a conduit and platform to get my music and artistry heard by the masses.
So lets get into the new album, I know you been putting in a lot of work on this one. Let us know about the new project?
The new album is a Zimbabwe Legit joint which is my original ground and in fact is a pioneering African hip-hop group, being that we were one of the first groups from Africa to get international acclaim and sign a deal with a major US label (Hollywood Basic).
Fast forwarding to the present day when we initially started thinking about doing a new record we realized we'd need to come out strong or not at all. The only thing the world had really heard from us in the form of ZL tracks was the old classic material from the 90s. We wanted to reaffirm our status as skilled artisans and lyricists and let people know that we weren't trapped in a time warp and were still relevant to modern day [hip-hop] music. In fact we wanted people to know that we just weren't in step, we were still on the cutting edge, just as we were when we pushed the envelope and did damage in our native tongues, circa
'91. The album has been about 2 1/2 years in the making but I had the idea for close to 5 years or more.
The record is called House of Stone which is actually a literal translation of the word Zimbabwe. To get historical with it there was actually a great African Empire - a stone city, houses of stone which is where modern day Zimbabwe is situated. The album is a metaphor for a great civilization, a great foundation, a solid house built on a rock, or a culture that was sparked in the Bronx in the 70s with ancient origins in the motherland through griots and oral tradition that has spread into a worldwide phenomenon. The house of stone represents hip-hop, a culture, a society, a movement. Miles away from any pop culture fad or people who just jump on the bandwagon for a quick second.
Who do you have on the guest features and production this time around?
To make sure the record made a splash and cut through the fray we recruited a team of heavy hitters to get down. For the most part the cast of vets that we invited to get down are well known artists that we've interacted with on our journey through hip-hop since arriving in the US. We got Prince Po from Organized Konfusion who was a former label mate, YZ, Vast Aire, Chubb Rock, Mike G from the Jungle Brothers, Stic.man from dead prez, Cadence who is a long time collaborator and producer with us, Breez Evahflowin' and more.
On production we got Cadence, The Saint, a dude named H-Peh out of Germany, Hen Boogie, a new cat Olatunji Mason, and Lord Lamont. Each beat was hand picked and crafted custom for the project. There were no selections out of a barrel for this one. I selected each beat, thought out the concept and hook and the rest is what you hear manifested on the CD. The goal was not only to get one of the illest lineups ever put together [even without a major label backing] but also to set up some unique and interesting combinations - I mean when was the last time people heard dead prez and Prince Po on a track together, or Vast Aire and Chubb Rock. Even the guests were amped when they realized who else would be getting down with them on particular songs or the album in general.
The long awaited debut ZL album finally came out just a few years ago but I know its been waiting for a long time, what had happen that it took the time it did to come out?
We were working with Hollywood Basic on a deal circa 1991 and we did a glorified single with them around 1992. This is the original EP that people talk about that actually only came out on promo vinyl, cassette and CD. Glow in the Dark released our unreleased project in 2005 since it never got a chance to see light of day. Dave Funken-Klein told us before he passed that "one day people will look back and say damn, that was a great record" and so it's a fitting tribute that this in fact came to pass. The lost Brothers from the Mother album that came out on GITD Records dropped to much critical acclaim worldwide.
The full length never came out with Hollywood Basic primarily because Funken-Klein was dealing with cancer and so was no longer at the helm at the label. As you know a lot of times when the person that signs you is no longer running the show or repping for you, other priorities take precedence. Also it wasn't too much longer after that when the entire Hollywood Basic label went under.
The new ZL project is coming out on PH Music; tell us about your company?
pH MUSIC is a company I started as a way to put out my own music independently and on my own terms. Having been in the rap biz for a little while and having been a hip-hop practitioner for 20+ (yeah that's right) I figured I know a little bit about this stuff and got frustrated by having people invariably try to distort or shut down my vision for stuff. Also often times you are the person who understands best where you are trying to go. A lot of times other folks are just focused around how much money they can make in the short term, without regard to artistic integrity, or even building a body of work. The industry has made things so disposable now; people don't even value ownership of music. You have music players where you just randomly listen to collections of hundreds of tracks and so things don't have to be cohesive and you have a one hit wonder gold rush. That's a segue, but basically is one of things that drove me to as the song says "God bless the child that has its own."
So at any rate it became clear to me that like the old adage if you want something to get done, sometimes you just have to do it yourself. People won't always believe in your work and so at that point you have a choice to either take the reigns or let your dream be deferred. I opted for the former option and not the latter.
For the House of Stone I partnered with Cadence from Raw Produce whom I have worked on several collaborations musically in the past. He runs Pro Se Recordings and so we joined forces for marketing, publicity and promotional support and executing the release campaign and strategy for the album.
Do you have other artists that you're working with under PH Music?
Cadence from Raw Produce and I are working on a new project called Alternate Reality. That is due out sometime in 2008 through pH MUSIC/Pro Se Recordings. We're also looking at possibly working with some other cats be they established vets or up and coming artists that do good work. My brother Akim Funk Buddha is also forging a solo project and there is plenty more on tap. We're also doing our own digital distribution for our own material plus that of any affiliates. Stay tuned.
Being that you started releasing records in the early 90's and releasing records now in 2007 you have the best of both worlds. What would you say is the biggest difference in today's music scene?
I echo the sentiments a lot of heads have related, music today has become really more of a commodity and a disposable one at that. I mean back in the day collecting records or tapes or CDs was something people did and looked forward too. And with tape especially the whole record had to be good because it would kill your walkman trying to rewind and fast forward.
So anyway with the advent of the CD it was much easier to skip tracks so people were less concerned about if there was filler included. Now with digital people can just get the track they want and ignore the rest of the album. It's cool because times inevitably change but what it means is that now albums I feel are less cohesive or conceptual and things aren't built to last. I'd use the analogy of people making real slick castles made of sand. They look great for the moment but you know the result in the end. You can pull out an old EPMD record and it still bumps, pull out Rakim's "Microphone Fiend", A Tribe Called Quest and all that classic stuff and it still bumps. A lot of the stuff coming out now is fashioned like a paper plate or plastic spoon. Use it once or a couple times then toss it in the garbage. That's how you get these flavor of the month artists or songs. I don't remember ever going to a jam and hearing the DJ throw on Kriss Kross and having the place go wild as big a hit as that was you know. To me it's about longevity and making music that can stand the test of time. "I want a legacy to pass to my descendents, more than whips and chains and diamond pendants..."
How important do you feel the digital part of the business is going to be in the near future?
I think that everything is moving in that direction. I mean as much as I like having a physical CD with cover art and credits and liner notes, it seems like that too is going the way of the TDK (cassette). The one thing that it does throw wide open is the distribution channel because it's now easier than ever to have your stuff available world wide. Instead of just the domestic underground you can access the global underground scene. Also it gives power to indie artists who don't have the physical distribution networks of the majors but can still have their stuff available to consumers everywhere with an internet connection. On the downside with lower barriers to entry it means there will be a lot more clutter to cut through to get to the good stuff, but as a wise man once said, "the cream always rises to the top." Yeah digital is about to be huge and so anyone not on that boat is going to be left in the Stone Age and possibly be rendered obsolete. Who knows, for future generations maybe CDs will probably be like 8 tracks were to our generation - you know in the category of "what the heck is that and why would anyone want to listen to music that way." For me though I'm still partial to full, uncompressed CD quality with ill conceptual cover art, credits and production info and even liner notes to get the full experience of a new album.
A lot of people might know that ZL is one of the first artists to work with DJ Shadow right?
Yeah history relates that DJ Shadows first appearance on wax came via the Zimbabwe Legit EP on Hollywood Basic. Dave Funken-Klein put him on and essentially broke his career with the Legitimate Mix. I guess that's pretty noteworthy. Hey who knows, maybe son will get at us and we can re-up. That would be kinda crazy right?
Any shows or planned tours yet this year or in 2008?
Got some shows lined up to promote the record and take the message to the masses. Have a big show planned at Brooklyn Academy of Music this November and lots of stuff before and after. Basically wherever we can find a receptive audience and people that want to listen to good music, lyrics and progressive hip-hop we'll be there. We'll also be hitting radio stations and doing all the other promotion related activities from in-stores to shows.
Is their a website and myspace page for heads to check out?
Aight man, thanks for taking the time out to do this with us. Any final words for the heads at HipHop-Elements.com ?
I think in closing I'd just like to say that in order for good music to prevail the people that like it and want to hear more of it need to support it. I hear heads complain all the time but a lot of them don't even buy ANY music. It's like people hated Bush but never voted and wonder why he got re-elected even in the aftermath of the Iraq war and truth about the fictional WMDs. Even if you don't cop the House of Stone, if you hear an artist you do like cop it. Getting a free download from your friend especially for indie artists doesn't help advance the art form. Artists need to be able to support their craft and like it or not in order for a lot of heads to continue on, their music has to be able to sell.
Assuming my prophet of doom persona I'd say that I believe a new day is dawning, and I see the demise of the bling era. The winds of change are blowing and no lie can live forever. If I was a rep at the Wu Tang Investment Brokerage I would say "diversify now!"- LOL! Put your money in progressive hip-hop and sell off all that bling 'cause the trends are starting to shift.
Before I rest, I survey the progress, thanks for coming out, goodnight and God bless!
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