Kev Choice: The RAPstation Interview

Kev Choice The RAPstation Interview By Kyle Eustice Zion I is one of the hardest working acts in independent hip-hop. The Oakland-based crew released the critically acclaimed album, Mind Over Matter, in 2000 and have been killing it ever since. With core member Zumbi at the helm, Zion I has amassed a healthy following over the years. However, it may come as a shocking surprise to some fans that the other half of Zion I, producer Amp Live, has left the group to pursue his solo career. That leaves Zumbi in the driver's seat, but fortunately he has several talented artists along for the ride. As Zion I embarks on yet another tour, emcee Zumbi has enlisted the help of fellow Oakland resident and member of the Zion I family, Kev Choice. The multi-talented pianist, emcee and DJ is performing his own solo set, DJ'ing for tour mate Locksmith, as well as DJ'ing for Zion I. He doesn't look at it as filling Amp Live's shoes, he sees it as another chapter in the evolution of the crew. After all, he's been touring with them since 2009's "The Takeover Tour." Kev Choice talked to RAPstation about the piano, taking over for Amp Live and Zion I's current live show. Check out http://www.zionicrew.com/ for tour dates. RAPstation (Kyle Eustice): What drew you to the piano at such a young age? Kev Choice: I think I just had a fascination with pianos or organs whenever I would see them. When I would watch people play on T.V. I would just gravitate towards that instrument. I was just very curious to learn how to play so I signed myself up for an elective in junior high. Once I got into that class, I went knee-deep and started going hard, learning the basics. I got put into this program that really introduced me to classical. I learned a lot about piano. Do any of your family members play piano? No, not necessarily. My grandparents had an organ at their house, but I don't think anybody ever played it. I used to play around with it. I think it was just an innate feeling, a gravitation towards the instrument. I have a keyboard in my closet, but I quit playing many years ago. I really wish I hadn't. I've been a singer, a guitar player, and a drummer. Watching you makes me want to play again. You should. Hop back on them. Is it intimidating or anything like that to fill Amp Live's shoes in any way? I don't really look at it that way because I've been playing with Zion I for years. I think the first tour I did with them was The Takeover Tour in 2009. I think I saw that tour. That was the first time on the road with live elements We had a drummer, me, Amp Live. I do a lot of studio with Amp Live in a bunch of different situations. I just feel like sometimes in life people need to go do different things. I don't feel like I have to fill his shoes. It's just a different approach to the music and it's something Zumbi has wanted to do for a long time; to bring more live elements to the show. It's a cool vibe. We still retain a lot of elements that make Zion I who they are. We're doing completely avant-garde jazz stuff now. We're sticking to the Zion I aesthetic. I'm never trying to replace Amp. It's just a different vibe. From an outsider's perspective, what do you think about the whole Amp Live/Zumbi thing? It sounded like they were going different ways. If you've been watching Zion I for years, Zumbi has been doing his solo thing, Amp has been doing his solo thing. It's more of a formal announcement. Amp has put out I don't know how many albums in the last couple years. Zumbi has worked with other producers. Their individual aspirations have just come to the forefront. That's just what is. I'm excited to see the new incarnation of Zion I. It sounds all positive. I'm looking forward to seeing how it evolves. It's like a continuation. He's been on my albums and we have built a lot of things together. I'm putting my next album out on his label. We're going to be rocking together for awhile. What is a live show like now on this tour? Like I said, I feel like you're going to get a lot of what you've been seeing from Zion I; heavy beats, high energy. We're able to expand more musically. Having me as a keyboardist and having a dope drummer, we're able to add special elements to the tracks. It makes it more of a fluid, musical show. There's a positive vibe for sure. When people hear The Rapture live album, we used a seven-piece band and that was really a dope experience. People loved it. We had trumpets, violins, and all that, it was very expansive musically, but we still retained that Zion I aesthetic, like I said. That's always the goal. I feel like I'm already winning because I've just gotten you to speak to me more than Amp Live has spoken to me in the six years since meeting him the first time [laughs]. [Laughs] Wow, that's crazy. I'm definitely a little more outgoing.