Zion 1 & Deuce Eclipse, Club Triangle, Osaka, Japan (by Sam Frank, The Oceanboom)
Hey man, I just caught an amazing show the other night at the club. These three cats, DJ Amp Live, MC Zion, and Deuce Eclipse, out of the San Francisco Bay area, tore it up for a packed house of Japanese folks. Hold up! Did you just say that west coast music is dead? Before I go off and smack you upside the head let me educate you in the ways of the west.
For years the west coast has been the home of innovative and thought-provoking music in America, but it was the experimental psychedelic rock movement of the 1960’s that initially gave the west coast scene exposure. Artists such as Jerry Garcia (The Grateful Dead), Jefferson Airplane, Janis Joplin, Santana (led by Carlos Santana), and Jim Morrison (The Doors) all played major roles in developing music for future generations to use as inspiration. The Monterey Pop festival, one of the first gigantic rock festivals in the U.S., also took place on the west coast in 1967. It was at this festival the world was introduced to the fire igniting guitar antics of future rock’n’roll hall of famer, Jimi Hendrix. That’s all good for rock fans, but what about hip-hop?
Let’s fast forward to the 1980’s where Ice-T’s, “6’n Da Morning” got some national recognition. Other early west coast hip hoppers included King Tee, Toddy Lee, Egyptian Lover, World Class Wreckin’ Crew, and the Arabian Prince. It wasn’t until N.W.A. released Straight Outta Compton that west coast music once again achieved national exposure.
What people don’t know is that while “gangsta rap” was creating a media frenzy in the west, the sound of the underground was flourishing. Groups like Hieroglyphics (Del Tha Funkee Homosapien), Rappin 4-Tay, Too Short, and many others were putting out music consisting of amazing lyricism and true-to-heart stories, other than gang-bangin. This is where Zion-I and Deuce Eclipse fit into the equation. When some ignorant person states that west coast music is dead, they are really referring to “gangsta rap,” like the music put out by former label, Death Row Records. But if you take a look at the underground you will find a slew of talented musicians.
Back to my club story; I was in this club in downtown Osaka, Japan called Club Triangle. Once the clock hit 1:25 a.m., these two guys walked on stage. The first one was this tall guy who was sportin an Afro, MC Zion, and the next was a Nicaraguan dude with 2 really long braided pigtails, Deuce Eclipse. Once they got on stage this tall and sleek looking DJ, Amp Live, got behind the wheels of steel and pumped out a beat. As the crowd was bouncing to Amp Live’s beat, MC Zion started his rap, and about 10 seconds after, Deuce jumped in and the show truly began. These guys were on the ball, placing their strong proverbial lyrics over the carefully calculated beats of the DJ. All the Japanese people in the audience, as well as everyone else, were taking pictures and waving the “Westside” gesture with their hands. There was one song during the set where both Zion and Deuce synchronized their voices and started to rap in speeds that exceeded 120 beats per minute without pausing for breath. That was impressive.
After their show I got a chance to talk with Deuce and Zion, and they were both very cool and down-to-earth people. While this was Deuce’s first trip to Japan, Zion has played here before. Their performance was definitely well received by the audience, and after the show their autographs soon became a hot commodity.
Overall, MC Zion, Deuce Eclipse, and DJ Amp Live brought a true authentic west coast feel to the Japanese hip-hop fans. In a recent interview with Switch Magazine, MC Zion expressed how, “Hip hop is a culture that can’t be bottled up and sold on the shelf. It can only be found out in the streets or in the heads of people who experience the world with open eyes.” It is people like Zion-I and Deuce Eclipse who help unite the world through underground hip-hop. They are proof that the west coast music scene is not only alive, but continues in its long tradition of producing innovative music for the world to enjoy.