Beloved Bay Area rapper and Zion I member Steve “Zumbi” Gaines has died. He was 49 years old.
Gaines’ family confirmed his death to KQED on Friday, however they did not provide a cause of death.
“It is with utter disbelief and great sadness that the Gaines family shares the news of the passing of Steve ‘Zumbi’ Gaines on Friday, August 13, 2021. Gaines, 49 and the MC of the critically acclaimed hip-hop group Zion I, passed away at Alta Bates Hospital today in the early morning from unknown causes,” the family said in a statement.
The family says Gaines is survived by three sons, his mother and his brother.
“He was working on a Zion I reunion tour with longtime producer and collaborator, Amp Live, to honor the legacy of their musical endeavors for their fans,” the statement added.
A Bay Area native, Gaines previously rapped under the name Zion and first met Amp Live when the two were students at Morehouse College in the early 1990s. After moving back to Oakland, they formed the group Zion I.
Together Zion I released seven albums between 2000 and 2012, as well as a pair of collaborative LPs with fellow Bay Area rapper the Grouch. After Amp Live departed from the duo in 2016, Zumbi continued to perform and release albums as Zion I, starting with 2016’s The Labyrinth.
Zumbi and Amp Live had recently reunited with plans to celebrate the 20th anniversary of their 2000 LP Mind Over Matter with a fall tour. Zion I also performed concerts as recently as July, Rolling Stone reports.