- The ReMINDers: No more screaming like Whitney.
The artists on Antoine "Samir" Zamundu's iPod range from dancehall provocateur Sizzla to hip-hop evolutionaries Eric B & Rakim. In fact, it was the latter duo's 1987 hit, "Paid in Full" which Samir says he can still sing line for line that first inspired the Colorado Springs emcee to become a musician.
Aja Black, Samir's wife and partner in the ReMINDers, cites even more eclectic influences.
"I used to scream Whitney Houston's 'I Will Always Love You' at the top of my lungs," she says of her early vocal influences, which went on to include "Steel Pulse and Etta James, Steely Dan, Billie Holiday, Lauryn Hill, the lead singer from the Cranberries, Bjrk and Queen. I love Queen."
Luckily, you don't hear a lot of Freddie Mercury on the duo's newly released CD, Recollect. The 15-track debut opens with testimonials from Colorado hip-hop luminaries Black Pegasus and DJ Bedz, before moving on to reggae-influenced tracks like "Black Roses" and "The Way It Is." The latter's buoyancy, says Aja, came from a conscious effort to recapture the feel of classic Steel Pulse.
Other tracks move into more traditional, though no less accessible, hip-hop terrain. The original rhythm track for "If Only I Could Fly" was bequeathed to them by stic.man after the ReMINDers opened for his group, Dead Prez. When its originator decided to use it for his own record, the duo recut the song for their album version.
"Why have two songs with the same beat?" asks Samir in regard to the original, which is still available on a mixtape the duo sells at shows.
Born and raised in Belgium both he and Aja are military brats Samir was still in high school when his family relocated to the Springs. It was here that he formed his first group, Accumen, which shared many of the same influences as the ReMINDers.
And it was also here that he met Aja, who originally hails from New York's Hollis, Queens (home to Russell Simmons and Run DMC). The couple began touring in 2005. One album and two kids later, their musical and marital collaboration is still going strong.
Like Dead Prez, the ReMINDers also derive inspiration from the late Malcolm X. Their song "Liberation" kicks off with a sound clip from his famed "Ballot or the Bullet" speech. Samir says he became immersed in the black nationalist's writings "back in '99 right out of high school which definitely had a lot to do with my conversion to Islam."
So has he had any luck converting Black P?
"Not yet it's a process!" Samir replies, laughing.
Having shared stages with the likes of Mos Def, Blackalicious, KRS-One and De La Soul, these days Samir and Aja find themselves performing more shows out of town (and out of state) than here at home. Having been an active presence in the local hip-hop community for more than a decade now, Samir has had a front-row view of the ups and downs it shares with the rest of the local music scene.
"It's changed drastically," says Samir. "One, because there are so many more artists, and, two, because there's less venues. It's oversaturated with artists with nowhere to go. So everyone's just bumping their heads against the wall."