On Zion I's 'Tech $,' an Affordable Housing Crisis Turns Personal

At a time when evictions, soaring rent prices, and shuttered art spaces are such commonplace headlines in the Bay Area that our eyes have begun to gloss over them, there's something to be said for the power of a personal story.

That's one take-away from this music video for "Tech $," a new song from the veteran Bay Area hip-hop crew Zion I. With lyrics that reference turning "Mission Street into a lounge act" and gentrification's strangling effect on Oakland's soul, MC Zumbi laments the market forces that have driven middle- and working-class people out of both San Francisco and the East Bay.

Notably, there's nothing theoretical about those words: Earlier this year, the rapper got notice that his landlord -- the owner of the Oakland home he and his family had been renting for years --wanted to sell.

"The market was obviously super hot," Zumbi told KQED Pop via email of his housing situation. "[The owner] offered to sell to me, but I was in no position at the time to purchase a home that needed some work for $750,000. Thus, I was forced to move."

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He decided to shoot video while his family was packing up the house, to drive home the song's rather straightforward message.

"I wrote the song out of frustration with trying to find something affordable and being abruptly introduced to skyrocketing rent prices and hordes of people eager to pay," he explained. "It was a transitional moment in so many ways that I felt it was an opportunity to capture the reality of the situation."

Zion I -- whose lengthy catalog is rich with local pride -- is currently on tour for the summer; you can check dates and more here. When Zumbi does come home, he'll be coming home to San Leandro.

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