A King has passed.
Zeebo was one of a kind and two of a pair. To see Zee on stage was an unforgettable experience. And when united with his brother Rootz to form See-I, the result was almost too good to be true. A double-barreled blast of vocal synchronicity, swapping – like a fluid – through the lingos of ’70s Funk, Reggae, Hip Hop, and Radio Rock. Two preternatural charismas in motion. Disparate directions coming together in one moment: something impossible, sounding exactly as if it were meant to be. There at the creation – a hidden piece to a nascent Thievery Corporation puzzle.
In the late fall of 1997, Rob and Eric asked me to bring my sitar and tablas to join them onstage for a couple un-rehearsed Thievery DJ performances opening for Cornershop and Gus Gus. Their only warning was that the ride to New York with the singers might be a non-stop conversation that could cover any and every topic. With no crew and no plan, I was prepared for at least a fizzle. But the beats hit, Zee took the mic, and I’d never seen anything like it. The two brothers harnessed and reciprocated the energy from the audience like it was something physical to be toyed with. And just as Pam Bricker became a musical mentor to them, honing their curiosities, they became mentors to me. And I’ve spent most of these last 25 years trying to stay close to their side. (And the conversation never did stop.)
“Sounds from the Thievery Hi-Fi” had made Rob and Eric noteworthy as DJs, but it was the inclusion of Zeebo and Rootz that turned their DJ set into something special: a spectacle, something memorable, a Show. Without them, there would be no Thievery Live Band. They were the progenitors. And though the years would see Roots and Zee move away from the Corporation and focus on See-I, the energy and vibe they planted at the beginning is what inspires and sustains any member who ever plays a part in the Live Band.
Offstage, Zeebo’s star seemed – impossibly – to shine even brighter. An easy-going personality that put everyone at ease provided him with a passport to every layer of humanity. The millionaires of Aspen, the fans behind the bus, the staff at the hotel; they all listened intently and laughed heartily as Zee rolled off a story, only to realize, days later, the nugget of wisdom that had been left to grow in their minds. Lucky were those that got to see him perform, luckier still were those of us who spent time with him personally. His musicians, his friends, his Family.
His personal health battle over the last year proved the depth of his fight. For fight he did. He left this life like he left every stage he ever took: drenched and drained of all he had, leaving with nothing left to give. A humble, kind man winding his way through a complex world with a spliff in one hand, a mic in the other, and a faith in Jah in his Heart.