Oakland, CA – Bay Area Hip Hop staple Zumbi of the celebrated duo Zion I passed away unexpectedly on August 13. Sources close to the situation revealed he’d recently tested positive for COVID-19 but was seemingly on the other side of it. However, he was then admitted to Alta Bates Hospital in Berkeley and never made it home.
Close friend and collaborator True Justice said at the time he suffered a massive asthma attack and was unable to recover. But according to an article by the S.F. Chronicle, Zumbi — born Stephen Gaines — was involved in a “physical altercation” at the hospital and pinned to the ground by security. He was also reportedly handcuffed once police arrived.
Officers quickly surmised he was in need of immediate medical attention, but life saving measures were unsuccessful. Berkeley police are reportedly investigating his death as a possible homicide, although Public Information Officer Byron White tells HipHopDX there’ve been no new updates on the case as of Tuesday (August 17).
But behind the scenes, Zumbi’s family is taking action.
In a press release fired off Wednesday (August 18), Zumbi’s family revealed they’ve hired attorneys Elizabeth Grossman of Law Offices of Elizabeth Grossman and Lyn Agre of Glenn Agre Bergman & Fuentes LLP to investigate the cause of death.
“We believe there are witnesses who know firsthand the facts leading to Stephen’s death,” Grossman says. “We urge anyone with information to reach out and share their knowledge confidentially with us here.”
As expected, friends and fans of Zumbi are shocked at the suspicious circumstances surrounding his death. But his Zion I co-founder Amp Live still found a way to express how he was feeling in an Instagram post.
“I have no way of really letting you know the sadness that I am feeling right now,” he wrote alongside several photos of himself and Zumbi. “I feel like I have lost part of my body. My friend, my brother, Stephen Gaines, also known as Zumbi, Baba Zumbi, MC Zion, leader of Zion I, passed away Friday 8/13/2021.
“We built something special together. Zion I was organic and was real with no barriers. We built this group from ground zero. Built something up that enabled us to travel the world, many times. My heart right now is just shattered. I would not be who I am today without my brother. Steve was an excellent father, out of this world vocalist, and the most sincere, real, loving friend anyone could have. He was something special.”
A musical tribute and celebration of Zumbi’s life is being planned for Sunday (August 22) at the Township Commons at Brooklyn Basin at 1 p.m. in Oakland, California. Fans are encouraged to “breathe and be still as [the family] gathers the necessary facts surrounding Steve’s departure.”
In the meantime, Zumbi’s family has shared the flyer to the Zion I Instagram account. The caption reads, “Please join us to celebrate the life and legacy of our brother Stephen Brett Gaines a.k.a Baba Zumbi of Zion I. Bring a shining light for our loved one.
“We ask that you bring your memories in your heart and good energy so that we may heal in this time together. Feel free to spread the word and we look forward to seeing all of you this Sunday. This is an outdoor event and masks are required for everyone’s safety. Let your inner light shine for our comrade. He will be with us in spirit. In honor love and light.”
A GoFundMe campaign has been launched to help support his three young boys. Find it here and check out the flyer below.