Throwback Thursdays: K7, “Zunga Zeng”

March 8, 2012

Words by Jesse Serwer—

Yellowman’s phrasing on 1982’s “Zunguzungunguzunguzeng” has been reinterpreted by everyone from Frankie Paul and Super Cat to KRS-One, Biggie Smalls and Mos Def. Our good friend and LargeUp contributor Wayne Marshall could probably write a book on what he’s called the “Zigzagging Zunguzung Meme,” if he hasn’t already. Although perhaps not one of the best known songs to reference Yellowman’s classic catchphrase and sublime delivery, one of the most explicit homages was the 1994 single “Zunga Zeng” by K7 and the Swing Kids.

K7 was a moniker taken on by Kayel of Latin freestyle lords TKA (“Maria,” “One Way Love”) following the demise of that group. In its early stages, freestyle music was actually called Latin hip-hop, something of a misnomer considering that freestyle vocalists sang, and didn’t rap. Following the decline in freestyle’s popularity in the early 1990s, however, K7 and sidekicks the Swing Kids gave New York’s Latino community a new sound more fitting of that description, full of sample-driven beats and macho emceeing that was in stark contrast to the unrequited love themes and haunted singing style which typified freestyle. Their single “Come Baby Come” was without a doubt one of the biggest songs of 1993 in the New York Tri-State area. My memories of that summer tend to blend into one long visit to Jones Beach, with “Come Baby Come” (followed by Cypress Hill’s “Insane in the Brain”) playing on everybody’s boombox.

Like much street-oriented music coming out of New York City in the early 1990s, K7’s sound was also influenced by dancehall and Jamaica, as evidenced by “Come Baby Come” and “Zunga Zeng.” Off the same album, Swing Batta Swing, but released the following year, “Zunga Zeng” was less ubiquitous and only slightly less memorable, thanks to K7 and friends’ enthusiastic and forceful delivery of Yellowman’s classic hook. Part of a trilogy of evocative clips from Swing Batta Swing in which Kayel tries to escape his woman’s wrath while partying it up in the boroughs with “the boys,” the video fits a lot of stereotypes of early ’90s rap videos: Dark nighttime shots, a staged “club performance” and a whole lot of hi-jinks. In this case, that means motorized scooters, shopping cart races, women devouring hot dogs and pizza, and a cameo from the artist’s “sister”—K7 in drag.