Houston Mourns The Loss of Zin
On Sunday, my facebook feed, twitter feed and texts started flooding in with grief stricken messages. We had lost Zin. At only 43 years old, Anthony Mills, most commonly known as Zin, was traveling with 29 year old Jonathan Nichols, a local Denver musician. The two were struck by another driver while stopped on Colorado Boulevard. Zin died immediately upon impact; Nichols died at the hospital.
The driver that caused the crash was traveling 2 times the posted speed limit. He has been taken into police custody and is under investigation for a DUI and vehicular homicide. Two additional vehicles were involved in the crash and five other victims were taken to the hospital.
Zin had recently moved from Houston to Denver with his wife and 6 year old daughter to be closer to family. He and Nichols were apparently on their way to a production session. Nichols, also known as Kokayi Danladi, was married with a 13 month old daughter. He was local to Denver, and originally from Detroit. I don’t know a lot about their relationship, collaborations or musical creations but if it was anything like what I do know of Zin’s works in Houston, it was sure to be amazing.
In the wake of her loss, Zin’s widow, Ciandra Jackson, had positive words to share. “Well, it makes me sad and I want to pray for that man that he can come to grips with what he did, I hope there is some accountability but I’m not going to put hate out there because that’s not what Anthony wanted. … His music was avenue for him to give positivity to people. …He wanted people to feel like they matter so that’s what I love about him aside from the music and all that, he just cared about people with no judgment.”
In the early 2000’s, Zin and Matt Sonzala started a show on KPFT called Damage Control, and later Zin started the Sound of Soul (SOS) show on KPFT. On Damage Control, local artists were welcomed into the studio, allowed to share their tracks and given a the opportunity to speak to Houston through a quick interview. This avenue was a path forward for many Houstonian musicians.
Most recently, Zin founded All Real Radio, a 24/7 online station that was created with the sole purpose of utilizing radio and video streaming technology to inform, educate, and entertain a worldwide body of socially responsible individuals from diverse ethnic backgrounds and socioeconomic brackets.
In short, Zin was focused on spreading positivity, uplifting others, building up his friends through thoughtful mentorship, and showcasing local musicians via his radio shows. I didn’t know Zin as well as many of my friends. But, what I knew after reading their posts was that a very large hole has been left in the Houston music community with the passing of Zin. I’d like to share some of their words with you.
“Brother Zin was one of the first people in Houston to take me seriously as a promoter and artist. When The Suffers first started, he went out of his way to play us on the radio. His desire to help others succeed was one of my favorite things about him. I feel so lucky to have known him, and my thoughts and prayers are with his family. #restinpowerZin” – Kam Franklin, The Suffers, All Real Radio Featured Musicain
“RIP Wali aka ZIN. I remember the days of “Ant” when we first entered the realms of music in the early 90s., hanging out at Claremont on the Eastside. You grew and became a force in our community through radio, performance, and influence. I witnessed you becoming a father, family man, leader… a man with strong integrity and a drive to accomplish everything you set out to do. You were kind, loving, full of positivity, and always with that infectious smile and energy! I,..we will miss you! Rest well!” – DJ Sun
“Absolutely heart broken hearing of the transition of my friend and brother Zin. Last year he asked me to paint something unique in the ARR row house and completely trusted whatever vision came.The final piece was a visual prayer invoking the ancestors to continuously bless the space every time someone looked at it. Tonight I’am going to pray in the ancient way to honor him and his family during this difficult time. He is now and forever welcome in the sacred circle of my Ancestors. May they welcome him with the light and love that he gave while on Earth.Ase — with Trickle Down.” – DJ Delsur, All Real Radio DJ
“We loved Zin. He planted seeds in all of us. AllRealRadio.com is going to be everything Zin envisioned because he made born everything he spoke. I have no doubts & I’m thankful for the support. Houston loves him. Watch out, Denver, CO & we are going worldwide forever. His legacy is not done being written.” – Deniz Yxayotzin Lopex, Zin’s Business Partner & Co-Owner, Director of Operations, Motivator, Balancer, Sister & Fire Keeper
“Zin’s last words to me were that I reminded him to never stop dancing. For a DJ, that’s a reminder though we work, we must also never forget to appreciate the work of those around us, that are like us.” – DJ Nimbus
“Just hearing terrible news about the untimely death of someone who was a huge part of my life as a Muslim and an Artist. He and others around me gave me the name Brother Jibril. Rest in paradise Zin, I love you and will miss you terribly.” – J Salaam
“Zin’s soul resonates with a rare sort of energy, the type of energy that inspires and activates others to action. Through his vitality, through his work ethic, through his joyful nature he demonstrates to me and countless others a path of relentless hope. This hope is not grounded in fantasy but instead speaks to the power innate in all of us, no matter who you are or the amount in your bank account. He proves that the world can be made better by grinding for a noble cause everyday and ensuring that you aren’t bullshitting yourself or others. For all time, Zin will be an epicenter of positivity and motivation rippling outwards through every life he touched.” – DJ Unjust, All Real Radio DJ
“The first line to a song Zin and I first bonded over says, ‘I can take you higher, yeah.’ He played this early one morning on The Rise & Grind show and it was just one of those vibes that just does something for your day! In the few short months that I got to spend with Zin, I can say his spirit, heart and attitude have only taken me higher. Those moments with him will be forever marked on my heart!” – Pamela Stamper, All Real Radio Fan
“Around 1999, my best friend Damien came home from his job with a CD. He said it was dope and that I should listen to it, figured it’d be right up my alley as our tastes we all kinds of identical when I was a late-teen. One of his co-workers at the airport had given it to him, a guy named what sounded like “Wally” to me. Damien kept hyping this CD so, we listened together in his car. I liked it too, told him to buy one for me when he got back to work…
Fast forward a few weeks later and I find myself with Damien, at a place called “Muddy Waters(?)”, and Wally (who I now properly know as Wali) is hosting/rapping/knowing every person there/& just being who everyone affectionately knows as, Zin. Damien introduces us, and Zin introduces me to every single person there it seemed. Including the guy DJ’ing who said his name was Good Grief. He and I talked about records that I thought only I knew about for a few mins, and Damien told Zin that I could DJ too. (I couldn’t at the time, at all. I hadn’t even left my bedroom yet).
“Yeah, you can come thru, spin a set.” Zin.
I don’t remember a lot of details, as that was many many years ago. I don’t even remember exactly where we were, only that it seemed to take forever to get there. Probably because I was so excited. But I very distinctly remember Zin being all over the room that night. He was super generous, and peaceful, and never stopped smiling. I had no idea that he’d be so integral in my development as an artist and a person. Or that he’d be the glue to a community filled with people that I’d come to love. That we’d have long chats at my 4th ward apartment, or be jamming out to Fela on SOS Radio at 4am when I had to be to work at 6, or that he’d engineer a lot of the sessions of the group I’d end up a part of…my stories with Zin are countless and priceless. Some I’ll think of and smile. Some I’ll think on a cry. Over time I’ll reflect on them all, share some of them, and also keep some for myself…
Always working, building, and sharing. With everyone.
RIP my man…we lost a real one in you.” – DJ Soul One, All Real Radio DJ
Though this is not the entire list, I have gathered together some moments and tributes that musicians have chosen to share. KPFT Veterans gathered recently to host and dedicate a show to Zin’s memory on The Groove, hosted by Bobby Phats:
DJ Nimbus published a tribute to Zin on his podcast:
Houston’s KHOU Channel 11 put together a tribute to Zin, interviewing Bun B, Deric Muhammad, and Deniz Lopez. Tonight, KPFT’s Damage Control show will be hosted by Matt Sonzala, who now lives in Austin, to pay tribute. Be sure to tune in from 11pm to 2am on 90.1 KPFT FM or online at KPFT.org.
There are countless recordings of Zin’s musical talents. Recently, this recording was posted to Soundcloud featuring Zin and will.i.am of the Black Eyed Peas freestyling together on Reprogram Radio on KPFT:
I am greatly impacted with the realization that some of my favorite Houston musicians, mostly those that were quoted here, were all lifted up by this man. And, I can’t help but think that part of the positivity I’ve felt while listening to their music has been passed through them via the love Zin provided. It’s as though he’s been circling through Houston for decades, lighting up a special part of these musician’s souls. So, though I may not have known Zin well, he has been quietly impacting my life for longer than I’ve known.
A GoFundMe page has been set up to support Zin’s Family and Kokayi Danladi’s funeral expenses. If you are able, please consider donating. Every dollar helps. There is also a public Facebook Group, “We Love You Zin” that you can visit if you’d like to leave a message or share something about Zin with the community that misses him so dearly.
Rest in Power, Brother Zin. You Made the World Better.