In a music world that churns out shallow albums like McDonald's fries up fast food, the Oakland duo of Amp Live and MC Zion, aka Zion I, have provided fans with their organic, conscious rhymes and original, layered grooves for nearly five years.
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Now, on the heels of their critically acclaimed debut, Mind Over Matter, the group is poised to drop their second album, Deep Water Slang version 2.0 (Live Up/Raptivism Records), a complicated, powerful and emotional melding of political personal poetics fused with soulful, electronic-inflected rhythms.
Now signed to the noted, New York-based Raptivism Records, home to such talents as performance artist, Danny Hoch, and Tahir (of dead prez), Zion I have the perfect home for their social and political inspired music.
"Zion I is a group of the future," notes Raptivism CEO Vincent Merry. "We want to be the label to bring that talent to the forefront."
Indeed, with 16 tracks of innovative, insightful street verse underlined by varied beats that draw from drum and bass, Indian sitars, and lush soul grooves, Zion I solidify their reputation as artists who forever push the boundaries of hip-hop, lyrically and musically.
"It's been a rough year for a lot of people," notes MC Zion. "I hope cats can listen and get some hope from this record."
"I changed what I did on this album," adds producer Amp Live who opted to use a wide variety of live instruments on Deep Water Slang v2.0. "I decided not to follow my first instincts as a musician but create beats totally different than what I'm used to."
And, whether it's MC Zion's militant prose on "Warrior's Dance," a furious freestyle cipher along with Bay Area stalwart, Pep Love or Amp Live's electric guitar-soaked riffs on 'Finger Paint," featuring up-and-coming Bay Area MC Dust, or the group's ethereal, neck snapping, ode to hip-hop, "Boom-Bip" with Goapele, Deep Water Slang is one of those albums that plays consistently creative all the way through.
The album's first single, "Cheeba Cheeba," featuring Aceyalone, complete with tight scratches, a bass heavy beat and tough lyrics reverts back to the Golden Age of Hip-Hop. While A.E.I.O.U, a ragamuffin-inspired club shot, is sure to bring even the squarest square to the dance floor, shows the group's remarkable versatility.
"Sorry," was recorded during a turbulent time in MC Zion's life and is perhaps the most revealing song the group has ever recorded. Says MC Zion: "A lot of men think it's weak to say sorry. But apologizing and meaning it is deep. It shows a real strength of character." Certainly, with Deep Water Slang v2.0 the same artistic vein as West Coast colleagues Blackalicious and with the legacy of such innovators of Outkast and the Roots inflecting their music, Zion I have once again composed true art, a barrage of their feelings on everything from love to family to the inherent problems plaguing our system of government. Most importantly, like the intrinsic simplicity and beauty in a drop of water, they've bared their own spirits for all to see.
"Water is the ultimate purifier," reflects MC Zion on the long process of perfecting Deep Water Slang v2.0. "After recording this album, we felt re-charged."
Listen, learn and let Zion I's sonic, spiritual cleansing wash over your soul.
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