Mar 14, 2009 - 3:51 PM
Download: The Search & The Seizure mixtape
It's been about two and a half years since Zion I—the tag team of MC Zion (aka Baba Zumbi) and producer Amp Live—teamed up with The Grouch for Heroes in the City of Dope, a quick favorite for Bay Area and west coast hip-hop followers. Now Zion I is back with their latest offering, The Takeover, another solid release that explores new avenues for the Oakland-based artists.
With appearances from Brother Ali, Devin the Dude, K.Flay and Ty, the album explores a variety of different styles deviating from their traditional, relaxed and smooth vibe. With some hyphy influenced beats, original drum tracks and socially conscious lyrics, the fifteen tracks on The Takeover combine to mark another notch on the duo’s artistic belt.
One stand out track is “In the Mornin’,” a raw song with a forceful beat and aggressive delivery. The lyrics touch on the economic conditions many have found themselves in lately, as this current economic skid leads to hard times in the job market. The poetic lyrics also talk about a young man's responsibility to feed and take care of his family, a topic that plenty of his fans can relate to. The song is one of the best on the album. Another quality track is the last. “Legacy,” featuring Ty and Jennifer Johns, has almost a salsa feel to it, combined with splashy bass and a quick and complex drum line.
One of the best aspects of this album is that there aren't two songs that sound alike, which isn't an accomplishment that comes easy. “Radio,” a fresh joint molded after an 80s pop song, is followed by the minute-long Amp Live spazz out “Gumbo” where he mixes big band jazz with warbly synths and 808 drums. From there, they move into “Country Baked Yams,” featuring Devin the Dude. The beat lands somewhere between an 80s remix and a reggae jam, with an unexpectedly cool delivery on top. The variety of style that Zion I puts down from one track to the next is outstanding.
For a group that has only been on the scene since 2000 and released six full length albums in that time, Zion I deserve a nod for never coming out with a watered-down album. Each has been solid and unique, with Zumbi’s signature smooth flow dominating a Amp Live’s creative variety of beats that borrows from different influences.
The only flaw is that the album starts a little slow, with nothing too special in the opening three tracks, but there is some real quality throughout the fifteen on the album. Hopefully it's not another few years before we see something from Zion I again.
Darren Chapel is a freelance contributor to Oh Dang!.