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by Marlon Regis
10 February, 2003@12:00 am
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As easily as most of the hip hop massive missed out on Zion I’s 2000 debut, Mind Over Matter, let’s face it – this gourmet-prepared, nutritional offering on their sophomore release, Deep Water Slang V 2.0, isn’t going to easily lure the average listener away from their customary quick-fix of processed chart-toppers. Instead, the slow and patient development of Zion I’s hand-crafted musical and lyrical floetry pushes them into becoming near-masters of a new revolutionary direction, similar to cats such as Common, Dead Prez, Blackalicious, and Talib Kweli. On this fine-tuned LP, the Oakland-based duo of producer Amp Live and emcee Zion, prove to fans of their previous work, that they’re indeed on a quest for something holy and somewhat heavenly. To help in this pursuit for the afterlife of true hip-hop achievement, they’re meticulous in using homegrown talents such as Goapele, Pep Love, and Martin Luther, just to name a few.

Slightly cosmic, yet powerfully driving Oakland’s ‘black-panting’ trunk of funk, the album’s pushy first tracks, “The Drill” and “Warrior’s Dance” featuring Pep Love’s unhidden lyrical weaponry, charge forward with a bass-full force that never looks anywhere but straight ahead at its opponent – anything resembling oppression. Zion’s flow is so passionate on these tracks, that the periodic mentions of names like ‘Hannibal,’ ‘Nat Turner,’ ‘Stokely’ and ‘Huey’ pelt you back into a time wen Blackexploitation themes were necessary like the Afro-pick. What’s so amazing about the depth of their slang is that, as militant as this early picture may seem, we are introduced to a world so beautifully depicted by surreal sounds on cuts like “Finger Paint” featuring songstress Susie Suh and emcee Dust. Her coffee house alternative tones, together with splashes of electric guitars make this one of the album’s most infectious. Still their abstract artfulness exposes itself, as Zion’s emotional nakedness lay bare for the drip-drop colors of melodic violins to pin-stripe his conscious into stillness on “Sorry”. Keep your head nodding to the yoga-styled “Kharma”, where Zion tells stories of how a little boy is on the wrong path in life, and that payback is inevitably going to fall right back in his own lap.

Although Zion I’s lead single, “Cheeba Cheeba” featuring Aceyalone was the one to hit you over the dome first, it’s one of the few cuts, with others like the beat-boxing “Kick Snare” or bonus track “Rock Ya’ll,” that float the closest to the ear’s surface. Outside of these shallow attempts (hey, nobody’s perfect), you’ll honestly wear-out the laser optics when shooting this CD up your veins listening to Goapele’s vocals on “Flow,” also featuring The Grouch. Whispering her incense burning smoke-patterns throughout the atmosphere, she rinses your heart with a soulfully hip chorus-hook on “Boom Bip”, that’s ideal to spark one to. Speaking of sparking one, hit the West Indies with their international communication as they re-program the SP-1200 into a vicious dancehall riddim on “AEIOU,” a wicked, wild and versatile taste for the curry crab & dumplings crew! And as if this weren’t enough reachable power in connecting to markets beyond the red, white and blue, they dive deeper on “Mind Blow,” their follow-up to 2000′s “Inner Light” which perfectly blends Drum + Bass with Hip Hop – mashing it up every time, seen! Overall another solid release from the Zion I massive.

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