From the very beginning, Zion I has defeated expectations of what one might expect from this Bay Area indie hip-hop crew. Made up producer Amp Live and emcee Zumbi, when the crew stepped on the scene in 2000 with their debut Mind Over Matter, they experimented with groundbreaking sounds that DJ’s were spinning at the time, crossing backpack beats with drum-and-bass rhythms. Ten years later, Zion I has kept abreast of the game by adapting to the various sounds and styles in hip-hop and other styles of deejay based music.
With The Takeover, the group’s sixth album, the group has evolved yet again, with a sound that can be only described as their own. Without sounding forced, Zion I infuses their own style to mesh with today’s sounds, whether employing 808 bass and screwed samples popular in the south of America (“Takeover”, “Country Baked Yams”), or with baile funk beats popular in South America (“DJ DJ”). Yes, producer Amp Live digs that deep.
Not missing a beat, listening to the album throughout, most heads won’t notice any drastic change-ups when these new styles are implemented, as they mix perfectly with the group’s signature sound. Songs like “Antenna” and “Coastin’” are beautifully executed examples of their soulful, laidback style, just before they switch it up to channel Fela Kuti with tribal drums and horns-a-plenty on “Legacy”.
Best of all, it’s not just about the beats either. Zumbi tackles a wide variety of topics on the record, making this one of the most diverse records of the new year. “Peppermint Pattie” bangs with marching band drums as Zumbi tells the tale of an unfortunate drug addict, while “Bring In The Light” describes a possible future that finds an oil driven government running the world as the United States of Europe. Most impressive is the two part “Caged Bird”, where guest Brother Ali and Zumbi search for a better world.
Once again, Zion I have churned out another rock solid release, going above and beyond the call of duty. In an industry where it’s impossible to find a solid album anymore, it’s nice to know that a group like Zion can still do so, and still manage to surprise us with their sixth album. – Pizzo
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