The Bay Area’s Zion I crew, made up of producer Amp Live and emcee Zumbi, have always been known for their incredible consistency and diverse musical palette. While they got off to a rough start, over the course of the group’s career, they improved with time, gaining a loyal following, perfecting their sound, never afraid to think outside the box. Although the last project released from within the crew, Amp Live’s Murder At The Discotech, went a little too far left field and was panned by critics. Had Zion I finally fallen off?
Atomic Clock is proof that everything is fine within the Zion I camp, with Amp’s experimental solo release a mere chink in the collective’s armor. As the group’s seventh LP, it once again shows remarkable consistency, with full-bodied, intelligent music that works as a much needed break from the norm.
Without sounding cliche, Zion I’s music doesn’t necessarily condemn today’s rap scene (thankfully), instead it exists within it’s own universe, almost as if the other stuff doesn’t exist. Songs like “Always” and “4U” find Amp Live providing lush sonic backdrops made up of 808 basslines, with live instrumentation and full choirs on top of it. Drawing influence from a number of sources, we hear elements of Parliament Funkadelic on “The Sealing” or Fela Kuti on “Signs of Light”, but the closest rap comparison would be Blackalious, which can be taken as the highest compliment possible.
Zion I doesn’t really break new ground musically, but that’s not a bad thing, as they deliver their same brand of consistency we’ve seen from them in albums past. One spot where they do pull the curtain back is on “The History”, which offers a behind-the-music look at the journey the group as taken thus far.
Zion I may not be a sales juggernaut, and they may get strange looks from today’s younger, uninformed rap generation, but they’ve always made honest, quality music that goes beyond the standard boom-bap blueprint. Hopefully this Atomic Clock keeps on ticking.
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