Friday, October 21, 2016

Zion I helps us navigate through 'The Labyrinth' of life in new album

The Labyrinth by Zion I
The now two decade long career of Oakland, CA’s Zion I (emcee Zumbi and formerly DJ/producer Amp Live) has surely been without commercial embarrassment but not without several great successful albums, though the journey certainly wasn’t a cakewalk. Label shifts and not enough recognition and acceptance from the mainstream for many of their LPs kept them motivated, on the move, and a mostly underground diamond in the rough. One thing is for sure however: they could always be counted on to make pure hip-hop music that is at the very least good but very much remarkable most of the time. Prior to today, their last studio LP, the winning Shadowboxing, dropped in 2012, and now, The Labyrinth LP (Oct 21, Mind Over Matter) fantastically follows suit for the now solo Zumbi, who has recruited a panel of producers including Ariano, Mikos, Teeko and Decap for the music beats.
The genre-bending and genre-blending musical style that has so magnificently marked Zion I’s run is again in fun unique and original form here, finished with well balanced sound-mixing and professional mastering and complimented with heart-to-heart rap verses. Each one teach one or when possible each one teach many is the philosophy in Labyrinth in order to escape the maze of modern day society. In representing the traditional Zion I stance of freedom, Zumbi cuts himself away from mainstream thought and harmful groupthink in “Wings,” and in “Let Me Be,” he is hip to the dirty ways of the industry, testifying that “it’s evident most rappers are rapping irrelevant, nonsense lyrical concepts are venomous, pedaling toxic ideology” and that those particular rappers do it strictly for the dough (not good). Later, in “Cold Game,” he tests the temptations and trappings of the showy glitzy status quo rapping about “lost ones caught up in fashion” and warns us saying, “caution, noose for a necktie but ‘everything is awesome,’ all about that money but that money never made a man.”
Zion I is one hundred and ten percent dedicated to spreading positive, warm loving vibes geared toward optimism, but he is also watchful of the existing demons that pounce so by no means is he off guard or too trusting. This tone can be found in the firm drum beats and Zumbi’s strong conscious vocals, as any fan can attest to. Other very noteworthy sections include the love sent to good fathers in “Not Ur Fault” and “Sauce” looking at the poor immigrant experience in America with advice to steer clear of the culture’s negative influences and “okey doke.” All play out to a cool backdrop of broad-ranging music, integrated tastefully into the tracks. The Labyrinth follows the general format, structure and outline of your typical hip-hop album with some bouncy rocking party-ready songs, but that’s fine because its nondenominational, nonreligious spirituality not to mention its vast knowledge and wisdom in super strong messages make the LP another fabulous endeavor for this true prophet from the West.
4 out of 5 stars

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