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Shadow Boxing (Deluxe Edition)

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Album Review

Zion I is a Bay Area hip-hop duo comprised of MC Zumbi and producer Amp Live. Their previous work has tended to focus on live instruments, but on Shadow Boxing they dive deep into an electronic space, enlisting the help of such producers as Bassnectar, Traxamillion, and DexBeats as well as guest rappers like Goapele and Collie Buddz. "This is an album about metaphorical kicks and throws at oneself," says Zumbi, "looking inward at the shadow self, and seeking awareness in the darkness of one's own psyche." If that sounds suspiciously like twaddle, don't worry about it: Zumbi is much more coherent when he's rapping, and his flow is razor-sharp and absolutely disciplined. Even more importantly, the beats are consistently world-class: Bassnectar is in top form on the acid-funk banger "Human Being," while "Sex Wax" features some wonderful dancehall toasting from Collie Buddz and "We Don't" brings Zion I's Bay Area compadres Grouch and Eligh on board for some tag-team rapping. One or two tracks hit less hard than the others, but in each of those cases it's because Zion I took a risk and it didn't quite pay off — and the willingness to take musical risks is one that needs to be encouraged in today's hip-hop world. Most of the tracks on this album succeed wildly and completely.


Formed: 1996 in Oakland, CA

Genre: Hip-Hop/Rap

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

This duo of genre-bender pride has made a name for itself on the Bay Area scene by successfully mixing spiritualism and hip-hop. Oakland's MC Zumbi and DJ/producer Amp Live blend hip-hop and trip-hop beats with lyrics focused on a message of unity, hope, and spiritual awareness. Although Zion I operates out of Berkeley, the pair originally met in Atlanta, making their music difficult to classify as strictly West Coast hip-hop. Their musical style makes them even harder to define. With a style that...
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Shadow Boxing (Deluxe Edition), Zion I
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