15 Songs, 42 Minutes

EDITORS’ NOTES

Parental Advisory: Explicit Lyrics.

EDITORS’ NOTES

Parental Advisory: Explicit Lyrics.
TITLE TIME

Ratings and Reviews

4.9 out of 5
8 Ratings
8 Ratings
Drizzlesqueak ,

Dope.

I thought Amp Live being absent from this album might diminish the production a bit… And I was wrong. The beats groove, bump and bang.. all the while Zumbi navigates the dopeness of the tracks with his smooth flow

Alex Dionisio ,

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

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.

Libertysands ,

Instant Classic

I knew this album would be dope after I heard the Stay Woke Mixtape. It's on repeat. Definitely one of the best Zion I projects g favorite song is Wingz

About Zion I

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 borrows from hip-hop, trance, drum'n'bass, and reggae, Zion I's style is equally mystical and mystifying.

Zumbi and Amp Live formed Zion I in Oakland, CA in 1996, and produced several self-released cassettes. The duo slowly made inroads while opening for rap royalty like De La Soul, Rakim, and Run-D.M.C. Their debut album, Mind Over Matter, was released by Ground Control Records in May of 2000 and featured tracks from their previous cassettes and singles, as well as collaborations with fellow Bay Area rappers Rasco, Planet Asia, and the Grouch. This was also the only Zion I album to feature DJ K-Genius, who subsequently left the group. Sophomore album Deep Water Slang was scheduled for release in 2002, but its distributor Nu Gruv Alliance shuttered, and the album was delayed until 2003, when it was reconfigured and released as Deep Water Slang V2.0 on Raptivism Records. The album spawned several singles and music videos, and was more commercially successful than their debut. Zion I released several mixtapes on their own Live Up Records, leading up to the release of their third album, 2005's True & Livin'. The album featured guest appearances by Talib Kweli, Aesop Rock, and Del tha Funkee Homosapien. The duo's fourth album, Break a Dawn, was initially only released in Japan in 2006, but was subsequently released internationally. Also in 2006, Zion I recorded Heroes in the City of Dope, a collaborative album with the Grouch, which Om Records released toward the end of the year.

Following this album, Zion I released a few more mixtapes, and contributed guest appearances to albums by Ty, CLP, DJ Deckstream, and others. The Takeover, the duo's first album for Gold Dust Media, arrived in early 2009, and featured guest appearances by Brother Ali and Devin the Dude. Atomic Clock followed in 2010, also on Gold Dust Media. Heroes in the Healing of the Nation, Zion I's second full-length in collaboration with the Grouch, appeared on Z & G Music in 2011. Zion I released their 2012 full-length Shadowboxing on Live Up Records. Following this album, the prolific duo decided to focus their energy on creating EPs. The Vapors appeared in 2013, followed by The Masters of Ceremony and Libations (both 2014), as well as 2015's The Sun Moon and Stars. ~ Jon Azpiri

ORIGIN
Oakland, CA
FORMED
1996

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