Well it’s time to finally rap (HA!) up our series on Bay Area hip hop, and why not finish with a bang? I saved the hip hop duo Zion I for last because they deserve (in my opinion) the absolute most attention of any rappers/mcs/djs/hip hoppers in all the Bay Area, or the country for the matter. Composed of MC Zumbi and DJ/Producer AmpLive, Zion I represent the royalty of the underground hip hop scene in the US. Over the past 10 years, Zion I has produced 6 of the most consistent and prolific albums in the history of the underground. Featured on their albums, they’ve had guest appearances from countless underground all stars including (hold your breath) The Grouch, Eligh, Brother Ali, Aesop Rock, Talib Kweli, Mos Def, Gift of Gab, Del the Funky Homosapien, Mistah FAB, and a slew of other less widely known hip hop masterminds. On a more personal note, Zion I (along with Talib/Mos/Blackstar) served once as my introduction to the world of underground hip hop….. love at first sight.
Best described as a blend of conscious hip hop with mostly futuristic production, Zumbi’s idealistic socially conscious lyrics are without a doubt my favorite in all of hip hop. With subject matters revolving around social justice, cultural history, intergalactic space odysseys, love, and spiritual adventures, Zion I’s seemingly otherworldly rhymes always leave you relaxed, pensive, and wanting more.
Their first album “Mind Over Matter” displays Amp’s most raw production and Zumbi’s most passionate and pure rhyme base. As their premiere album and their launchpad into the world of underground hip hop, “Mind Over Matter” received several awards for hip hop album of the year. Over the years, their music has been mixed and molded into a ton of different forms. Most importantly, on the last two albums “True & Livin” and “The Takeover,” Amp has began experimenting more with different classical sound types including southern soul, electronica, jazz, and blues. On their third studio release “Deepwaterslang,” they even take you for an international tour by sampling Indian, Chinese, and African music while creating lyrics based around karma and life after death.
Back when IndieShuffle first started up, we reviewed their latest album “The Takeover.” While much more produced and potentially a stronger effort to break into main stream hip hop, the album definitely became one of my top few underground albums of last year. Be sure to check it out, as well as all the attached tracks to this post, each from a different Zion I album in chronological order.
Next stop….. LA! Tons of great hip hop to come, stay tuned.