Artist: Zion ITitle: Deep Water Slang Volume 2.0Rating: 3 1/2 StarsReviewed by: Brolin WinningAfter earning massive props for their stellar LP Mind Over Matter, (released in 2000), and dropping a gang of high-quality 12-inches, Zion I return with Deep Water Slang Version 2.0. Label drama pushed back its original street date, (hence the 2.0), but allowed them to record some new tracks, and find a more stable home on Raptivism Records. Comprised of Amp Live behind the boards and Zion on the mic, the Oakland-based duo is best known for their always-intelligent lyricism and hyper-original production steez. Mind featured several tracks with a heavy drum-n-bass influence, which, in the wrong hands, could’ve been disastrous, but they pulled it off with tremendous skill and style. On the new album, the two continue to develop and refine their sound, crafting a complete work that is rock solid from start to finish.
For “Kharma,” Amp Live’s sizzling production is in full effect, merging weirdo backward loops with punchy snares and assorted knob-twisting, as Zion sounds off about reaping what you sow. About 2/3s the way through the track, the beat completely switches up, morphing into searing sitar-meets-808 action. Meanwhile, “Warriors Dance” finds Hieroglyphics delegate Pep Love spitting revolution-inciting verses over thick keyboards, African chanting, and rowdy claps. The previously released “Boom Bip” sports trippy synth washes and snapping beats, while the aptly-titled “Rock Y’all” is guaranteed to get you hyped with its skittering strings and three-dimensional kicks.
On the mellower side of things, it’s hard not to dig the lush, jazzy vibe of “Flow,” (featuring The Grouch, Goapele, and Vinroc), complete with dreamy female cooing and earthy piano chords. Zion apologizes to broken-hearted ladies over some sweet keys on “Sorry,” one of the record’s most personal numbers. Also dope is the uniquely crunchy, rabble-rousing “Mind Blow,” as well as “Dune”, a deep joint touching on Palestine, the Taliban, and Mumia, set to jangly chimes and whispery flutes.
Without question, Zion I have everything it takes to blow up in a major way. While their positive/spiritual style is shared with other Bay contemporaries like Blackalicious, the duo’s unique approach to track construction is distinctly their own. Deep Water Slang is easily amongst the year’s best albums so far, and furthers their rep as one of the most creative and compelling groups in hip-hop today.