Zion I's Home Life

BY Del F. CowiePublished Jan 1, 2006

Despite their burgeoning rep as one of hip-hop's most creative and experimental outfits, Zion I decided to change up their approach when they moved out of their home studio. "Having a studio in your house, it's like every day you're kicking it, mixed with making music sometimes," says MC Zion. "Having it outside our crib made it more focused. It's like going to the studio is going to work."

The fruits of their labour are evident; True and Livin', their third album, is their strongest to date and stays true to the group's inherently eclectic approach. While past efforts dabbled with drum & bass and delved into melodic electronics and live instrumentation, this organic effort represents the most potent synthesis yet of their spiritually-infused hip-hop.

"We wanted to make an album with a little more fire," says Zion. "Sometimes people hear our shit and are like, ‘It's cool but it's a little abstract.' We kept elements of experimentalism but also tried to make something that hits you right away."

Zion's lyrics are unwaveringly personal and political, addressing the group's Oakland surroundings more explicitly than before. "When we made [our debut] Mind over Matter, we had just moved to the Bay area," says Zion. "I was still soaking it up. At this point we've been here like nine years. I think we're a bit more firmly entrenched in what's cracking out here."

While they are in tune with Oakland's present, they are also cognisant of the past; the record connects the musical dots traversing jazz, blues and hip-hop. "We've found this point where we're definitely not rich as hell, but we love what we're doing and we have a degree of success at it. It's an interesting place, where we are, 'cause we can say anything we want. There's no corporation around us to say anything, so it's like balancing that with being grown-ass men. We're looking at the music as mature adults, but still bringing fire and making it exciting and hype, but not frivolous."

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