Live Up Records, 2004
This sampler from the rap duo Zion I features contributions from a variety of underground Bay Area artists, including Lyrics Born and Vast Aire. This is a solid release—rhymes are tight and the production is thick and vinyly. Highlights include “Act Right” with a smooth, catchy break and smooth-flowing MCs. “Sirens” has allusions to George W. Bush and the Iraq war and exhorts, “Put the guns away.” “Dumb Down” effectively mocks gangsta rap, with a label exec saying, “Can’t you guys get shot or something? …I need to sell records!” A couple of tracks use pitched-up vocal hooks similar to some recent mainstream rap tracks, but Zion I keep things underground with cutting-edge lyrics and plenty of deep samples. Despite the “Special Mixtape Edition” sub-title, there’s no beatmixing here. Still the tracks go together well, and skit fillers are minimal. I’m definitely looking forward to Zion I’s third full-length this spring.