Zion I: True & Livin’

Zion I, 2005

True & Livin’ cover

Zion I’s third album hearkens back to the glory days of hip-hop. On “Doin’ My Thang,” jazzy live horns accompany smooth, literate rhymes. MC Zion contemplates why he raps, citing fame and female inspiration. “Bird’s Eye View” is even catchier, with orchestral samples, deep bass, and a captivating melody. MC Zion raps a love song, cryptically exclaiming, “Since I met her every moment’s like a leap year.”

The hits keep on coming! “The Bay” has double bass reminiscent of Tribe’s collab. with Ron Carter. Zion’s lyrics take a serious turn, mentioning an “AIDS epidemic that can end you too.” The funky, upbeat chorus balances his cynical catalog of Bay Area characteristics. “Soo Tall” has an unusual sound, like a high-tech hoedown with soulful female vocals. Another highlight is “Poems 4 Post Modern Decay” featuring several surprisingly serious (and interesting) verses by Aesop Rock over a powerful jazz bassline, electric guitar, sitar, and radio squelches. The production gets especially far out at the end as Zion’s lyrics become more and more paranoid: “Space-age Patriot Act (they got your phone tapped, cousin)….” This is probably my favorite track on the album.

With diverse, cutting-edge production courtesy of Amp Live, and guest spots from Talib Kweli, Del, and Gift of Gab, this album is like a who’s who of left-coast underground hip-hop. While the second half of the LP is a bit uneven, there are so many amazing tracks (production and lyric-wise), True & Livin’ is bound to become a classic.

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  1. Great album, bird’s eye view is reminiscent of i used to love h.e.r. BUY THIS ALBUM ITS PURE DOPENESS!!

  2. I totally agree, all of these tracks are masterpieces, very well put together. So tall, Bird’s eye view, Temperature and the list goes on… Some of the greatest live performers I’ve heard/ seen as well. Big up! Real hiphop is coming back and I’m definitely loving it.

  3. Just rocks. Dope Shit besides the usual gangsta stuff we’re all getting sick off. Bird’s Eye View is one of my favourites as well – how come I know the instrumental? I’m not sure, but I guess I heard it on Blame One – Chemically Imbalanced or some..

  4. Just when I thought that real hip hop was a forgotten cause, I got put on to Zion I. This new album… THE DEFINITION OF HIP HOP. The dope samples, the emmaculate flows… this shit is just mind boggeling. Thank you Zion I, for re-affirming the reasons that I love Hip Hop.

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