Zion I recently released their 7th album, Atomic Clock. I have always looked at them as sort of a West Coast version of Gang Starr where the DJ does all of the beats and the emcee handles all the rest. Not that there are really any other similarities between Amp Live and Premeir or between Zumbi and the late, great Gifted Unlimited Rhymes Universal, but that dynamic is just as powerful in this younger left coast edition. Let's start with the soundbed, Amp Live's half of the load. I am forced after listening to this album to put Amp near the top of my most underrated list.
From the minimalist 808 dominated thump of the album opener "Always" to the awesome live instrumentation of "4U", Amp is able to craft grooves that not only make you wanna move but will have some, hard pressed to believe that they all come from the same guy. He experiments with reggae on their collaboration with Rebelution, the very appropriately titled "Many Stylez" and even offers what I think is a more classic hip-hop sound with "Polarity" which features Macklemore and Locksmith (who I hope to hear more from soon also). Now that I think of it, maybe he and Premeir have more similarity than I previously noticed. I could go on and on about the music but I think time is better served by simply saying this: there aint a beat on this thing that don't bang! As for the lyrical side of this coin, Zumbi (or Zion as he has been known for most of their career) is absolutely stellar. I am impressed by not only the fact that he flat out refuses to dumb himself down but he is one of the most courageous emcees in the game right now. You tell me if you know of another male artist that would dare spit a chorus espousing the supremacy of love (Love conquers ALWAYS, gotta keep your head up). I mean who does that?! Where is the substitution of materialism for achievement, the denigration of women masquerading as braggadocio, or even the insertion of violence as the supreme conflict resolution tool? Zumbi seems to have totally disregarded the current radio hit playbook for a genuine appreciation of the responsibility of the artist to use their art as a means of communicating thoughts, ideas and dare I say inspiration. Wow! I don't know what drove him to do it, but I sure hope he never stops. I feel like I lose an IQ point every time I listen to WakaFlaka, Plies and many others but with Zumbi, even if I don't literally learn anything new from what he says, his lyrics make me feel like I did or at least that I could learn more with a little effort. The power in what he does cannot be overstated. While some artists songs sound dated and ridiculous after a mere few months (Im tempted to but I wont call anymore names), his lyrics remain evergreen. Speaking with conviction about matters of substance, just never gets old. Hard to lose when you are playing at that high of a level. I won't bother to elaborate on his use of themes that hold meaning for far more than just the hip-hop generation on "North Star" or his impeccable storytelling on "The History". Its better to just finish up with this...It's a crime that Zion I are not big stars with their music played on every urban station every 15 minutes like some other acts but don't let this crime happen to you. Go out and get Atomic Clock as soon as you can, like Drake says, you will thank me later.