Potential can be a bitch. Proclaiming that a group "has potential" is a backhanded compliment at best, implying it may be decent or even great in the future -- but only in the future. For the past few years, Zion I has been heralded (or dismissed) as tomorrow's bride, the next group to break out of the Bay Area's underground hip-hop scene -- some day. But with the release of True & Livin', it appears that day has arrived. Blending needling, razor-sharp introspection, blazing-red agitprop, and panoramic street reportage, MC Zion wears his heart on his sleeve and his beliefs on his cuff. But he never sounds like he's pandering to emo sensibilities; his rhymes seem as effortlessly revealing and intricate as the early work of Nas. From the jazzy atmospherics of "One Chance" to the sullen swank of "Poems of Pomo Decay," Amp One's productions are no less evocative. Everyone from Talib Kweli to Gift of Gab, Del Tha Funkee Homosapien, and Aesop Rock shows up to lend support to what is clearly Zion I's coronation.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.