Zion I

This album deserves to be granted an extended shelf life not just because of its unique qualities but for the travails the band endured to get it out there. The original version, Deep Water Slang, nearly disappeared with the demise of Zion I's former label, Ground Control/Nu Gruv Alliance. But then the group inked a new deal with New York-based Raptivism Records. On the new album, the group goes against the major grains of mainstream hip-hop with both beats and rhymes. This manifests itself most clearly in the use of instrumentation such as wind chimes and pan flute in the earthy, "build rather than destroy" theme of "Dune." It's also there in "Sorry," a song about remorse and forgiveness, two concepts usually missing from the genre's vernacular. The band proves versatile in working with different tempos (ranging at times from dancehall to a fast drum-and-bass pace) and creating a complex interaction where background samples and riffs are often incorporated into the rhyme scheme (check "A.E.I.O.U." for proof). Still just below the radar but worthy of so much more.

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