Zion I is another group out of the prolific west coast underground scene. Ever since their 'Inner Light'/'Rap Degrees' 12" came out in 1998, I've been checking for a full length from them, and now 'Mind Over Matter' is here. The album opens up in a weak way with 'Revolution,' which is on some crazy up tempo, futuristic, b-boy ish. It's also one of Zion's poorest performances on the album.
'Critical' follows this, and this is where it starts to get good. 'Critical' is a dope joint featuring Planet Asia where he and Zion I trade verses over some a hype beat. Another cut along the same lines is the posse cut 'All The Way.' 'All The Way' also has dope production and features some others from the west coast underground scene. However, my favorite skill-showing joint has to be 'Rap Degrees' which has a bangin' beat laced with a sitar sample, and some of Zion I's better rhymes.
'Mysterious Ways' is the token story-telling joint exploring encounters of the female kind. The beat on this one is nice, with an Arabian feel to it. The female in this particular song has decidedly different attributes than that of the typical female who is spoken of in most rap songs, however the premise is still quite trite.
On 'How Many,' Zion I starts each new sentence asking, "How many times..." The whole gist of the song is how many times do we have to do all of these certain activities before we learn from them, and grow. All of this done over pretty tight production.
Another tight song is 'Silly Puddy' which features The Grouch. This is a track that's on the humble tip, as the emcees admit that they are God's silly puddy, and they ask him to help them do what is right. More nice production here.
The production on the album is consistently of a high quality, with most of the beats making you nod your head incessantly. The album sounds fresh throughout, due to the fact that most of the songs have distinctly different sounds to them. The beats are simply dope.
The album loses most of its points on the rhymes. Zion I's rhymes are on a conscience tip, trying to enlighten and educate. The album contains underlying Christian messages, and a definite, deliberate lack of cursing, which are good things in my eyes. Unfortunately, a lot of their messages are nothing new, and, on top of that, aren't told in any extremely fresh new ways lyrically or conceptually. The lyrics aren't bad, just not that impressive either. The songs are put together nicely, however, with good choruses, ill beats, and quality flows. The content is good, because most of the songs have a topic (can't say that for all rap groups nowadays), and Zion I stays on it.
Overall the album is quite good. The dope beats alone are enough to keep it in my rotation. The rhymes aren't groundbreaking, or super-lyrical, but they are enough to keep you interested. A good debut from a group with lots of potential...I say "pick it up."