Zion I are one of the most consistent groups the Bay area have produced that put forth a non-gun toting/thug-esque persona. From "Mind Over Matter" their following and buzz have deservedly grown, and through hard work and solid produced from Amp Live, they've formed quality songs one after the other.
"True & Livin" is definitely a gem, an album with a variety of well produced and performed content that fits together. It begins with an infectious track, hypnotizing the listener and slowly moves on to discuss Hip Hop in various forms, discussing their area ("The Bay") and talking about love, relationships and day to day life situations ("Temperature"). All subject matters are examined carefully and articulated in a catchy manner, but the point remains defined.
One of the album's strongest tracks comes as a surprise "Poems 4 Post Modern Decay" has Aesop Rock providing guest verses. The chemistry between Rock and Zion is phenomenal and the beat seems designed for Aesop in it's dark feel. Another exceptional track is "Next To U," a love song with such a sensual feel that you can't help but want to throw it on a mixtape for your girlfriend.
With a wealth of respect from their peers, it's no surprise to see some of California's most noteworthy artists appear alongside them upon "True & Livin." Gift of Gab (Blackalicious) aids Zion upon "Stranger In My Home," a track that talks about Hip Hop as if it were a household whereby it's no longer recognizable after intruders have taken over. Both emcees control their metaphoric references so smoothly that sometimes it's hard to notice whether their referring to the genre or an actual intruder in their house. Including Del on "What U Hear" was far from a bad move, as the recently quiet emcee dominates Amps beat.
There are some touch and go moments with "True & Livin," but not many. "Oh Lawd" features a subtle guitar lick, and a preachy feeling hook. The verses work amazingly, but the hook portion feels over the top. "Soo Tall" is another track which doesn't sit as well, the fast paced country feel doesn't suit Zion as well as the other more grounded beats.
All in all, "True & Livin" is the perfect next step in Zion I's direction of providing a catalogue to be revered.