Zion I - Family Business      
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written by Low Key    
Those who think the west coast is dead must not be in tune with Cali's resurgent underground scene. Zion I is one of those groups that is leading the pack and proving that the west coast is far from over. Consisting of MC Zion and producer Amp-Live, the duo has been hit with critical acclaim ever since their debut album "Mind Over Matter". But it wasn't until the groups sophomore effort, "Deep Water Slang" that the mainstream press started to take notice. With their combination of socially conscious rhymes and soulful production, the duo earned nominations for Independent Album of the Year by both The Source Awards and the Vibe Awards in 2003. While Zion I may still not be a familiar name to the average Hip Hop head, the group is looking to change all of that in the coming years. The crews newest release, "Family Business", is a compiliation/mixtape that features Zion's extended family, and acts as a solid foundation that should help in the building process.

Along with some help from Lyrics Born, Vast Aire, A-Plus, Pep Love, Encore, C Rayz Walz and Raashan Ahmad, Zion I puts together an extremely satisfying effort that is much more than a mixtape. While the abundant amount of guest appearances may seem like an overload, most of the album is held down by Zion I themselves. As always, the duo provides that socially conscious Hip Hop fans have come to love from the group. The standout cut "Oxygen" touches on the social issues of our time, from racial stereotypes, to war and economic struggles. " There was a time when I used to care what folks think, sniffing at my arm, hoping that I don't stink. But boys turn to men, and men turn to savages, according to US statistics and averages. And so we grow up with these hopes and dreams, like the world didn't label us as dopes and fiends".

"Sirens" is a similar attempt that finds MC Zion addressing political and community issues, as Zion sits by and watches how people waste their life away and how the government manipulates the impoverished. "The life get boring, the youth all snoring, install the draft and get the kids all warring. And bomb to the day we can bomb no more, the CIA set it off...". On the albums lead single, "Act Right", Zion, Miss Marianna and Encore discuss the ups and downs of the music industry, but unlike most efforts, the trio is not preaching or complaining, instead they offer insight. The trio really comes together for a great track, as Amp-Live laces the track with his melodic keys and soulful vibe.

Whether you are familiar with Zion I or not, "Family Business" is a mixtape you should definitely look into. While Zion maybe labeled as conscious or abstract rap, in reality they are just pure underground Hip Hop at its finest. If you love insightful lyrics, dope concepts and varied production, than Zion I is a group that is sure to suit your listening needs.

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