Recycled Rock N Roll

Recycled Rock N Roll

Friday, October 28, 2016

Zumbi, Zion I and The Labyrinth - Music

On October 27, 2016 hip-hop mastermind Zion I (aka Zumbi) released his highly-anticipated album, The Labyrinth. Produced by fellow artists Ariano, Mikos the Gawd, Teeko and Decap and featuring performances by Deuce Eclipse and Codnay Holiday, Zion I’s latest creation also has Mind Over Matter Records to thank for its manifestation. Only shortly after the staggering success of his latest single and hit video, “Tech $,” the Oakland, California resident, activist and musician has a lot to say with The Labyrinth…and it is worth losing yourself inside this original work. Here are some reasons why.

This is Zumbi’s first solo album. The twists, turns and passages that take you from track to track wind you through ferocious, inspiring highs and deep, soulful lows. “Not Ur Fault,” written in honor of the artist’s father, is also a dedication to his own sons. Only a truly talented bard can sing solemn songs of sadness to other warriors with conviction, and it is a thought-evoking piece any man or father can relate to. The opening piano notes are going to stop you in your treads. The lyrics will remind you to feel, more.

“Smoked,” another something to enjoy along the winding journey through The Labyrinth, bounces with digital delight and pleasantly pummels the biological audio receptors with thrumming beats and reverberating lyrics. This is the kind of beat to play big and loud in order to make the crowd jump to that old-skool funk groove.

Oakland is a city with a history of activism going back many bloody decades. Zumbi is no stranger to fighting the power, especially at a time when Black America is under fire, coast to coast. "From hip hop, to the executions of black males by police, we are at crossroads," says Zumbi, "As father of 3, I have to do my best to prepare my children for the world they will inherit." Of all the songs on the album, “Let Me Be” is a stern reminder that there are still many, many reasons to protest abusive power that still requires severe correction. Literally opening with an alarm bell and replete with pulsing notes and atmospheric beats, this track isn’t just a shout, it is a roar.

Every good labyrinth needs a minotaur, just ask Theseus. Tracks like “Wake Up,” “Smoked,” “Let Me Be” and “God’s Illa” (featuring Deuce Eclipse and Viveca Hawkins) are powerful pieces that make up some of the monsters of Zumbi’s marvelous maze. You don’t have to be fast to be hard, and the pulsing loops, ambient warps and disco-laces notes that infuse “God’s Illa” make it a powerful contest winner all by itself. Gone are the days where the album you bought had two good singles and nothing else to look forward to. Zion I doesn’t ever disappoint, but it is almost life-affirming to encounter a record like The Labyrinth that sails strong from song to song, stem to stern.

I appreciate good retro disco. Many California hip-hop artist seem to magically know this, and the music they conjure is best to my ears when they feature chords and notes that echo with that groovy enchanted neon beat. “Sauce” has that feel. It’s warm and brilliant, the kind of song to light up high and cruise low slow to. Not fast, not slow, just as strong and chill as a glacier sliding across the sea down in Antarctica, majestic and deep.

The last track, “Departure,” features a child’s voice imploring us to love people and do better for all. A simple message. Easy to dismiss, in these cynical times. We have to remember to do better for each other and the next generation or everyone will suffer equally. It isn’t comfortable to face the harsh truths of America’s injustices, but you can’t work towards a solution unless you identify the problem.

I don’t always give albums an “A” but this one earned it. That’s hard to say, too…I listen to more music than my mind can remember. Zion I’s new album has a lot of modern originality intermixed with what you loved growing up. Trust the journey this album takes you on to the point of getting lost on the way. Once you take a solid walk inside The Labyrinth other albums aren’t going to measure up to your newly expanded, pleasantly enlightened standards for a long, long while.

Oct. 12: Moe's Alley, Santa Cruz, CA
Oct. 13: Hopmonk Tavern, Sebastopol, CA
Oct. 15: Stonehouse, Nevada City, CA
Oct. 16: Harlow's, Sacramento, CA
Oct. 21: Hawaiian Brian's, Honolulu, HI
Oct. 22: Hilo Tavern, Hilo, HI
Oct. 23: Hard Rock Cafe, Lahaina, HI
Oct. 27: Wonder Ballroom, Portland, OR.
Oct. 28: Hi-Fi Music Hall, Eugene, OR.
Oct. 30: Nectar Lounge, Seattle, WA.
Nov. 25: New Parish, Oakland, CA.
Nov. 26: Soho Lounge, Santa Barbara, CA.

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