featured REVIEW


Zion I & The Grouch Heroes In The City Of Dope OM Records • 2006

In 1989, the legendary gangsta rapper Too Short crowned Oakland the 'City Of Dope', ('I’m from the town called the city of dope, it couldnt be saved by John the pope') referring to a hustler’s wonderland where drugs, hoes and money reign supreme. 17 years later, Zion I (producer Amp Live and MC Zion) and The Grouch (Living Legends) revisit this song’s theme and add something positive to it in a collaboration album that was bound to happen ever since their first appearance together, 2000’s 'Silly Puddy' on Zion I’s 'Mind Over Matter' LP.

An intertwinement of progressive, multidimensional production by Amp Live, the imagery raps of Zion and The Grouch’s earnest raps make them heroes of their own kind, leaving behind a sonic legacy that belongs to the best in hip-hop for 2006 and beyond, a mixture of the emotional and the raw, of passion and consciousness. Although this album is packed with old school references, it doesn’t relive the days of Oakland’s Digital Underground, E-40 or Too Short, but furthermore introduces the world to that typical hyphy sound blended with a strong 'underground feeling'. The hyperactive old school drum patterns, created by electronic equipment, leave behind a 21st century sound that finds its roots in the late 80's, backed by a range of live instruments enhancing the rich and colourful sound palette that this album really is. Guest producers are Crown City Rockers' Headnodic, lacing the funky up-tempo beat for the wanderlust anthem 'Trains And Planes' ('Sunsets forever, that’s just my pleasure') and even playing the guitar in the ode to The Grouch’s newborn daughter Rio, '10 Fingers, 10 Toes, 10 lbs, 10 oz' ('You’re the reason why I come home faster', with The Grouch even admitting that he’s changing diapers), Living Legends’ own Eligh ('Lift Me Up') and The Grouch himself ('Open The Door').

Topics range from praising women ('An open letter to you, sister, mother, wife and girlfriend’) in the guitar-tinged 'Make U Fly' ('She’s the sky to my dirt road, not the target of my aggression, stresses and sperm loads') featuring soul siren Esthero, the Homeland Security Act in 'Current Affairs' ('Something’s in the water, they wanna vaccinate my faith, ain’t got enough dollars') and both rappers condemn today’s digital world and cyberspace posers, whose Myspace page is the only reference they have, in the sax- and trombone-infested 'Digital Dirt' ('You just a profile'). 'Too Much' wouldn’t be as complete as with Chali2Na, who spitfires his turbo flow over agile drums, while hyphy icon Mistah F.A.B. helps turning 'Hit Em' into the album’s first radio-friendly single, that competes with the lively dub of 'Trigger' for title of 'club banger'.

Zion I and The Grouch aren’t the heroes in the City Of Dope –right, Hiero?- but they are forever enclosed in the annals of Oak City hip-hop history with an album that outstands in freshness and innovation, ending in our top-5 of these year’s releases. Topnotch!


POSTED ON 11|21|2006 by cpf

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