Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Zion I: Mind Over Matter

If hip-hop is the dead horse its detractors accuse it of being, someone neglected to tell Zion, Khalid, and Amp Live, the three ambitious, idealistic members of Zion I. Like many great rappers from underground hip-hop's current renaissance, Zion, the group's remarkable wordsmith, rhymes as if he's the first man ever to pick up a mic and get some things off his chest. Investing his lyrics with tremendous urgency and remarkable skill, he's equally at home spinning Slick Rick-like tales of Middle Eastern enchantresses ("Mysterious Wayz"), rhyming over Primo-esque beats ("Critical," which features Planet Asia), and brilliantly mixing abstract rhymes with frenetic drum-and-bass like so much delicious peanut butter and chocolate. "How Many" wouldn't sound out of place on A Tribe Called Quest's Low End Theory, while much of Mind Over Matter favorably recalls the stripped-down sound of that group's last two albums. Alternately abstract, spiritual, and socially conscious, Zion establishes himself as an MC of limitless potential, while the production juggles styles and vibes with assurance and craft. At 20 songs and almost 75 minutes, Mind Over Matter at times feels like too much of a good thing, but it's another terrific album in what's becoming a banner year for hip-hop.

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