Zion I, a hip hop duo out of Oakland, California, usually reps a more rap style over a reggae vibe since their formation in 1996. Over recent years, however, the two have leaned more towards the latter, appearing at many a reggae-oriented festival and affiliating themselves with bands within the growing movement. When asked about their relationship with reggae, Zion I commented that without reggae, there would be no hip hop – and vice versa! A true statement, and Zion I has definitely put in the required research to be very knowledgeable on the subject of music history. Being so influenced by both genres, their music proffers a perfect blend of hip hop and reggae… until now.
Zion I commented that without reggae, there would be no hip hop
Although Zion I still holds a firm grip on hip hop forever, they leave the rapping behind on their new single “Elemental Roots”, a dubby reggae-centric riddim’and’roll kind of ode to groupies. Yes, you heard right, groupies. Just like reggae is the ‘elemental roots’ of hip hop, with the two intertwining to grow together ever since the early 1960s, groupies are the roots of touring life – always there, wrapped (quite literally) around the core of an artist’s work. Zion I recognizes the importance and necessity of the infamous women who make their mark on the road, yet simultaneously assert their perjorative point of view towards them: they are girls “on the town”, who always go “on down” before getting passed around. Always a muse, never meant for more.
The track is a simple one, with a repeating heavy walking bass riff and the usual dub amount of echoes emphasizing the lead vocals. What’s different about this song is the fact that Zion I uncharacteristically include harmonies, which ironically makes the subject matter sound sweeter than it is. But, the single is an ode, after all. Another surprising entity embedded in the track is the bridge: the listener expects a normal breakdown, yet gets served a high dose of dub paired with electric keys. The carnival-style keys play to the metaphor that life on the road is never-ending spectacle: like a circus that you’re not allowed to leave, touring is confusing, disorienting, and thrilling – to say the least. As hazardous as it sounds, it really is an easy life, just like “Elemental Roots” is an easy-listening track.
Zion I is currently curtailing the Canadian stretch of their summer tour, before heading down south along the west coast and hitting the rest of the United States. With shows planned through August 7th, there are more than a couple opportunities for Zion I fans to catch the hip hop icons in action – and bust out the live dub, too!
Download “Elemental Roots”
Zion I “Elemental Roots”
Disclaimer: All views presented in this album review are those of the reviewer and not necessarily those of Top Shelf Music.