After delving into upbeat, electronic music on 2009's The Takeover, Oakland hip-hop stalwarts Zion I enter a new phase of their chameleonic career with Atomic Clock (November 9th, Gold Dust), a moody, emotional record inspired by the group's longtime admiration for reggae and dub.
While the group's roots are still firmly planted in hip-hop, Atomic Clock’s cavernous, atmospheric vibe recalls both the classic roots reggae of Max Romeo and The Congos and forward-thinking dub mixing of UK artists such as Adrian Sherwood. "The Takeover was a very external record and we wanted to focus on fun, party music," says emcee Zumbi AKA Zion. "This one is much more reflective and internal. We didn't want to just recreate what we did last album. Art is not about living in the past."
For Atomic Clock, the duo employed live musicians to flesh out producer Amp Live's original beats and thicken the overall sound. For many of Atomic Clock's tracks, Amp would create the skeleton of the beat himself for the initial direction before collaborating with the group's live musicians to complement the sound and, in certain cases, redo the track live. In stark contrast to The Takeover, which saw Amp and Zumbi e-mail verses and beats to each other to constantly tweak each song, the group and their collaborators engaged in days-long jam sessions, for the first time in their career, to best enunciate Amp's initial idea.
For Zumbi, the writing style on Atomic Clock was much more instinctive than on past albums, and the result is a litany of emotionally introspective, brutally honest songs that both relay the emcee's personal experience and delve into weighty topics including the transient nature of time.
This extends to the title. "The Atomic Clock is the most precise timing device on the planet and I thought that applied to the immaculate timing and rhythm it takes between musicians in one room to make good music," says Zumbi. "But also, I feel that time is speeding up on the planet and it seems like it's dilating and contracting really quickly. We're living in such an interesting time and I think time is on everyone's mind in one way or another. Everything is exponential now."
On Atomic Clock, the group employs their usual mix of sonic exploration and unbridled creativity. "4U," with its choir vocals, soulful keyboards, and rock guitars, could be a lost Sly and the Family Stone track, while the horn blasts and heavy, electric guitars of "Always" supplement Zumbi's optimistic hook of "Love conquers always/Gotta keep your head up." "Many Styles," featuring reggae band Rebelution (the album also features guest spots by emcees Locksmith and Macklemore and vocalists Courtney Holiday and Crystal Monee Hall), deftly defers to the genre's roots, and the atmospheric beat of "North Star" complements the central idea of being open to guidance in one's life.
On "History," the group's most insightful and candid track, Zumbi recalls the duo's autobiography from prior to the group's formation until now. "We've been doing music a long time and sometimes you forget how long you’ve been at and how many places you've been," admits the emcee. "I think it's good to look back for a second before keeping it moving." Keeping it moving is something Zumbi and Amp Live have never had problems doing and Atomic Clock stands as another engaging expression of the group's mind, heart and soul.
Zion I On Tour 9/24: Santa Barbara, CA – West Beach Festival 2010 9/25: Page, AZ – Powellapolooza 10/5: Flagstaff, AZ – Orpheum Theatere 10/6: Tucson, AZ – Rialto Theater 10/7: Santa Fe, NM – Santa Fe Brewing Company 10/8: Seaside, CA – CSU Monterey Bay 10/9: San Francisco, CA – Summersalt Music Festival 10/12: Baton Rouge, LA – Varsity Theatre 10/13: Oxford, MS – Proud Larry’s 10/14: Athens, GA – Last Call 10/15: Tallahassee, FL – Floyd’s Music Store 10/19: St. Louis, MO – Gargoyle 10/20: Columbia, MO – Blue Note 10/21: Carbondale, IL – Copper Dragon 10/22: Madison, WI – Majestic Theatre 10/23: Grand Rapids, MI – Orbit Room 10/24: Chicago, IL - Subterranean 10/25: Millvale, PA – Mr. Small’s Theater 10/27: State College, PA – State Theatre for the Arts 10/28: Syracuse, NY – Wescott Theatre 10/29: Providene, RI – Lupo’s Heartbreak Hotel 10/30: Towson, MD – Recher Theater 10/31: Norfolk, VA – Norva 11/1: Brooklyn, NY – Brooklyn Bowl 11/2: New Haven, CT – Toad’s Place 11/4: Charlottesville, VA – Jefferson Theater 11/5: Richmond, VA – The National 11/6: Ashville, NC – The Orange Peel 11/7: Boone, NC – Legends 11/12: Santa Cruz, CA - Catalyst 11/16: Chico, CA - Chico State University's BMU Ballroom 11/18: Sacramento, CA - Sac State 11/19: Modesto, CA - Fat Cat 11/20: San Francisco, CA - Slims 11/21: San Francisco, CA - Slims 11/26: South Lake Tahoe, CA - MontBleu Showroom
MP3: Hell Razah - "Cinematic" prod. by 4th Disciple
Flips Famous Blaxploitation Names For Latest Single From Heaven Razah
Wu-Tang affiliate, former Sunz Of Man member, and Red Hook, NY native releases his latest in anticipation of his upcoming album, Heaven Razah. The track, "Cinematic," opens with the sound of a flickering film reel, setting the tone for the track's vibe; as dramatic strings intertwine with vintage movie quotes, Hell Razah is able to conjure images of classic cinema, giving the track an undeniable air of nostalgia. Throughout the song's entirety, Razah stays true to the title, referencing iconic blaxploitation film personalities including Pam Grier and Dolemite, weaving an intricate story that gives new life to the big screen characters of the '70s.
Aside from the rapper's uncanny ability to lyrically paint his own picture of a classic film, Razah's his life has been cinematic, in its own right. Heaven Razah was completed in late March and was originally slated for release earlier this summer. True to any tragic hero, Razah stumbled upon a twist in his own journey when unforeseen medical conditions landed him in the hospital shortly after the album's completion. While the emcee recovers, an amazing supporting cast of characters from his label, Nature Sounds, have announced that the album is ready for release, and will be donating profits from the album to help support Razah's family in these trying times.
Hell Razah's solo sophomore album, Heaven Razah, will be available September 28th via Nature Sounds.
In recent years, Brooklyn-bred MC Hell Razah has become one of the most prolific artists in hip-hop’s underground, releasing albums with 4th Disciple, T.H.U.G. Anglez, Blue Sky Black Death, and his super-group, Black Market Militia (Razah, Tragedy Khadafi, Killah Priest, and Timbo King). The Wu-Tang Clan affiliate and former Sunz of Man member released his acclaimed debut Renaissance Child in 2007, and fans have been eagerly awaiting his follow-up ever since. However, a health emergency landed Razah in the hospital in April, just after he finished recording his new album, Heaven Razah, to be released through Nature Sounds on September 28th. Heaven Razah marks a rebrith for Razah, who has re-fashioned himself as a modern day hip-hop prophet, spitting spiritual wisdom about the apocalypse, the presence of demons, mortality, and the afterlife.
MP3: John Robinson & Lewis Parker "Enter the Cosmos"
Here's the "Enter the Cosmos" track off of my latest release John Robinson & Lewis Parker "International Summers" Available on LP/CD/Digital on Project Mooncircle. Full Album Available on itunes! Support Real music with Substance :-)