Zion-I Return with New Album, Studio, Remix Contest

If you've been waiting for local hip-hop to get back on track following a so-so 2008, you'll be overjoyed to know that The TakeOver, Zion-I's long-awaited follow-up to True & Livin', is upon us. Vibrantly electrified, yet too intelligent and conscious to be lumped in with the hyphy movement–2005's “The Bay” remix and the single “Don't Lose Ya Head” with Too Short notwithstanding–The TakeOver reaffirms Zion-I's status as one of the top indie hip-hop duos anywhere. Plus, it features Ty from England, Brother Ali of Rhymesayers, and Texas' Devin the Dude.

The album's release coincided with the opening of The Zoo, a West Oakland labyrinth of studios, music-related businesses, and even legal representation–which should provide much-needed industry infrastructure for the local scene, as well as a quality facility for artists to record or chill (an upstairs room had a “Guitar Hero” set-up). The entire complex looked fick as suck, and Friday's open house attracted a who's who of local artists and producers, from Goapele to DJ D Sharp to Irie Dole (Jah Warrior Shelter Hi-Fi) to Hiero's Domino to Trackademicks. Entertainment lawyer Michael Ashburne, veteran music scribe Lee Hildebrand, and N.A.R.A.S.' Merl Saunders, Jr. were among the guests munching on hot links, spring rolls, and chocolate-dipped strawberries. To the attendees' delight, Papa Zumbi and Amplive previewed some tracks off the new album during a quick live set featuring a drummer, R&B vocalist, keyboardist Kev Choice, and guest emcee Deuce Eclipse. New songs like “Geek to the Beat” got the industry crowd hyped, if not ecstatic, although the true test will come tomorrow (Feb. 17) at 330 Ritch, when Zion-I do a full live set.

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