Five years after their first full-length together, Zion I has once again paired up with The Grouch. When they collaborate, they really push each other to create hip hop that not only entertains, but encourages political action and community involvement. These are noble intentions, but it wouldn’t reach that many listeners unless the music was good. No need to worry - they got that on lockdown.

AmpLive, who handles the production for Zion I, switched gears from his fantastic work with live instrumentation on the last Zion I album, Atomic Clock and went back to the first Z & G album, Heroes in the City of Dope, as a starting point. This meant building beats on 808s and then filling everything out with layers of different instruments and sounds. There are elements of hyphy, dancehall, rock, jazz, gospel and R&B. AmpLive has successfully crafted music that will make you want to crank up your stereo, but also has an incredibly subtle touch that rewards those that listen carefully.

As emcees, Zumbi and The Grouch compliment each other well. The Grouch has a low voice and a very deliberate delivery, which pairs nicely with Zumbi’s higher-pitched voice and slightly faster flow. There are plenty of guests on the record, from Freeway to Roy Ayers, but they just add a little spice to the record and don’t overpower the album, which has its own distinct flavor. With lesser emcees the lyrical content could come across as a little corny, but both Zumbi and The Grouch have a great deal of charisma and believe in their message. A song like “Be A Father To Your Child” doesn’t turn me away, but instead just makes me appreciate that The Grouch felt strongly enough about his experience as a father that he wanted to share it with his audience. When he drops the line toward the end of the song that when his daughter hugs him, there’s nothing equal, it’s very moving. I can see “I Used To Be Vegan” as a dividing point with some of their fan base, only because of how strongly most vegans feel about their diet, but if you pay closer attention, it’s really more of an honest exploration about how hard it is to eat healthy and how everyone is trying to influence your food choices.

Zion I and The Grouch decided that while touring this album, they will be donating a portion of the ticket sales to a local non-profit. I commend them for taking this step, and if you wish to learn more about this, you can visit their website to see what organizations they will be assisting.

It’s a difficult task to produce an album that is engaging musically and politically, but Z & G pull off the feat. As someone who saw them outperform everyone on a loaded bill during SXSW, I can say that this album is a lot of fun. Having it make me stop and think about the personal and political decisions I make every day is something for which Zumbi, AmpLive, and The Grouch should be proud.