The Burnerz is a collaboration between emcee Zumbi from Bay Area group Zion I, and Houston-based producer The Are, who has worked with everyone from Keyshia Cole to Canibus. While you might expect a Houston producer to sound like UGK, The Are shows that he can lay down some laid back West Coast grooves with the best of them.

The first couple of tracks do have a more aggressive Southern style to them, with a more straightforward beat and minimal synthesized instrumentation and ominous background vocals. The songs are okay, but seem just a little forced and don’t quite click with Zumbi’s rhymes.

However, the game changes when we get to “The Edge,” the album’s fourth track. The Are lays down a solid groove based on a Curtis Mayfield sample, and everything falls into place. Zumbi suddenly sounds more comfortable and the rhymes flow effortlessly off his tongue as he talks about dealing with life’s difficult choices. Martin Luther provides a great hook with his soulful and heartbreaking vocals, and The Grouch lays down a killer verse as well. I do have two complaints about this song, though - it’s too short (I’m never ready for it to end), and I wish I had this song to pump all summer long.

Other highlights on this album include “Peace,” “For My Folx,” “We Were Kings,” and “Fly Wit Me.” When the production is popping and Zumbi gets into his groove, the album is a great listen. The real gem of the album comes from the title track. It’s an old school boast rap, but the jazzy bass line that The Are puts down is undeniable. You’ll be swaying back and forth before you realize it.

As an emcee, Zumbi is politically minded and tries to keep a positive mindset in his rhymes. On a song like “We Were Kings,” he discusses the good and bad of his past, but tries to focus on what was good and what he can take with him moving forward. This perspective comes through over the course of the album.

It takes a couple of songs for the album to get going, but it’s worth the wait. Once Zumbi and The Are find out what works, they are able to lay down some amazing music that will make you move your body, but also make you think, and even resonate on some deep emotional levels.