Review: The Labyrinth by Zion I

The Labyrinth, the latest release from Zion I follows the releases of mixtape ‘Stay Woke’ and consciousness raising single “Tech $”. With production from Ariano, Mikos the Gawd, Teeko, and Decap, and guest homies Deuce Eclipse and Codnay Holiday, this 15 track (13 with an intro and outro) LP bangs from start to finish, solid solid reminder of the caliber of talent we all know and love. Lyrically agile and powerful as any MC, Zumbi continues to effortlessly create relevant music.

Absent Amp Live, Zion I now consists of Zumbi alone. The progressive sound of the album, which features as many elements of electronic music as it does classic hip hop, is adequately grounded by Zumbi’s powerful vocal styles and execution, and crafted in a such way that it doesn’t depart too far from the Bay Area roots typical of traditional Zion I releases.

Zumbi | Zion IBeginning with the intro, a recording of Zumbi with his children, and ending with the same, this album is instantly framed in a new tone. I think this is important for both the content of this project and for Zumbi’s first solo album as Zion I. The soul searching apparent in The Labyrinth is aided by this framing as well as by the confidence and even positive tonality with which Zumbi spits, leading not to desperate questions aimed at the ether, but instead to mature questions and reckonings about life, society, and what it means to be a father and a man.

The track “Not Ur Fault” was written the night Zumbi’s father passed last year, and in it he pays tribute to him while contemplating his own three sons. Such a heavy topic is hard to approach, especially from a positive position, but “Not Ur Fault” is executed deftly, leaving the listener basking in a feeling of soulful catharsis.

Another track, “Let Me Be”, is an indictment on the current state of Black America. “From hip hop to the executions of black males by police, we are at crossroads,” says Zumbi. “As father of 3, I have to do my best to prepare my children for the world they will inherit.”

In another track, “Wake Up,” Zumbi commands: “Wake up in the morning like Ooowwwww!” — “That’s the feeling I have everyday when I wake up and realize that I make music and perform for a living,” he says.

My personal favorites are “Dinner Time” and “Sauce.” The former’s piercing clap with rolling snare and the raw delivery by Zumbi, and the latter’s slow, spacey, and melodic tonality both got me. They also represent the great range that Zion I covers across the entirety of The Labyrinth’s track listing.

See for yourself and stream the Labyrinth LP here or purchase it on iTunes. Zion I has always delivered music for the soul and the latest release is next level. Don’t sleep. The Labyrinth tour started in Santa Cruz, CA earlier this month and will go through November, ending in Santa Barbara, CA. Check the dates on the Zion I website and grab your tickets to one of the events.

Luna Reyna

Luna Reyna (she/ella) is the founder of RIZE Entertainment. She is deeply invested in shifting power structures and centering the work and voices of marginalized communities within the industry.