|Mar 25, 2010:
|PACKING WHEAT...WITH PURP.
Next to U, Stranger in My Home
|Mar 05, 2009:
|Nov 26, 2009:
|Apr 03, 2008:
|The Twilight Zone
|Sep 11, 2009:
|Dec 30, 2007:
|The Perennial Philosophy
What U Hear
True And Livin’
1. Intro – A collage of jazz samples with a voice over about the culture of hip hop.
2. Doin My Thang – Starts out with a really rich trumpet and drops into a simple but smooth beat… has a lot of the key sounds Amp Live uses as staples… the trumpet line coming in and out really makes the track. A few little accents here and there keep the dynamics interesting. Zion’s lyrics are always stronger when rapping about himself and his own experiences and so the rhymes work… tell a story and create a good picture.
3. Bird’s Eye View – the editing on the voiceover in the beginning is a little sloppy and really hiccuped the track for me, but it’s smooth and soft. The crooning vocals on the hook harmonizing with the oboe sample were nice. The lyrics are about a love of hip hop… Zion’s journey and relationship with the art and practice expressed as if describing a romantic relationship with a woman. It’s well done and keeps the sound of the song from being too soft. It definitely has the feel of a love song.
4. The Bay – The bassline for this track is off the hook and totally pulls you in. The lyrics for this make it a culture track… an ode to the Bay Area and Oakland in particular. The soundscape elements work well to create a space and echo the lyrics. The layering on the hook is almost a little too rich but the frenzied crescendo works and it’s not over the top. My only real problem with the track is that the recording on the violin/viola and the playing are not worthy of the rest of the song and their quality brings the track down.
5. Luv – This is a tight song… the images are powerful and the production is simple but holds down the depth necessary to back the message of the vocals. The tone of the thing reminds me of an eerie alleyways scene where something ominous is about to happen; and something similar could be extracted from the lyrics except for the fact that a more positive thought succession plays out. Dark but smooth and knockin’… play it!!
6. Soo Tall – I can appreciate what this track is trying to do and definitely feel the Atlanta influence from the groups days in school and living in the ATL… but… the concept wasn’t executed in a way I can really feel it. The hand claps, the fiddle and slurred rapping just come together into a gimmick more than a space like “the Bay” does. It just seems more silly when it needed to have more of a serious feel to flesh out the lyrics. I like how Zion’s delivery reminds me of Boots though… that’s hot.
7. I need Mo – This is my favorite track so far… the elements finally come together. It has that Amp Live sound goin back to Deep Water Slang… the snare is slappin and the horns come in clean with sauce – sometimes sharp and sometimes sweet. Lyrics talk about looking for more than physical in a relationship.
8. Rockin – I love this and wish it was a full track… it sounds like something off of Deep Concentration and I wish Zion I would drop more of these types of instrumentals into their albums. A teaser like this makes me want the Amp Live Instrumental Album to be their next release.
9. Temperature – This track needed to be stronger. If this was intended to be the banger of the album featuring Talib Kweli then it missed the mark by far. Once again there is too much going on. The hook is nice but just doesn’t work for me. The song as a whole seems incomplete. I needed more development and arrangement and about a minute more for it all to be developed and fleshed out.
10. One Chance – Track is mellow but a little on the week side… the lyrics aren’t consistant to the hook to me and the images produced are a little scattered. It’s not a bad track until you compare it to an expectation of themselves. I would have liked to hear more pressure from the bass and keys… everything just sounds a little over compressed. I kinda like the sitar though.
11. Amerika – This is a harder rock influenced beat with chaotic breakdowns into different genre influences… the lyrics explore the darker actions support the strength and prosperity of the U.S… This track could have been mixed better but the elements are interesting and a step away from the norm in a good way. I like to see energy unleashed.
12. Poems for Post Modern Decay – This sounds more like an Aesop Rock track than a typical Zion I track. The two MC’s play off each other well though and voices sound good together. The instrumental elements give it a shrill quality and the whole beat evolves into a mellow undulating meandering with spoken word going over it. It’s a quality complex track but maybe not to traditional taste.
13. Heads Up – Max McVeety (Crown City Rockers) brings this track to life with a crazy drum track. He’s got skillz and we all know it, but I wish all the drums on this album were live. It brings a better energy out of Zion’s delivery. The tweeky synth fills it in just right and the uptempo feel gives just the right energy. Another favorite of the album callin out a lot of quality groups and hip hop elements.
14. Next to U – These guys are always suckers for the love songs and the smooth sounds. Zion puts together good rhymes when expressing his feelings on the subject though so it works… Amp has used some of his experience in the realms of electronica to give the track edge. The cuts are nice accents too. It’s a little synthy for me but it’s not over the top and it would mix well with downtempo tracks and other electronic genres… I can almost hear a drumnbass remix coming.
15. What U Hear – Ooh’s and strings and Ahh’s and Del the Funky Homosapien…enter the Spanish trumpet and muted guitar picking and you have a really interesting track. It’s not a all out banger but it works and it’s a good song with a lot of classic elements. The beat has just enough change ups to give the slower tempo energy and keeps it from stagnating. The hook works too. There is a hidden track in the end with call outs.
16. Stranger In My Home – I hate synth strings like this so I’m biased against this beat from the getgo. It’s soft and bluesy and has some redeeming qualities but it could have been better. I like the lyrics though… they deal with personal change and gentrification from the inside out. I wish they gave a better track to Gift of Gab – his verse is tight. The breakdowns help. Whoever’s on the hook doesn’t do it for me either. It’s an up and down track. The ending doesn’t work either.
17. Oh Lawd – This track is a cross between Little Axe, John Lee Hooker and Zion I… the chain gang feel with the huh ha’s. Another concept track that is interesting from a sound design perspective – it definitely paints a picture… one that the lyrics don’t effectively complete and thus it doesn’t really work as a song for me. I think there are ways to evoke the feeling without being so clichéd.
18. Livin – The song starts 56 seconds into the track…It’s got more of a serious tone with whispering woodwinds and a slow sporatic break. I really like Zion’s delivery on this… it’s creative, but not forced into a clichéd style. It’s emotional but steady and it’s a good track to end on. A good track to play with a mellow serious vibe.
|Doin' My Thang
|Bird's Eye View
|Post Modern Decay
|Next to U
|I Need Mo
|What U Hear
|Stranger in My Home