You got a comfort blanket album? You know, a listen you fall back on every once in a while and feel at home? For me, that’s definitely Zion I‘s True & Livin’.
In the original lineup, Zion I was Amp Live and Zumbi, a producer and emcee duo from Oakland who became cult favorites on arrival in the early aughts. Their 2000 debut, Mind Over Matter, established them as underground phenoms, known for their spirituality, militancy, and endless devotion to the Bay Area. Zumbi has a relaxed, conversational style to his rhymes, exploring topics that range from personal, such as self-care and self-worth, to societal, like the impact of gentrification or the overwhelming experience of American life. Amp Live’s beats are sleek and snappy. Together the duo sounds very natural and composed, and by 2005’s True & Livin’, they had the dynamic down pat.
True & Livin’ was a go-to album for me over a decade ago, around my senior year in college. What still gets me about this record is that it has a soul. There is heart and warmth to these songs. Zumbi is absolutely floating on several tracks here when it comes to positive energy and compassion. Amp’s productions match that energy, and several of the songs have this natural, smooth and Southern-fied “down-home” feel about them. The album sounds so calming, like a breeze on a summer day. It’s hard to express the comfort this album brings on its finest moments (hey there, Connected).
“Doin’ My Thang” is the opener and this is what I’m talking about! It sets the mood off so well, with a stripped down sax and beat combo that lulls you into a good space. Zumbi keeps the rhymes light, talking about while everyone’s got their ways to cope with life, he finds peace and comfort in making music. It’s a moment of genuineness and cool, which makes me feel good.