Yay Area duo Zion and Amp Live were at one time one of the few indy acts to get commercial love. Getting props from The Source and MTV alike for “Mind Over Matter” and later “Deep Water Slang V.2,” I always felt there were far more deserving artists out there. They made some good music on those albums, but I never liked much outside of a handful of songs. In a word, I thought they were overrated.
I can promise you I won’t be saying that any longer after “True & Livin.'” While many will argue, I think they’ve finally found their balance between experimental hip-hop and that ol’ boom bap. Both the Primo-esque thumps of “Temperature” and the bluesy “Oh Lawd” are right at home here. The album kicks off on an introspective note, and slowly moves outward. “Doin’ My Thang” professes Zion’s passion for pen, pad and mic device and the love fest continues on “Bird’s Eye View” with a Common styled extended metaphor over a slick Alan Parsons Project sample. Zion continues moving outward penning an ode to “The Bay” over a minimalist bass line and claps. While Zion goes between words of encouragement (“Luv”), to inspirational messages (“So Tall”), Amp flips between booming drums and fiddles.
Another highlight of the album is the outstanding guests. Talib Kweli rocks “Temperature,” Aesop helps slay the futuristic funk on “Post Modern Decay” and Gift of Gab tackles hip-hop’s gentrification on “Stranger In My Home.” The finest comes from Del and the ridiculous “What U Hear,” likely the gem of the album. Speaking of gems, this album is one, go get it.