April 26, 2011
El Rey Theatre
Los Angeles, CA USA
Review by Roy Turner
Photos by Benjamin Twichell
Zion I And The Grouch
West Coast hip-hop crew Zion I & The Grouch have teamed up again to follow up 2006's Heroes in the City of Dope with the new LP Heroes in the Healing of the Nation. The new effort features guest shouts from Freeway, Fashawn, Casual, Mystic, Eligh, and many others.
The album has been praised among hip-hop circles for its pioneering sound (provided in large part by Amp Live's creative skills) as well as the positive messages it provides in a world of hip-hop lacking just that. It is one of the few hip-hop albums that have absolutely no swear words, and thus can reach a much larger segment of the youth culture with its mature and positive messages.
A lot of folks talk a big game about making the world a better place, but West Coast rap stalwarts Zion I & The Grouch have dedicated a major part of their tour to actually making it happen. Their "Healing of the Nation Tour" is donating portions of all the tickets sold to local non-profit organizations along their tour route. In Park City, the donation is going to Arts-Kids, a group dedicated to helping at-risk kids via artistic expression.
The tour is a testament to the lessons and messages Zion I and The Grouch address in their album -- with each stop of the tour having a different local charity attached to it.
AmpLive of Zion I entered from stage left with his MPC guitar - an odd contraption that sent oohs through the crowd. The set began with the new album's first track Invitation featuring the poetic words of Brother Ali. Zumbi and the Grouch followed in AmpLive's footsteps, entering the stage for the second track off the album: "Leader." After playing several more tracks off the new album, AmpLive picked up his MPC guitar again and completely surprised the crowd with some DubStep. On top of the live DubStep, Zumbi and Deuce Eclipse laid down freestyles; I was blown away by this whole sequence of events.
The rest of the set was a suite of new tracks, and Zion I's biggest hits - Coastin', Don't Lose Ya Head, etc. Codany Holiday's vocals were incredible, often sounding more like an instrument than a human voice. Mid-performance, the music stopped and the Grouch began talking about the purpose of the tour - to heal the nation. He encouraged moderation in drug use, and cut himself short before he disapproved too heavily of certain lifestyles in the room. Zumbi backed up the Grouch's talking points and elaborated on the concept of healing through music. And then Healing of the Nation, the most epic song off the new album - which sounds more like a heavy rock song than hip hop but is absolutely spectacular - was sparked and the crowd went into another frenzy.