In 2002, the members of rap duo Zion I were preparing to release the followup to their critically acclaimed debut album, Mind Over Matter. When their label, Nu Gruv/Ground Control, lost its groove, they were forced to look for a new deal. During that time, the group reconstructed its album -- which had already been released to press in its original form -- and came up with Deep Water Slang 2.0. The tinkering paid off.
The album begins with a deep-water feel, as sound effects from a submarine segue into "The Drill", a spacey up-tempo jam. Producer Amp Live creatively uses sounds that fall outside of the usual hip-hop realm, from the drums, snares, sampled guitar and harps that color "Finger Paint" to the drum-and-bass style of "Mind Blow"; the group checks Afrika Bambaataa with the "planet rockin'" feel of "A.E.I.O.U."
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Rapping with more confidence and fluidity here than on Mind Over Matter, Zion gets spiritual on the song "Kharma" as he warns listeners about the effects of their actions: "Everything you do/Comes back to you someday..." he sings in the chorus. Zion speaks of his personal life in "Sorry" and continues to show off his improved lyrical prowess in songs like "Boom Bip," "Le, Le, Le" and "Dune." Yet the standout tracks are the ones that include guests like Grouch on "Flow" and Aceyalone on "Cheeba, Cheeba." On "Warrior's Dance," guest Pep Love outshines the host.
There are some shallow waters on Deep Water Slang 2.0: The production sounds low-budget, and Zion still has a way to go before he's counted among hip-hop's illest MCs. But Zion I offers a creative, heartfelt and head-nodding alternative to the 50 Cents and Nellys of the rap industry.