MUSIC BOX: Emcee Finesse

By on November 3, 2015

Lyrical prowess care of Zion I returns to the valley. 

Zion I plays Town Square Tavern Friday.

Zion I plays Town Square Tavern Friday.

Jackson, WY – There are so many reasons for checking out Zion I this Saturday night at the Town Square Tavern but don’t go for the novelty of seeing a hip-hop show in a mountain town. While It would be nice to think the days of eclipse-like appearances by MCs are past, the real reason to see Zion I is his belief in his work and his eagerness to ply his craft in any setting. From this perspective, novelty gives way to passion and that’s what concertgoers can expect at the Tavern on Saturday night.

The Oakland-based Zion I has left an indelible mark on the hip-hop scene turning heads with an impressive collection of over two dozen EP and full albums. Early notables include his 2000 release “Mind Over Matter” which set his pace with some heavy-hitting collaborations with Grouch and an approach to lyricism that would let him feel at home with numerous genres. Collaborating through the years with hip-hop luminaries like Devin the Dude, The Roots and Kendrik Lamar, and reggae/rock giants like Rebelution and Matisyahu, Zion I shows a resistance to the pigeonhole trap that can stifle a career and a hold back an otherwise great artist.

Nowhere is this better on display than the newest addition to the Zion I collection – “The Rapture: Live from Oaklandia. Recorded live from the Catalyst Club in Santa Cruz, Calif., Zion I rediscovers some of his classic cuts but with full, live band arrangements for backing. The addition of horns bolsters the soulful backdrop of his conscious approach to lyrics. It takes a special talent to reimagine tracks that could have lain dormant and stood the test of the time, but to reconfigure them and hit listeners with something fresh is more than impressive.

Adding to this year’s releases is the “Sun Moon and Stars EP,” the final piece in a trilogy of EPs highlighting, among other things, the tensions between urban communities and police. With a heavy tour schedule on top, it’s obvious that Zion I is not content to sit still. And 2016 will be punctuated by the release of a full solo album, a new Zion I/Grouch/Eligh collaboration and a new project with Locksmith.

The mere fact that this artist routes his tour through Jackson is lucky and getting two shows in one year (he played here in February) means even more. PJH

Zion I, 10 p.m., Friday at Town Square Tavern. $15 at Tavern liquor store or online at

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