Zion I Crew x lespecial
+ late night set from lespecial
w/ special guests TBA
Monday March 12
at Aisle 5
9pm / $12adv / All Ages
Bay Area hip hop icon Zion I “rhymes with tremendous urgency and remarkable skill. Alternately abstract, spiritual, and socially conscious, Zion I is an MC of limitless potential (AV Club).” Backed by the apocalyptic dub-indie-fusion of the progressive rock power trio lespecial, this show takes flight.
The collaboration of Zion I and lespecial is a great example of the imagination’s power to blow apart genre and convention. A lauded Bay Area emcee, rocking stages since the late 1990s, and an up-and-coming progressive rock trio from Connecticut don’t immediately seem like a great match, but these are artists who are already independently known for bucking tradition.
Since 2000’s debut album Mind Over Matter established producer and emcee Zion I as one of the most forward-thinking artists of the conscious hip hop movement, the Bay Area icon has managed to transcend the world of hip hop through collaborations with the likes of Bassnectar and tours with a remarkably diverse array of artists, such as Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley, Matisyahu, Linkin Park, Kendrick Lamar, Wu-Tang, The Roots and Flying Lotus. As Okayplayer explains it, Zion I’s “…strength lies in the same areas where many artists falter– evolving without abandoning tried and tested methods.” Two dozen albums, EPs, mixtapes and collaborations after Mind Over Matter was nominated for Independent Album of the Year by The Source, Zion I’s 2016 release, The Labyrinth, was lauded by Pop Matters as “…a timely new album of politically engaged hip hop”. The Huffington Post stated simply that the record “is as heartfelt as it is badass”, and a great representation of Zion I’s progressive, stay-true-to-the-core lyricism and soulful delivery, in a record fueled by social and political woes, personal challenges and triumphs, family and spirituality, seen through the prism of nearly two decades of speaking truth to power.
lespecial carves their own path in contemporary rock music, pole vaulting over traditional genres in an effort to synthesize the diverse musical idioms that have inspired them as listeners and artists. Deeply influenced by hip hop, dub, metal and progressive rock, lespecial is an airtight power trio who, as childhood friends, play off of a lifetime of shared experience in their writing and performance. Jon Grusauskas, moving seamlessly from guitar and keys to vocals and samples, dances around the upper end of the musical spectrum, anchored by the broad, melodic embrace of low end wizard Luke Bemand and rhythmatist Rory Dolan.
In the Fall of 2017, Zion I and lespecial were introduced by their agent and asked to do a simple collaboration for a festival set, which proved to be a game changer for both artists. lespecial asked Zion I to drop some flow on an instrumental track, “Sound That We Do”, and the powerful vocal and lyrical performance ended up on lespecial’s album Cheen, released on Halloween, 2017. Zion I also performed with them at their annual lespectacle event and CD release party in Brooklyn, and there are plans to record an album in the Spring of 2018.
The strength of the Zion I x lespecial collaboration lies in the underlying originality and power of each component. Injecting splashes of color into the heavy groove, lespecial simultaneously supports and propels Zion I’s stage presence and delivery, as he “…rhymes with tremendous urgency and remarkable skill. Alternately abstract, spiritual, and socially conscious, Zion I is an MC of limitless potential (AV Club)”, and with a band like lespecial at his back, the result coming from the stage is mesmerizing, inspiring and powerful.