Zion I built a small but dedicated following the right way: It independently released a terrific, genre-bursting debut (2000's Mind Over Matter), popped up on compilations, and built a grassroots fan base one live audience at a time. Unfortunately, like far too many gifted rap groups, it then fell victim to the record-industry slump. Shortly before the intended release of Deep Water Slang, the group's record company (Ground Control/Nu Gruv Alliance) went out of business. Zion I bounced back by signing with Raptivism, the socially conscious label behind the stellar compilation No More Prisons. Producer Amp Live and rapper MC Zion live in the Bay area, formed Zion I in Atlanta, and signed with a New York label; that helps explain their expansive, fearless sound, which draws on many genres and regions without being overly beholden to any. An ideal follow-up to a groundbreaking debut, Deep Water Slang 2.0 builds on Matter's strengths while adding exciting new dimensions to the duo's sound and lyrical content. Perhaps the most prominent of Slang's innovations lies in a heightened sense of political consciousness. The disc retains Matter's emphasis on spirituality and personal growth, but adds a bracing sense of outrage and righteous anger. Irresistible anthems like "Holler" showcase the duo's many sides: Amp Live's drum 'n' bass-informed production provides forward momentum, while MC Zion's smart lyrics fuse spiritual concerns with social consciousness to create a song as visceral, fun, and dance-floor-friendly as any Neptunes- or Timbaland-produced single. Slang lives up to Raptivism's idealism, but Zion I eschews Dead Prez-style bluntness for a voice that's quirky, endearing, and unique. Matter announced the arrival of a brash, exciting, progressive force in hip-hop, and Deep Water Slang 2.0 only confirms Amp Live and MC Zion's place as one of rap's most important and gifted duos.