4:23 p.m. Sunday: Best Round-the-Clock Hip-Hop Group 

Zion-I

Most hip-hoppers can pump out a midnight club-banger or a 2 a.m. sideshow anthem. Comes with the urban territory, it seems. But there are considerably fewer acts that cut it at times when a boogie-down scenario isn't strictly warranted. Say it was 4:23 on a Sunday afternoon: 50 Cent's "In da Club" probably wouldn't make sense right about then. But that's precisely the time of day to get in tune with the meditative social commentary of "Kharma," one of the most poignant songs on Zion-I's Deep Water Slang v 2.0. The group's latest album is just what you'd expect from the East Bay's best hip-hop group. Using both acoustic and electronic instrumentation, it evokes a range of different moods and emotions that work well at different times of the day and night. "Flow" is a hopeful yet contemplative number that has sort of an early-morning feel to it. "Cheeba Cheeba," "The Drill," and "A.E.I.O.U." are designed to be heard in the evening, when the nighttime vibe requires a little more intensity. And while the adrenaline-inducing "Mind Blow" could just as easily accompany a lunchtime or after-work aerobic workout as an after-hours club scene, the melancholy "Sorry" is something for those times when we find ourselves alone -- and that could be at any time of day or night.

Readers' Pick for Best Hip-Hop Artist: The Coup

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