The Beast Coast Movement in Brooklyn seems like a figment of the past. Joey Bada$$ and his Pro Era clan have already carved a path for themselves amongst their ‘90s throwback pastiche. Left-field collective The Underachievers splashed over esoteric mysticism and spun on their existential axis. Everyone else was moving on to bigger, better things. That left one group left in an obscure haze: Flatbush Zombies.
Undoubtedly the most jarring of the Beast Coast crews, the Flatbush Zombies were still in the blogosphere phase with mixtapes like D.R.U.G.S and Better Off Dead. With their off-kilter rhymes and psychedelic take on hip-hop, they arrived as a mythical and weird strain. Their LSD-happy schemes and high-times style drew criticism and applause in equal measure; some called their sound aimless, while others were even unsure of whether to take them seriously or not. With their debut album, 3001: A Laced Odyssey, the Brooklyn trio should change that narrative, as they sound more focused and committed than ever.
“This is my ghetto symphony,” Zombie Juice shrieks on the bombastic “The Odyssey”. The track works as a sort of Zombies manifesto, turning from a sci-fi anecdote to braggadocio rhymes in a split second. From the Erick “The Architect” Elliott’s eclectic production, Meechy Darko’s vicious growls, and Juice’s witty taunts, the trio clearly knows their strengths.
The production on 3001: A Laced Odyssey is some of The Architect’s best work. On “Bounce”, “A Spike Lee Joint”, and “Good Grief”, his beats linger along woozy post-high soundscapes. “Bounce”, like “Amerikkkan Pie” before it, boasts languid, acid-laced guitar flourishes. “Spike Lee Joint”, meanwhile, spurts horn samples supplemented with low-end snare snaps. “Good Grief” ends with the feather-light keyed assistance of a bedroom-eyed Diamante. From project to project, The Architect’s production carries traces of his past, yet takes on new characteristics. 3001 brings in phlegmatic, calm beats, as exemplified by the unhurried, sinuous “R.I.P.C.D.”.
In the past, that production would often overshadow his bandmates’ inconsistent rhymes. As if understanding the bar raised by the debut, Meech Juice step up. On “The Odyssey” and “Good Grief”, the harsh duo find themselves crafting some of the most memorable hooks in their catalog. You can just feel the translucent smoke rise as the blunts is passed. Meechy’s gruff paranoia turns frightening in the dark and bludgeoning “Ascension”, while Juice’s erratic rhymes bring a weird fun to “New Phone, Who Dis?”. Meechy and Juice’s juxtaposing personalities continue to compliment each other well as they seesaw between blunt and liquid delivery.
That isn’t to say that everything has changed; the group still thrives on druggy narratives filled with cringe-worthy laughs and absurd references. But they have grown up. Their immaturity and brusqueness is flavored with a new level of social consciousness and introspection. In their epic 13-minute closing track “Your Favorite Rap Song”, Juice waxes third-eye philosophical (“You could reach into your pocket, while I reach into my mind/ Clarity is so divine”) and Meech delves into unexpected spiritual territory (“Suffering would lead to the discovery of something deep/ Peace, mind, body, soul, the holy trinity”). While their high times absurdity was once their near-exclusive modus operandi, Flatbush Zombies are making strides in growing up … a little. As usual, Juice says it best: “Same drugs, same names, different places.”
Essential Tracks: “Bounce”, “The Odyssey”, and “Good Grief”