Flatbush Zombies deliver captivating hip-hop on sophomore album
Ryan Israel | Wednesday, April 11, 2018
Flatbush Zombies is an East-Coast rap team pushing genre limits.
After amassing a cult following throughout New York City and on Soundcloud, the group’s three members — Meechy Darko, Zombie Juice and Erick Arc Elliott — released their official debut LP, “3001: A Laced Odyssey,” under their self-owned label Glorious Dead Recordings. The debut album is a spaced out and trippy project that differs from Flatbush Zombies’ earlier work and constantly shifts from energetic highs to dark lows. But, on their latest release, “Vacation In Hell,” the trio further progresses, shying away from nothing while delivering a versatile hip-hop style that bends genres and hits hard.
The hard-hitting Flatbush Zombies style that emerged on their mixtape “BetterOffDead” appears early on “Vacation In Hell.” The first cut, “HELL-O,” drops the listener into the rap group’s booming world without a road map or compass. Each member of the crew lands punches with their hard bars, yet none of them have the goal of being the strongest rapper on the track, but rather they seek to assist one another in the creation of a pulsating jam.
Also falling into the category of ‘bumping rap songs’ is their track “Headstone,” the first single released from “Vacation In Hell.” Produced by Erick Arc Elliott and featuring verses from each member, it overflows with references to the group’s musical inspirations, almost as if it is a competition among the rappers to see who can drop the most references. It’s fun to try to catch each reference, as they allude to artists from Notorious B.I.G. and DMX to Eminem and Kanye West.
The most intriguing song from “Vacation In Hell,” however, is undoubtedly “Crown.” The track features rock band Portugal. The Man, who skyrocketed into popularity in 2017 with their hit “Feel It Still.” Flatbush Zombies cooked up a trippy remix of the song in 2017 and must have gained the attention of the band, who provide the breezy chorus on “Crown.” The tune is a testament to the group’s ability to bend genres — it’s a captivating fusion of alternative rock, hip-hop and pure psychedelia.
On “Trapped” and “YouAreMySunshine,” the trio attempts to master a conscious rap style that they have not previously flirted with. Both tracks feature poignant lyricism which tackles the troublesome issues the group has faced. On “Trapped,” Elliott and Darko reveal the mental illnesses that plague them both. Darko’s verse is one of the album’s darkest points as he rambles on about his struggles with suicidal thoughts and depression saying “I got a bad case of 4 A.M. regrets / You know, like when you can’t sleep, laying in your bed / Replaying all them things you wish you never did.”
In the same vein, “YouAreMySunshine” is a heartfelt message from Meechy Darko to A$AP Yams, the founder of A$AP Mob and leader of the Beast Coast rap movement, who passed away in 2015. Over the sounds of a thunderstorm and a simple piano, Darko goes solo and grieves the loss of his mentor. The track is dark and somber, a far cry from the album’s opening luminary bangers.
The two latter songs reveal an open and vulnerable side to the trio that is juxtaposed with the thug rapper persona portrayed on the album’s earlier tracks. Flatbush Zombies’ ability to pivot from a rough and tough style to an honest and genuine one on “Vacation In Hell” gives the album a sense of completeness. With 19 songs and a 76-minute run-time, the Flatbush trio’s sophomore album runs long, yet this extra time allows the group to experiment with a multitude of styles and produce a number of excellent tracks.
Artist: Flatbush Zombies
Album: “Vacation In Hell”
Label: Glorious Dead Recordings
Favorite Tracks: “HELL-O,” “Crown (feat Portugal. The Man),” “Ask Courtney”
If you like: Joey Bada$$, Vince Staples, A$AP Rocky
Shamrocks: 4.5 out of 5