[Click Here to read Part 1]
Flatbush Zombies may be tight with The Underachievers crew, but they also have some very clear differences separating the two crews, which were evident from the moment that they took the stage. The primary lyricists, Meechy Darko and Zombie Juice, were both sporting grills–Darko with dreadlocks in a Cincinatti Bengals jersey and Juice with a burly beard and bleached/dyed hair. In contrast to these 2 emcees was their producer, Erick Arc Elliott, who was decked out in a simple plaid button-up and a baseball cap. Although Erick “The Architect,” is the one responsible for the Zombies‘ beats, someone else was standing behind the console on this night–more than a beatmaker, Elliott is an equally talented MC, providing verses of his own these days. All three of the members have known each other since childhood, with Juice and Darko only jumping into the music game more seriously within the last couple of years–Elliott‘s been producing music since he was 16; they’re all in their early twenties, at this point. I would suggest looking up some of Erick‘s solo work on Youtube, because he’s created some really impressive stuff in his own right, but it’s on a much more mellow tip than the stuff that he’s been pushing out with his crew. Overall, Flatbush Zombies are just a much more grimy outfit than everyone else on this bill. If there’s anyone validating the adoption of the term BEAST Coast it’s these guys.
Since attending the show, I’ve looked into the Flatbush Zombies further, delving into video output (they have a handful of them), but prior to that, I was unfamiliar with their work. Fortunately, being fully versed on their catalog was not a prerequisite for enjoying myself. They were definitely the most high energy act of the night and their sound was also the most aggressive. Elliott doesn’t get redundant with his beats, but he’s demonstrated a penchant for venturing into some stark cinematic soundscapes for his work with the Zombies. Tracks like “Thug Waffle” and “Mraz” are hazy cuts supported by deep, heavy kicks paired with quick shuffling Trap music snares. “S.C.O.S.A.“, takes those rapid fire Three-6 Mafia-style beats, lays them over deep grumbling tremors of low end, and mixes in demonic growls and an eerie Omen-esque sample, which results in somewhat of an intense Brotha Lynch Hung-meets-Mystikal horrocore vibe for the track. F or the most part, they make music to be engulfed by as it blends with blunt smoke, but that doesn’t mean that they are afraid to take things into extra grimy territory when it calls for it. Their song “Face-Off” samples audio from news broadcasts about the infamously bugged-out, naked Florida man who was caught munching that homeless guy’s “face off,” and the Zombies are even featured on an A$AP MOB track titled “Bath Salts.”
Not everything is so overtly “conscious” or about “spiritual” elevation with these guys; they were screaming out things to the audience about drug use in a manner that made it clear that, sometimes they just really enjoy getting fucked up, for the sake of being wacked out of their heads. The Zombies are a rowdy crew with what is a positive energy, for the most part, but intensity is intensity and when objects were thrown onto the stage, Darko wasn’t afraid to threaten to beat someone in the audience’s ass, if it continued. It was only a momentary, and warranted, bump and, after that, things were back on schedule, the positive mood resumed, and everyone could get back to enjoying themselves.
Like The Underachievers, these cats are all hardcore into eating psychedelics (except for Elliott) and, like all three groups on the bill, they are also really into smoking herb and rapping about it–specifically, sour diesel. That whole element is really intriguing to me, because back in the day, it was extremely rare to hear anyone in the rap game refer to eating LSD, unless it was someone like Detroit underground legend Esham (he’s, actually, rapping about MDMA and DMT these days). Hell, it’s still incredibly rare. LSD is a fascinating drug and, although I haven’t done it in about a decade, I’d still have to say that it was probably my favorite. Those who don’t know like to associate the metaphysical, third eye focus (all 3 crews on the bill are heavy on this concept), psychedelic hippie magic shit with flowers blooming and spinning around in the sunlight, but those who have eaten a ton of acid, know that it actually gets a lot more wacked out and darker than that. There’s a cheekbone tightening, teeth grinding, chain smoking, skin shedding, intergalactic worm hole in the forehead, demon evaporating, electric blood poisoning, energy surge to it (take a look at the Beast Coastal tour flyer, itself, for example).
Western culture is typically drawn to superficial, physical elements and so, there are a lot of people eating psychedelics simply to activate, or magnify their physical senses, hoping for tripped out visuals. But the term “psyche” is defined by the meriram-webster dictionary as “soul, personality,” with a medical definition that includes “the totality of the id, ego, and superego including both conscious and unconscious components.” This is where the reference to being zombies partially stems from; the killing off of ones identity, the embracing of a spiritual rebirth, and the idea of continuing to walk and experience a physical plane after a psychedelic experience has ruptured your established sense of self and restructured your entire emotional and spiritual composition. [I’m not sure if I’ve spoken on the topic before, but that’s extremely similar to the reason that I’ve been writing under the name of “Dead C” on this very site for the last 7 years]. Hip hop has become a culture that has increasingly promoted the concept of egotism, over the years, so, if you’re coming from a place promoting the loss of ego, even a little bit, as Flatbush Zombies are, then you’re also going to be contributing some fresh, left-field viewpoints into the mix, by default, as well.
What really sets the Zombies apart is how they process information and in what form they release it. UA tends to focus on the mind expansion that they’ve experienced through their psychedelic journeys and they revel in it, rapping about those experiences and consistently expressing the importance of elevating their minds, etc. (their website domain is even ElevatedNations.com). Although they also touch on similar concepts, Flatbush Zombies don’t focus on that angle as much, opting to run wild in their rotting skins and fucking with the environment around them, which they have discovered is little more than a giant cardboard reality. And how can you not live, at least partially, in an alternate reality, when your life has become so surreal. Juice has a kid to raise and Darko has stated that, before he started focusing on rap, he really didn’t have anything much else going for him, at all. Then, within a couple of years, these guys found themselves featured on a track with RZA that appeared on the legendary WU Tang mastermind’s Man With the Iron Fists soundtrack. I guess that I really haven’t been paying attention, like I should have been. Wel.. we’re definitely paying attention now.
(covering the Joey Bada$$ and Pro. Era set)