A group of 15 teenagers stormed out of Huntington station at 6:30 p.m. Sunday. Some wore bucket hats and others sported oversized tie-dye sweatshirts. A couple of them rushed ahead and yelled at cars passing by on New York Ave. Others stayed back and sparked up fat joints and barked “zombies,” at each other. The Flatbush Zombies were back on Long Island and this group of teens was ready to witness it.
On the two mile walk from the train station to The Paramount, the Zombies’ venue for the night, the group stomped, stumbled and smoked while reciting Zombies’ verses. At one point, one of the teens scaled up a three-story building out of pure adrenaline. “Jump you pussy,” one of them, on the ground, shouted. But he quickly came down when another member shouted out the time, 6:50 p.m. Doors would open in ten minutes at The Paramount.
The Flatbush Zombies, a rap-trio from Brooklyn, performed their last American show of the year in Huntington. The venue’s proximity to King’s County, a hotbed for underground rap music, brought even more attention to the show. “My friend saw them in Jersey last year and they brought Joey Badass on stage,” one young female attendee told her friends.
The line outside the venue wrapped around the block. The cold December night didn’t stop fans from showing off their Zombies merch. Conversation topics in the line ranged from Kanye’s newest pair of shoes to “dope windbreakers.” While waiting, some snapchatted their other friends while others did their best to hide their mind-altering substances, which are featured in many of the Zombies’ lyrics. Suffolk County Policemen simply looked on.
The Zombies took the stage at around 9:15 p.m. The Paramount turned blue and echoed “The Odyssey,” the opening track to their latest album “3001: A Laced Odyssey.” Every inch of aerial space above the crowd was crammed with smartphones aimed at the stage. Underneath the layers of cameras, a sweaty mass of very excited fans hobbled in unison to the beat. Spontaneous mosh pits broke out in different sections. In the midst of the chaos, The Paramount’s security guards desperately looked around for the multiple people that had lit up their smokables. These policing attempts were mostly unsuccessful.
There was no backing track to the Zombies’ crisp lyrics. Either they said the words or they would allow for the energized crowd to shout them out loud. This is what a rap concert is supposed to be. While seeing thirty of Chief Keef’s friends being rowdy on stage may look fun, it simply distracts from the music. Neatly constructed studio verses mustn’t be shouted out just because of a sweaty audience. There is a fine line between a good rap show and a loud, playback party and the Zombies truly know the difference.
The Zombies pleased both new and old fans. They played “Palm Trees” for their day one fans and “Bounce” for their newer ones. Somewhere in the middle of the show, after the first wave of crowd surfers, Meechy Darko, one of three rappers from the trio, grunted “Devastated,” to which Joey Bada$$ bounced onto the stage to perform his catchy 2016 single. In between his verses, his Pro Era crew filled the spaces by rhythmically chanting “Beast Coast” and “Pro Era.” The Zombies danced around and cheered on their fellow New York peers. The crowd rapped every single word back at Joey. This wasn’t just a Flatbush Zombies show but a New York rap show.
As the Zombies’ setlist drew to a close, their banter with the crowd intensified. While Zombie Juice and Erick the Architect are mostly laid back, hippie-like performers, Meechy Darko wanted to incite a riot. He orchestrated multiple mosh pits to keep challenging and pushing the crowd. Perhaps in Darko’s eyes, this Huntington crowd was yet another animal that he was to tame for the night. Or perhaps he was just setting up the mood for “Bath Salt,” a gem from 2012 that the Zombies collaborated on with the A$AP Mob. The red-faced, panting security guards, at the front of the stage, had to deal with the blowback that “Bath Salt” brought. Crowd surfers of all shapes and sizes were plucked by the guards and safely escorted back into the crowd.
After the Pro Era crew and the rest of the Zombies’ friends left the stage, they brought their show to a close by performing an unreleased song. Erick the Architect effortlessly laid quick lines over a moody beat – a signature sound for a Flatbush Zombies song. The crowd waved its many arms in rhythm. It was a soothing end to a wild night. Before leaving the stage, Darko blessed the crowd with a short pep talk that ended in four words: “Open your fucking mind.”
Shortly after, the stage turned red and the speakers blasted “Yamborghini High,” one of 2016’s rap hits, by the A$AP Mob. The Zombies danced around for a bit, then the lights came back on and the attendees started piling out. Most of them looked very pleased. Some looked too high. It was indeed the perfect end to a New York rap show.