With their debut album, 3001: A Laced Odyssey, the Flatbush Zombies give their loyal fans exactly what they want – even if the group’s signature sound does not come off as fresh as it used to be.
The Flatbush Zombies have gained a cult following since dropping their first mixtape D.R.U.G.S back in 2012. They became part of the Beast Coast Movement, a collective of talented rappers from New York City that shook the hip-hop community. Joey Bada$$ and Pro Era, the Underachievers and the Flatbush Zombies brought life back to the New York rap scene with their incredible mixtapes.
But that was four years ago, and a lot of the great Beast Coast acts have moved on to newer sounds. Joey Bada$$ and his Pro Era crew were largely labeled as a 90s boom-bap revival group when they started out, but recent releases from members Nyck Caution and Kirk Knight have shown that the group is able to get out of this box.
The Flatbush Zombies are rappers Meechy Darko, Zombie Juice, and Erick Arc Elliott. What has made them successful is their inimitable sound: Elliot’s layered, psychedelic grooves are unmistakably original, and Juice’s clear, high voice versus Meech’s raspy and low voice is a great dynamic. .
For hardcore Zombie fans, 3001 is exactly what they are looking for. There are more songs about tripping on psychedelics and reaching a higher state of mind. Erick “The Architect” Elliott is still building mesmerizing instrumentals and the trio still delivers great rhymes. Fans will be happy to see that Juice has more presence on this album compared to their last full length project, BetterOffDead. Meech is still delivering gruesome one liners like “Y’all should call me Conrad Murray the way I murder Mike.” And Erick still has some of the most thoughtful verses, such as his opening verse on “R.I.P.C.D.”
The group also shows some growth on this album. At times, they deliver more thoughtful lines like in “Odyssey” with Meech saying, “This fan told me her parents said I sound like the devil. To me I sound like a poor black kid from the ghetto.” “A Spike Lee Joint”, one of the best songs on the album, is about the struggles of making it as an independent artist in the rap game. It is the only song that seems to have all the members focus on one theme instead of jumping all over the place.
Then there are times when the Zombies are trying hard to make something new and it falls flat. “Fly Away” is unlike anything the Zombies have made in the past. It is a somber song that breaks the fun, drug-induced party vibe of the Flatbush Zombies. “Fly Away” is Meech facing an identity crisis, accepting that he is going to Hell but doesn’t belong there. It is an emotional track but Meech’s singing voice isn’t the best and makes the track hard to bear.
But the Zombies do not seem interested in straying away from their style. They don’t have to stop rapping about acid tabs and weed because that is what their fans love. Without a doubt, 3001 is for the fans; a the eight-minute-collection of fan voice mails from their followers that caps the album off makes this clear. All the voicemails are the same, with fans praising the group for changing hip-hop with their unique sound and that they have inspired others to do the same. Their formula is still working and that’s all that matters.
3001: A Laced Odyssey shows that the Flatbush Zombies are good at what they are best at: music that is fun to trip and party to. Although it may seem like it’s time for the Zombies to move on, the album reminds us why we started to listen to them in the first place.