The Flatbush Zombies are somewhat undefinable, their music is a heady mix of horrorcore Hip-Hop, some East Coast golden era sounds, a little Southern influence, a little Trap, a lot of drug references, and even some serial-killer-cum-hippy content, all rolled up to make one of the most unique Hip-Hop groups of today. It doesn’t seem like it but it’s been over two years since the “BetterOffDEAD” mixtape was released and today we have Flatbush Zombies’ début studio album “3001: A Laced Odyssey” and I’m pleased to report that it’s a great listen.
The album begins with a voiceover intro and the first track “The Odyssey” is a song with an operatic opening filled with tom-tom drums and a snare march rhythm, the track instantly grabs you and with all three rappers (Meechy Darko, Zombie Juice, and Erick “The Architect” Elliott) demonstrating their impressive yet differing deliveries, the track is a fitting introduction to the LP. With Meechy declaring “motherfuck a platinum plaque” you just know that this is going to be a release without any contrived Hip-Pop content, with the Zombies making us aware that they’re “influenced by Stanley Kubrick” along with the title of the album, you know they’re aspiring to create something classic, in fact the further you get with “3001: A Laced Odyssey” the more you realise that they’ve achieved their goal.
The next track “Bounce” is one we’ve already heard but it’s still a great song, it features a more mellow production wavering between a guitar and an ethereal synth with a deep bass, it unfortunately is accompanied by a slightly pointless and unconnected music video, but from the LP’s perspective this isn’t an issue.
Then comes “R.I.P.C.D” which features a great thumping beat and a chorus which laments about the death of the Compact Disc, the only criticism I have is that the verses have no real connection to the chorus which goes… “R.I.P. to the CD, can’t even play my hits, cause new computer shit without the means to play the shit… we love the memory, It got me feeling like we nothing like we used to be” but as soon as you get to the verses we have disjointed lyrics with Meechy for instance rapping about “speaking in tongues and burning Bibles”. Despite Darko entertainingly getting very croaky during his delivery, his and the other members’ verses are still too unconnected to the title of the song and the topic of the chorus.
The album then moves onto “A Spike Lee Joint” a slow, hazy, relaxed track against a double-time delivery and a mellow chorus by Anthony Flammia, like the title suggests it even brings in a little saxophone to give you that 90’s Spike Lee feel. Then comes “Fly Away” with its piano against a heavy bassline, the track may be short (acting like more of a skit) but the lyrics are pretty amazing, the joint feels like a mixture of Robert Johnson crossed with contemporary Hip-Hop…
“Say hello to Satan once you cross the bridge, screams turn to whispers, fighting in the mist. I do not belong here I think they clipped my wings, uncertain, unstable, do I even exist? Now how can I fly away? We’re gonna die anyway, I’m getting high everyday, will suicide end the pain?”
Then comes “Ascension” a great song with a slow yet mean beat complete with glockenspiel-esque sounds and electronic scratches. The track sports a fantastic chorus “I have ascended, I’m trying to be better than God!, what the fuck am I saying? I ain’t even enter my prime! Taking over the world, gonna do it one day. Time is an illusion, I think that I’m losing my mind!” and the song ushers in a little more of a horrorcore vibe with Meechy giving another flawless delivery. The only criticism I have about this song is that it’s a little too short, but that’s a minor issue. The song ends with a mellow yet slightly tribal beat and this is followed by “Smoke Break” (Interlude) which features a distorted synth and some pro-drug content for good measure. The complimentary production gives the song a peaceful and slightly psychedelic vibe and the singing is slightly reminiscent of Bone Thugs-N-Harmony.
“Trade-Off” is yet another strong track, the chorus (which slightly differs with each rapper) is simply great and catchy as hell… “It’s that work hard play hard, make you quit that day job, I smoked so much this year we couldn’t even take a day off”. Zombie Juice gives a great verse and once again Meechy gives us his darkly humorous tone declaring “I’ve had six exorcisms this year but still feel the same”. “Good Grief” then follows and it’s a nice song with instantly enjoyable production, this song in particular will probably satisfy fans of any Hip-Hop sub-genre as well as fans of R’N’B. Then comes “New Phone, Who Dis?” with its echoing chimes, heavy beat, and amusing (albeit slightly racist) lines like “eating pussy with chopsticks, you know I love my Asians”. The line “shit hasn’t been the same since we crept in the game” is particularly apt for a group bringing us their most complete and undiluted work.
The penultimate song “This Is It” I’d say has the most overground sounding beat, but the flow is firmly from the streets, the track ends similarly to the opener with a deep voiceover, this time announcing “This odyssey is complete, now are you ready for some bars?”. This then leads onto the final track “Your Favorite Rap Song” and even though it may have a straight-forward beat, each member showcases their rapping skills brilliantly. Zombie Juice is tremendous, Elliott proves he’s just as talented at rapping as he is producing, and Meechy once again gives us hilarious lines like “You should call me Conrad Murray the way I murder mic”. As the rhythm track then fades away, we hear some fan telephone recordings à la Boot Camp Clik’s “For The People”, this can begin to sound a tad sycophantic and it does go on for a little too long, but it’s a nice way of ending the album with some added grandeur and seriousness.
3001: A Laced Odyssey may be missing songs like “Glorious Thugs” and “Blacktivist” but as a whole it flows and blends together perfectly, every track is produced by Erick Elliott and he does an amazing job, the beats are consistent and compliment the content. Other contemporary rappers take note, you can make an album without that corny club shit, without the lame, radio-friendly songs, an album is supposed to be a journey, an experience, a specific soundscape and a certain mood, 3001: A Laced Odyssey sounds thought out, it sounds lucid and vivid, it sounds consistent and it never bends to the usual ploys or gimmicks some “artists” utilise in order to appeal to a wider audience.
The Flatbush Zombies’ first mixtape D.R.U.G.S. was slightly disappointing for me (other than the track “Thug Waffle”) but BetterOffDEAD was much better, sounding more like a full-blown LP rather than a mixtape. What’s satisfying is that this their début album is without a doubt their best work to date, something other groups can’t seem to do, especially after they’ve worn their style out on numerous promotional mixtapes. 3001: A Laced Odyssey is not only the best release by the Flatbush Zombies, it’s the best album of 2016 so far, I know it’s early in the year but this release will take some beating.