Review: 3001: A Laced Odyssey – Flatbush Zombies

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Meechy crowdsurfing. Photo via Jessica Lehrman

At last, fans of the Flatbush Zombies (and more generally, proponents of the Beast Coast movement) received the highly anticipated debut album from the trio made up of Meechy Darko, Zombie Juice, and producer/rapper Erick the Architect. The Brooklyn crew is known for their drugged out, hardcore, and sometimes even boom bap material that truly doesn’t sound like anything the industry has heard before. A couple years ago, Flatbush Zombies started to pique the interest of teenagers and young adults nationwide with their debut mixtape D.R.U.G.S. With it, fans also received videos like “Thug Waffle”, that elaborated on the trio’s trippy, psychedelic tone. After a few more notable visuals and a breathtaking collab with the A$AP Mob, the Zombies were ready to release their sophomore mixtape in 2013. BetterOffDead was more critically acclaimed than their previous tape, and not long after the group found themselves on a world tour.

Despite not releasing a full length solo effort in between BetterOffDead and 3001, the Zombies have stayed busy. 2014 saw a fantastic collaboration between them and fellow Flatbush natives the Underachievers, as well as some popular singles like “Palm Trees”, “Red Eye to Paris”, and “Don’t Do Drugs Kids.” While touring heavily and putting out free music, their fan base seems to grow exponentially year after year.

I’m a proud Apple Music subscriber, but I had to pre-order 3001: A Laced Odyssey. These guys were ready to give fans what they wanted to hear for ten bucks, and let me tell you, it was easily worth the purchase. This was far from a perfect project, but it was the perfect full-length debut for the group.

The opening track, “The Odyssey”, is exactly what I wanted to hear. The instrumental is perhaps the best on the entire project with loud, echoing drums complementing angelic strings and a deep bass line. Erick and Juice are great lyricists, but don’t compare (at least on this track) to Meechy’s signature ODB-esque flow. Line after line about acid, weed, the devil, and murder is what makes the Flatbush Zombies stand out to me. It’s the same concepts they’ve been playing around with for years, but they manage to keep it feeling fresh song after song.

The lead single “Bounce” follows and, like the previous track, it has to be one of my favorites on the album. Meechy’s lead-off verse goes hard. Everytime I listen, his opening bars make me want to bounce off of every wall in the room: “YSL pants with the zippers, yikes/ Met her this evenin’ already hit it, twice/ Tag on your soul everybody got a price/ Acid, acid, change yo’ life/ Bape if she hip, Saint Laurent if she bougie/ I’m faded like Boosie…” Like I’ve said, the concepts are similar, but they manage to keep it so damn exciting. Juice comes through with one of his best verses, and Erick closes with more strong vocals. His instrumental on this one is close to perfection with gothic strings and drums that slap you in the ears. The cherry on top is the music video, one of the most conceptual FBZ visuals to date.

The somewhat comical “R.I.P.C.D.” coming third on the tracklisting jokes about how CD’s hardly exist anymore.  Juice’s quick, choppy flow assists lyrics that are potentially his best ever and (for once) he steals the spotlight away from Meechy. This far into the project and the Zombies are three for three, which is something they haven’t been able to do for me on any of their previous projects.

From there, some issues arise. The beats become indistinguishable in a bland sampling of psychedelia and trap-flavored hi hats. You can almost tell which beats Erick spent the least amount of time on, and I can’t figure why he wouldn’t go all out on their debut. Some of the better instrumentals from D.R.U.G.S. top the ones here, and the lack of diversity creates a vibe to the album that causes it to meander. The album truly doesn’t surpass the expectations that the first three tracks set, even as the lyricism continually hits a high-mark.

We get a couple more tracks that make sense thematically, but these aren’t going to stay in my rotation for very long. “Smoke Break” – which serves as an interlude about halfway through – did catch my attention with a much slower feel than the rest of the album, and maybe the most laid-back song these guys have ever made. I would have gladly taken another few tracks with that same feel over cuts like “Trade-Off”, where the raps are just boring and lackadaisical. The hook, especially, falls victim to this; Erick raps, “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…” and Juice follows with a hook of his own, “It’s that work hard, play hard/ I just got a blow job/ Smoke so much this year we couldn’t even take a day off/ Twenty something years, I never had a fucking day job/ Never ask for truth, it’s what expected, it’s a trade-off”. I don’t even want to think about how angry this part makes me. Never say the words “work hard, play hard” in that order or anything similar to that no matter what you’re doing, especially if you’re trying to come out with a debut album fans have been waiting years for. Not to mention, Juice’s “I just got a blow job” line is potentially the saddest attempt at writing a lyric that I’ve heard from any Beast Coast artist in a long time.

I had to get that off of my chest; besides that hiccup, what remains of the project is solid. It’s pretty average from what I’ve heard in the past from Flatbush Zombies, but to be clear, that by no means disappoints me. Even if this record is somewhat middle of the road for the trio, it’s still a notch above what most rappers are making. I wish they took a less conservative approach to their debut and tried to shock their audience a little bit, but with the first three tracks aside, the Zombie’s didn’t do so. Despite that, I expect 3001: A Laced Odyssey to be a project I come back to many times during the year, and I believe these kinds of LP’s are healthy for hip-hop.

7/10

Written by Dylan Hardin

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