The music festival Buku was a little over a month ago. Many of those who attended were most excited to see Migos, Lil Uzi Vert, or Bassnectar. I, on the other hand, was most excited to see the Flatbush Zombies, a New York-based rap trio consisting of Zombie Juice, Erick Arc Elliott, and Meechy Darko. I had previously seen them in Boston in 2016, after the release of their “3001: A Laced Odyssey” album, and the concert felt like a religious experience. On April 6th of this year, they dropped their most recent album, Vacation in Hell.
No song on Vacation in Hell stands out more than “U&I.” “U&I” was the second single released from the album, with the first being the darker banger “Headstone.” The song begins with a woman, Dia, singing before the introduction of a light gospel sample-based beat, produced by Erick. While many of Erick’s beats on their breakout BetterOffDead album were sample-based, they sound very dark. This beat is influenced by gospel and sounds very bright and beautiful, almost like a beat from The College Dropout. Sonically, the beat is very different from a majority of the Flatbush Zombies’ other songs. The song is more meant for an intimate setting, rather than for a party.
Erick and Juice begin the song by trading off verses. The main theme of these verses is about sticking together with your friends, despite all of the hardships in the world. The phrase “‘Cause these my brothers, love em to death,” is repeated by both of them and will soon be featured in the Instagram captions of the biggest frat boys you know. Erick’s last verse of the song talks about all of the things he will do for his “brothers” and his “brothers” will do for him. The light sample helps make their lyrics sound more joyful and personal, even when they discuss navigating a world full of thieves and surviving the struggle.
The next verse, the longest of the song, is done by Meechy Darko. When Meechy begins, a guitar is added to the beat. Meechy Darko comes in after Erick and Juice and begins his verse by talking about his dark past, being born in 1989 and already being rowdy by 1992. Meechy Darko’s voice in this verse sounds like the growl and bark of a rabid dog. Hearing it for the first time can be startling and scary, but when one listens to his words, you see the soul that lies under the hardened shell of his voice. While discussing his dark past, he begins to talk about how his world changed when he met Erick and Juice, his “brothers.” He makes it clear that he has learned a lot in his 27 years on the Earth, despite all of the hardships he had to go through, and wants to learn more while with his brothers. Meechy combines lyricism with personal anecdotes for a thought-provoking, harrowing verse.
After Meechy’s verse, Erick and Juice go back in on the chorus, this time with the accompanying guitar before the song fades into nothingness. Flatbush Zombies’ biggest strength is their voices. Juice’s voice is abnormally high, Meechy’s voice is dark and scratchy, and Erick is a smooth middle ground. This lets them take full advantage of their beats by trying different styles. In this case, Erick and Juice take a smoother route, riding the beat, while Meechy spits his heart out. Flatbush Zombies continue to be one of the most interesting trios in hip-hop, because of how they stick together and take full advantage of all of their skills.
COVER PHOTO: HypeBeast