Psychedelic Brooklyn Beast Coasters Bring ‘3001: A Laced Odyssey’ to Red Rocks for 4/20-Eve show
By Brian F. Johnson
Can a person be a hippie and a thug; a lover and a hater; a hero and a villain?
To Meechy Darko of the Flatbush Zombies dichotomies all come down to being human. “People get mad at that shit, but maybe there’s a time when, say, I don’t like tomatoes. I always hated tomatoes. But maybe there’s a time when I grow to like them and everything I said about tomatoes was bullshit,” he said during a recent interview with The Marquee. “I want to be able to express myself and change. I’m human.”
Darko, and his Flatbush Zombies cohorts Erick Arc “The Architect” Elliott and Antonio “Zombie Juice” Lewis have done a lot with the concept of being human and the inherent dualities that come with that role.
The Brooklyn-based trio started in 2010, and released a multitude of underground mix tapes and collaborations with a slew of heavy-hitters, including RZA and A$AP Rocky. Their rhymes were filled with as many drugs as a Phish tour parking lot and their irreverent growl held a hypnotic captivation over their city. Their video for the track “Thug Waffle,” which gives a solid nod to the strain Sour Diesel, served as their breakout, but never turned into a full-fledged hit, which put the Zombies in that human role of contrasts that Darko had referenced. They were doing well, but weren’t top-tier. They were turning heads, but not enough to garner attention from the majors. The notoriously salty blog Pitchfork paid some back-handed compliments when it said that Flatbush Zombies were “just another talented rap act that couldn’t get traction,” that they were “rappers with skill, but no significant retail milestones,” and finally, that “they’re too good to be unknown but not distinctive enough to be famous.”
In 2013, the group released their second mixtape BetteroffDEAD which featured, among the other 18 tracks, the song “Palm Tree,” which pays homage to the heady strain Girl Scout Cookies. The song never “exploded,” but the video, released in 2014, now has more than 25 million views. So, after the better part of a decade in somewhat obscurity, Flatbush Zombies are emerging from the darkness.
Last year saw the release of their debut LP 3001: A Laced Odyssey, which they released on their own label The Glorious Dead. 3001 debuted at #10 on the Billboard charts, and reached #1 on Billboard’s Independent Album chart.
Darko said he didn’t want to be cliché but that the Zombies have been working on that debut their entire lives. In reality though, he said, they spent a solid six months entirely focused on the project.
“When you’re independent you got a lot of food on your plate and sometimes you have to push it to the side and figure out what’s the most important thing to eat instead of eating everything and getting too full. You might give somebody too much but not give them as much quality as you wanted to give or something gets lost in translation, you know? So I think that we had a lot of work and had a lot of stuff we wanted to do, but it was a six month span really where we were locked in on what we wanted to do and put it all together,” he said.
The album is a psychedelic voyage that the Zombies call their “ghetto symphony,” one which time and time again talks about the light and the dark, the good and the bad. Lewis raps on the opening song “The Odyssey,” “Had to tone it down, I c-couldn’t see without my liquid liquid,” while on “Bounce” Darko growls “Acid, acid change yo life.”
With a menacing comic book portrait of the group on the cover — drawn by Marvel Comics illustrator David Nakayama — Flatbush Zombies set forth on a smart, sharp and heady trip into their world, but it’s not all fun and games and Darko and company don’t pull punches when addressing the downside of their drug-fueled explorations. “All this weed why I need a therapist,” Darko raps on “The Odyssey.”
“I never really liked when people only talk about the good or only the bad,” he explained. “I’ve had good trips. I’ve had amazing trips, but I’ve also had bad trips. Great times. Highs and lows. That’s what life is all about — duality. I never try to make anything seem like we glorified it. That’s why I made sure I talked — since the very beginning — about the highs and the lows. When it comes down to psychedelics I feel like we had a responsibility, as young as we were, to make sure when we talk about these things that there’s always going to be a consequence for things — even though these aren’t opiates, there’s always going to be a negative. I wouldn’t be true if I only talked about the good.”
That said, Darko and his bandmates certainly see the value in psychedelic exploration, even going so far as to sell their own blotter paper at their merch table. Talking the day after Sturgill Simpson took home the Album of The Year Grammy Award for his very country, but very progressive A Sailor’s Guide To Earth, Darko explained the Zombies too have a role in the psychedelic movement. “That’s why I like psychedelic music in general and being open about psychedelic use. People thought no one was like us — kids from Flatbush Brooklyn, living in the hood, having psychedelic experiences. They heard it from people from Denver, living in the mountains or Californians taking trips in the desert, but now I see people from all races and all walks of life, and so whether they’re explorers for life, or for a short time, we have that experience in common.”
Go If You Dig:
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