Do you ever feel like there’s an artist or band that you have been meaning to check out for some time but often forget to do so or just been too busy with other things? Yeah, that’s me with a lot of people like Jhene Aiko, FKA Twigs, Janelle Monae (I’ll fix that, soon), Brockhampton, Injury Reserve…..this list is endless, and this also includes Flatbush Zombies.
First things first: I thought they were a rock band at first, but they are actually a hip hop trio from Brooklyn, consisting of Zombie Juice, Meechy Darko, and Erick Arc Elliott who serves as the producer of the group. They started out in the beginning of the 2010s with their mixtapes D.R.U.G.S and BetterOffDead with some features alongside people like The Underachievers, A$AP Mob, Pro Era, The RZA and then in 2016, came their debut album 3001: A Space Odyssey, and I can say while not my top favorite album of that year, they definitely show some interest out of me with their style and delivery of music.
Now, with their sophomore album Vacation In Hell, and after hearing the two singles released “Headstone” and “U&I,” I was quite intrigued to hear what was to come in this album, and what did I manage to get?
Okay, after looking into the track list of the album, I noticed it was 19 tracks, and I know most are worried that it might be too much but I wasn’t worried about that…..until I looked at the run time and it was 76 minutes!!! Yeah, I didn’t expect it to be this long of an album, and yet I can still listen to it. In fact, this album is actually good despite that.
They offer a lot of content throughout the album, whether it be them spitting out some bars about the rap game, the bullshit within said game, talking about their past lives or just hip-hop in general. Like on the single “Headstone,” which is a damn-good grimy banger where the trio spits a lot of references of hip-hop’s past, where either the artist is dead or the style isn’t as big as it was back then, hence the word headstone. A deep cut I definitely got on board with is “Facts” where Meechy, with a guest verse from Jadakiss, went on about how most rappers are not as hard or tough as they appear to be or they do a lot of things from partying, spending money that’s not theirs, and pretty much anything that’s not working on making their music better.
This album has its fair share of good songs throughout like “M. Bison” where they talk about their plans of “world domination”; “U&I”, their second single, delves into the hardships of them coming up and bonding with your friends, brothers, family… especially with Meechy’s very depressing line, “When I was 5, I told my mom I wanted to die,” although that is another reference towards Notorious B.I.G.’s album “Ready to Die”.
Feature-wise, you get a healthy amount of guest verses from some expected collaborators like Joey Bada$$ on “Vacation,” A$AP Twelvyy on “Leather Symphony,” Bun B’s killer verse on “Reel Girls,” and maybe the one feature that got me scratching my head but regardless I liked their part on it: Portugal. The Man on “Crown,” and yes, I did find out that Flatbush Zombies did a remix of “Feel It Still.” Anyway, on “Crown,” the spacey psychedelic atmosphere on the production from The Alchemist is very fitting for both artists, and I see why they would connect again, but the one guest verse I absolutely love here is from Denzel Curry on “The Glory,” and surprise, it’s one of my favorite tracks on here as the Zombies and Curry talk about their insecurities, failed relationships and how they worked through those phases. In one verse, Meechy talked about how his ex left him because he had no hits and now her new boyfriend abuses her, i.e. hits, and that piano on there gives it that somber feel that really hits you.
Speaking of production, the majority of this is handled by Erick Arc Elliott with some help from the aforementioned Alchemist, Kirk Knight (from Pro Era), Tyler Dopps (known for working with Macklemore), Hector Delgado (A$AP Mob producer), and the beats range from fitting either into the more somber songs or some more grimy bangers with a little experimentation that works here and there.
Now as much as I’m liking this album, there were some joints that I was very meh on or was not feeling as much. “Big Shrimp,” “Ask Courtney,” and “The Goddess” are some examples of tracks that didn’t have much replayability when going back, and I said it before, but the album could’ve cut some tracks off with that length of 76 minutes. If those songs I mentioned would’ve been cut off, I wouldn’t miss a thing, and to be honest, while the length got me worried at first, the majority of tracks never bored me or made me want to turn it off completely. In other words, it’s not a Culture II or a Heartbreak of a Full Moon or the inevitable Sr3mm.
If 3001: A Spaced Odyssey showed me who Flatbush Zombies were, then Vacation in Hell made me more invested in them. Yes, even though the length was long, it was still enjoyable to hear these dudes spit some bars and offer their style of hip-hop. These dudes are worth the listen as they deliver both bangers and introspective content.
Final Verdict: Buy it. They got that low-rumble rap that gets you going.
Vacation in Hell is available from Glorious Dead Recordings on CD, digital download and streaming services.