Home > News & Reviews > Flatbush Zombies

Flatbush Zombies - Vacation in Hell (Album Review)

Tuesday, 17 April 2018 Written by Jonathan Rimmer

Photo: Ben Kaye

When the self-described 'beast coast' movement emerged out of New York in the early 2010s, Joey Bada$$ and his mammoth crew Pro Era received the bulk of critical attention. The group, much like fellow Brooklynites the Underachievers, won acclaim for their true school ethos, playful sound and reverence for their hip-hop heroes.

On reflection, it's a shame affiliated trio Flatbush Zombies didn't receive the same recognition – their work over the past half-decade suggests they're the one act who have been consistently forward thinking in their approach. While their contemporaries reverted to dusty loops or jumped on the latest trap trends, they were aggressively spitting off-kilter LSD-inspired verses over spaced-out psychedelic production.

Admittedly, their official debut '3001: A Laced Odyssey' was a slight disappointment, adopting a watered down mainstream approach after their atmospheric and reverb-heavy mixtapes.

But the promo singles for ‘Vacation in Hell’ signalled a return to what listeners had come to love from the trio: horrorcore-inspired bars delivered emphatically over vivid samples.

They come hurtling out the gates on the eerie and dramatic opener Hell-O. Most notably, Meechy Darko's gravelly voice and supercharged flows are the perfect foil for the track's frantic synth loop. He appears to set the tone for the whole record when he calls out mumble rap and contrasts it with the group's “skully low rumble rap”.

Jabs like this aren't just throwaways – all three Zombies rap with a clarity and conviction they regard as a necessity for good hip hop, and it's undeniably one of their greatest strengths. But they're also a group obsessed with counterpoint. As Meech put it pre-release: “There has to be a way to show duality in life”.

Much of 'Vacation in Hell' is concerned with representing this: a grounded track like Chunky, which references racism and systemic oppression, feels like the polar opposite of a celebratory jam such as Big Shrimp, which unironically features lines like “Roll Gelato in pronto then dickmatize a bitch”. While the range of styles on show is welcome after the more one-note '3001', you can't help but think they try to do a bit much.

For one thing, 'Vacation in Hell' runs to 19 tracks and nearly 77 minutes in total. The assumption that listeners wouldn't stick with one aesthetic for that long is reasonable – even their hour-long signature tape 'Better Off Dead' occasionally dispensed with the drug-addled nihilism for the odd spliff break. Nevertheless, when you're throwing awful sex skit-style tracks like Reel Girls in, you can't help but consider that cutting down a bit could have improved the end product.

Flatbush Zombies rap their asses off – again – and for the most part it makes for engaging listening. The beats, handled mostly by member Erick Arc Elliott, are tasteful and creative. And whereas they previously had a propensity to shoehorn in provocative themes needlessly, the record flows well, feels natural and isn't afraid to be introspective. Whatever the title suggests, though, this record isn't thematically consistent. It's more colourful than its predecessor, but 'Vacation in Hell' gets a bit carried away on the journey there.

Let Us Know What You Think - Leave A Comment!

Related News

Flatbush Zombies Announce October UK Shows
Tue 08 May 2018
Photo: Ben Kaye Flatbush Zombies have announced several UK shows.
Flatbush Zombies Drop Video For New Track Headstone
Fri 23 Feb 2018
Flatbush Zombies have dropped a new track.
Flatbush Zombies Announce New Projects, Including Sophomore Album
Fri 02 Feb 2018
Flatbush Zombies have announced a new record.
Future Drops Off Nicki Minaj Tour, Juice Wrld Steps In For UK and Ireland Shows
Fri 21 Dec 2018
Nicki Minaj’s UK and Ireland tour in 2019 will go ahead without Future on board.
Post Malone Drops Festive Animated Video For New Track Wow
Tue 25 Dec 2018
​   Post Malone has shared a festive video for his new single, Wow.
Earl Sweatshirt - Some Rap Songs (Album Review)
Tue 11 Dec 2018
Photo: Steven Traylor The theory that depression makes for good art is long-standing, and its proponents can certainly point to numerous examples, but it should also be a source of unease from an observer's perspective. If unchecked, the invisible link between artist and listener (or creator and beneficiary) can feel exploitative or voyeuristic. The behaviour of a small minority of entitled social media users, who complained when Earl Sweatshirt cancelled a European tour earlier this year following the death of his father, was just one illustration of this dynamic.
A$AP Rocky Drops Video For 'Testing' Track Tony Tone
Fri 14 Dec 2018
A$AP Rocky has released a video for Tony Tone.
Gucci Mane - Evil Genius (Album Review)
Tue 18 Dec 2018
One of the advantages in helping to pioneer an entire subgenre of music is that no one has grounds to complain when you eventually move into new territory. Bearing that in mind, you'd expect Gucci Mane, one of the architects of southern trap in the mid-2000s, to have tried his hand at something else by now. However, across 12 albums and a disputed number of mixtapes (online catalogues suggest around 70), the Atlanta-based rapper has uniformly stuck to the distinctively heavy bass sound he helped originate.
< Prev   Next >