Contact CU Independent Entertainment Writer Thomas Roller at email@example.com.
Hey, everyone! I’m back! I know I was gone for a while, but it was spring break, and then I spent another week weeping because it wasn’t spring break anymore. But I’m done now, and I’d like to talk about an album that dropped just before break, “3001: A Laced Odyssey,” the newest release from New York-based hip-hop trio Flatbush Zombies.
Flatbush Zombies has been making a big splash since its 2013 mixtape “Better off Dead,” which was an expansive exploration of rap music that spanned styles from old-school boom-bap to trap music and everything in between. All of this was topped by some clever and truly ferocious lyrics from members Meechy Darko, Zombie Juice and Erick “The Architect” Elliott, the latter of whom also produced all the tracks on that album, and this one. It’s important to remember that “Better off Dead” is an incredible record, mostly because I’m going to mention several times in this review why “3001” isn’t as good.
Don’t get too disappointed, though, because there’s a lot about this record that is good. At its core, this is the same Flatbush Zombies that fans know and love. The songs have a trippy, spacey feel to them, more uniformly so than in “Better off Dead.” The Architect’s production is very well-arranged and musical, as usual. This album has a lot more synthesizers in its tracks, as well.
Another good thing about “3001” is how much sharper the Zombies are, delivery-wise. The interplay between the three MCs and their various vocal styles is a central part of Flatbush’s appeal, and “3001” has that in spades. They all sound much louder and more ferocious. Meechy Darko’s warbling, growly, animalistic delivery has only gotten deeper and more menacing, and Zombie Juice’s high-pitched, hyped-up vocals have had a similar evolution. The structure of Juice’s rhymes is a bit more nuanced as well.
Lyrically, the cleverness and depth that was present in their last release has dissipated a bit. If you’re a die-hard Flatbush fan and you’re looking for the complex themes about life and philosophy that could be found in “Better off Dead,” then you should probably just listen to that again.
In fact, most of my criticisms about this record could be boiled down to “less depth.” For example, the album as a whole — despite being shorter and having a more uniform sound set — sort of meanders, especially in the middle. It’s not good for an album that only has 12 tracks to have that much flab in it, and it certainly does not need an interlude. I’m looking at you, “Smoke Break,” and really, the second half of “Ascension” as well.
The tracks on this album come across as a bit more shallow. For a group that has a history as an experimental rap project, there’s not a whole lot of experimentation here. This is clearly an artistic choice, but I feel like the Zombies are missing out on part of what made “Better off Dead” so fascinating. In that record, they were drawing upon a lot of old-school influence and Zombifying it. This is still present on this album, on tracks like “R.I.P.C.D,” but these moments are rare.
This might be a symptom of the production on this record being much less sample-driven. By focusing more on synthesizers to create the music, it creates a more focused sound, but at the cost of a lot of texture and charisma. Ironically, by diving more deeply into synths, this album actually comes across as less trippy than its predecessor.
I do like parts of this album, for sure. I’m still replaying it for fun, because it’s not a bad release. It’s just kind of a departure from the Zombies’ style. I guess the point I’ve been dancing around is “It’s different and therefore it’s bad,” which is a nitpick, but that’s what happens when you let a fan review an album. Flatbush’s first mixtape, “D.R.U.G.S.,” was a little bit too abstract, but this feels like a push too far in the opposite direction. This is their first full-length release, so it makes sense that their sound might be a little restrained so as to be more accessible to the public, but I hope that their next release will have more of that wildness and experimentation, and will be a more complete realization of their potential.