The Flatbush Zombies Take Us on a Laced Odyssey
The Flatbush Zombies spit a fine line. One the one hand, the trio’s music is disjunctive, dark, and all around strange. On the other, it unwinds incredibly smooth, laced with points of light and references to other hip hop acts. It’s hard to neatly classify their latest, 3001: A Laced Odyssey. I can say that the album freshly flirts with weirder sounds of the genre while never straying from traditional hooks and structures.
The album begins with “The Odyssey” and “Bounce,” the album’s single. “The Odyssey” opens 3001: A Laced Odyssey by showing The Flatbush Zombies’ dexterity. The dueling MCs do well to shift not only their delivery but also their voices’ tones and timbre–resulting in the illusion that a coven of rappers are passing the mic. This musical sleight of hand gives each song on the album a hypnotic and arresting quality. And “Bounce” spins The Flatbush Zombies at their most magical. Constantly juxtaposing tonal images, Meechy Darko and Zombie Juice combine ecstasy and anxiety in some stunningly intricate patterns.
After these two songs, 3001: A Laced Odyssey has no problem flexing into new aesthetics without losing a sense of continuity. The Flatbush Zombies bounce through high energy beats and bouncing rhymes in “A Spike Lee Joint;” they slow the tempo and their words to a grimy crawl on “Fly Away.” Whether they rap fast or slow, there’s a weirdness that bubbles just below the surface of their songs.
And this weirdness is at its most manifest in “Ascension.” Growling and aggressive but also directionless and self-aware, “Ascension” is a Jackson Pollock soundscape of intention. The lyrics are barely able to come to a conclusion before their syntax shifts and the linguistic tone changes. Despite the beautiful mess that is “Ascension,” there’s a paranoia that connects the fragmented and hallucinatory images. And this feeling drives the personae of the song as they party and do violence–treating each as equal activities.
But the group isn’t all talk. Erick Arc Elliott masterfully stitches together beats that simultaneously compliment the two MCs’ voices and make taut instrumentals on their own. Dusty bass and room away percussion give all the songs a foundation for thin synth leads and the lyrics to fill the darkness with bits of light. While not sampling the most diverse sounds, Erick Arc Elliott knows how to tweak a beat to have it sound refreshingly off-kilter.
3001: A Laced Odyssey will not be an album for everyone. At points the album is idiosyncratic and self-referential and at other points, disturbingly fragmented. That said, despite its heap of broken images, 3001: A Laced Odyssey does transcend its pieces to create an album that is more than a selection of singles. If you’re looking for a dip in the hallucinatory end of the rap spectrum, this album is for you (or the indigo child on your holiday list).