Flatbush Zombies have had a peculiar career compared to their contemporaries. They’ve been featured with substantial artists, such as Joey Badass on his most recent album, All Amerikkkan Badass. Despite that, they’ve stayed classical in a genre that has progressed tremendously over the past couple of years.
On the Zombies’ newest album, Vacation in Hell, the trio of Erick Arc Elliot, Meechy Darko, and Zombie Juice all sound very aware of their surroundings, and how little that effects their own music.
On the dazzling opener, “HELL-O,” Darko raps, “man fuck that (mumbles) that mumble rap/it’s that skully low rumble rap.” This wasn’t the only time that the trio subliminally attacks the newer rappers who may not be deserving of their current stature.
The record is kind of ironic. When looking at the glamorous album cover, you wouldn’t think that this will be a “vacation in hell.” The Brooklyn trio definitely fools listeners and keeps things unpredictable with their brutal honesty.
Unlike most rap albums, Vacation in Hell progressively becomes darker and bleak. There are multiple times throughout the second half of this project where Darko expresses his suicidal thoughts that he’s had in the past. It gets especially troubling on the delicate, “Trapped.” Darko raps, “should I leap in head first off the fire escape/or should I take the easy way, shoot myself in the face?” The track itself contains a very harrowing chorus from DIA and Elliot.
Elliot himself produces most of the album himself, and he does a fantastic job doing it. His beats compliment the tone and theme of each song to perfection. The trio tremendously mixes bangers with more socially contemplative singles. Each member transitions from verse to verse in a very smooth manner, and the chemistry is evident from start to finish.
Darko, Juice and Elliot also have a knack for creating sticky and memorable hooks. Whether it be on the Joey featured, “Vacation,” or the lead single, “Headstone,” the Zombies find ways to capture listeners with charisma and clever lyrics.
The record is a lengthy listen (an hour and sixteen minutes with 19 songs), however, it rarely feels like a slog. The Zombies seem pretty set on what they wanted to say, whether it be speaking about discrimination, suicide, or throwing subliminal shots. Darko even honors the death of ASAP Yams (the co-founder of ASAP Mob) on, “YouAreMySunshine.” Despite the sentiment, this was the weakest track on the album, as it felt out of place with regards to the tone of the others.
The Zombies biggest strength is their energy and underrated lyricism that drives this sophomore effort. They pay homage to the greats while also adding a heavier bass to a majority of these hits. The versatility is uncanny. Darko can dig rappers’ graves on “Headstone,” while Elliot can boast about their legend on “M. Bison.”
Juice can bring a more melodic flow to choruses, especially on the aforementioned “Vacation,” or the toxic, “Big Shrimp.” Not many rappers have the patience to perfect every little detail in a song. The Zombies show that they can on here.
Sure, the final couple of tracks won’t have the lasting effect that the others will, but that’s a very small complaint. The Glorious Dead trio have definitely stepped up their game, and their body of work needs to be recognized. They’ve already had appreciation from Joey and ASAP Mob, but they don’t need it.
Flatbush Zombies created an eclectic album that will surely fly under people’s radars by the end of the year, which will be a shame. Hopefully, listeners will have the patience to dissect Vacation in Hell.