Are you ready to embrace the future of hip hop?
Over the past few years, the New York trio Flatbush Zombies has been finding every bullshit hip hop cliche they can find and flipping it on its head.
For the past while, hip hop has seemed perfectly content divided between two main factions: ignorance-glorifying street anthems and over-preachy conscious boom bap records, but groups like Flatbush Zombies and the like are shunning that black and white in favor of a more tie-dyed approach.
Mixing brash epicurean bars with mind-expanding lines of wisdom, Erick Ark Elliot, Meechy Darko, and Zombie Juice have attracted a previously lost mass of fans that want to hear conscious shit without having to forsake turning the fuck up from time to time.
We recently got to chop it up with the three dudes from Flatbush about their unique approach to music, business, and life in general.
Check the full interview below.
Meech, you’ve got this line in “Nephilim” that says, “too mentally unstable to be fuckin’ ’round with them labels,” at what point did you realize you guys could do things on your own without the help of a major label?
Meech: Uh, at what point? I guess from the beginning? (Laughs) Not to sound arrogant but we never really had that kind of…we don’t have that kind of approach where we need a label outlet I guess. It never really was my goal or our goal to get signed, we just need to make the best fuckin’ music we can make and I don’t know if a major label is gonna help us make the best fuckin’ music we can make.
Can you elaborate a little on Eletrik KoolAde Records and what you plan on doing with that venture?
Juice: We plan for it to be the next stepping stone, we plan to sign artists also…but we’re gonna sign ourselves first.
Meech: We just wanna make a new age Motown. A psychedelic, black Motown. Black-owned, black-ran, started from the bottom. I just wanna give an opportunity for friends I have maybe, myself, and just have a vessel to express ourselves the right way without having boundaries musically and shit like that.
For those that don’t know, you guys have released every bit of music you have for free so far, which means you rely on touring and merch to make a living. Do you plan on sticking to this way of doing things, and do you think that’s how things should be?
Erick: I think for us, the people that like our music will support us. They support us by coming to see us. They support us by buying merch and they’ll support us by buying our music too. I feel like music is cheaper than shows and merch, right? So why wouldn’t they support us, right? The music is the reason why people are coming to our shows and buying merch, so I think when it’s time for an album people will support it.
How do you guys feel about these artists that are going the complete opposite way, like Nipsey Hussle and Wu-Tang Clan charging shitloads for a project in an attempt to kind of re-instill value in the art?
Erick: I think it’s dope personally, when I saw Nipsey I was like damn that’s fuckin’ smart, because it’s literally like…no one has done that. I feel like when you sell music now, it’s so easy to get stuff for free or get it illegally. You have to give something else to get people to be interested in your music.
Meech: Sometimes it’s almost like a physical copy, depending on how it’s presented and given to you, can be more valuable than just having the shit on your iPod because of the way it was delivered. I feel like the people that bought Nipsey’s shit feel special that they bought it. It’s not just about what’s on the fuckin’ CD, it’s about the whole thing in general, the idea of supporting.
You’ve heard about Wu-Tang as well right? They’ve got this unreleased album and they want to tour it to museums and art galleries and basically you can pay like $30 to $50 to sit there and listen to the album.
Meech: I hope that shit is good!
Yeah man, hopefully ODB is on there!
That’s one thing man, I hope it’s more than one verse too and not just ad-libs here and there. I’m trying to hear Dirty.
Exactly. If I’m paying 50 bucks I wanna hear some Dirt McGirt! To me, the kind of spiritually-aware Hip Hop that’s becoming more prevalent these days I think is the perfect segue into expanded consciousness for people that may have been complacent with their existential status previously to hearing it. Do you guys feel a sense of responsibility or duty to use your talents to usher in a shift in consciousness?
Erick: It’s not a responsibility, but I mean it’s necessary. If that’s what we’re going through that’s what we put in our music, but it’s not a responsibility.
Meech: I don’t wanna ever make it a job for us, like we have to do this, cause if it doesn’t come off natural. When I wanna drop knowledge, I’m dropping knowledge. If my verse comes off superficial, maybe I was feelin’ superficial fuckin’ man of the year that fuckin’ day. If it sounds dark, maybe I was in a dark place. I know we have very conscious music, but at the same time I don’t ever wanna be put in a box or feel like I have to do something because this music does this for the world, because at the end of the day if we don’t like what we makin’, we ain’t gonna make it. It ain’t gonna be good.
Totally, and I think that’s why for a while there after the whole conscious thing started really popping off, it got shunned by a lot of people.
Meech: Hell yeah man they were forcing that shit.
Erick: These guys rapping on these beats that are boring, not to shit on anybody, but when you drop knowledge, at least make the beat hot and make it interesting. Make me wanna play it. You’re dropping so much knowledge, it’s not presentation of the music it’s just straight bars. I get tired of hearing that, so it’s gotta be deeper than just lyrics.
When you guys first started experimenting with psychedelics and delving into more complex theories about the nature of being, how did you deal with that realization? Did you experience any sort of discomfort or anxiety regarding that expanded complexity, or do you find comfort in it?
Meech: I was more fucked up before that. Yeah. That’s when I was fucked up and didn’t know what the fuck was going on.
Juice: It was a long time coming my friend, a long time coming
Meech: Yeah, I think the expansion made me unify and now I understand. It’s the confusion beforehand that was the scary part. Now I’m good. I’m good money. I mean once in a while I’m human, we revert back to regular shit, but for the most part – I mean I don’t know, it wasn’t really…I would say we were slightly introverted for a little bit. It was a long time ago. It was weird. I guess we were a bit disconnected, but it was more so trying to figure out how to explain to the people around us what the fuck we understand now or know, or think we know.
Yeah, and it’s also like a kinda thing where you’ve got to fit all these new found realizations into that day to day bullshit that you still have to go through.
Meech: Yeah you gotta compromise.
Are y’all familiar with Saul Williams? He has this track “Telegram” which is like an open letter to hip hop, and he says “We are discontinuing our current line of braggadocio in light of the current trend in ‘realness’ as an alternative, we will be confiscating weed supplies and replacing them with magic mushrooms in hopes of helping niggas see beyond their reality”. Do you think that hallucinogens are kind of exposing hip hop to something bigger than itself and causing a shift in paradigm?
Erick: That’s fire. First I wanna say Saul Williams is a genius. I saw Slam, that was the first movie I saw that, I knew he was a poet, but then I heard him on some Kanye shit and I didn’t even know it was him at the time, then I found out it was him.
Meech: In hip hop man I’ve seen the dumbest things become trends, so why can’t something special become a trend?
Juice: Well they’ll call it a trend.
Meech: Yeah, they’ll call it a trend, but the state of your mind ain’t no trend.
Exactly. And whether or not a lot of these people are really living what they talk about, if they’re spreading positivity then no harm, no foul I guess.
Meech: Most of them are not what they talk about.
Is Sour Diesel still your favorite strain of weed?
Meech: I mean…ugh…my favorite strain is now Sour Kush (laughs) because I can’t skip the diesel but I still need the Kush. I need the indica and the sativa, I need them both, but I need that fuckin’ gas so when I hit that spliff it’s like I’m in the fuckin’ Exxon station, ya know?
What do you think needs to happen within Hip Hop for it to reach its full potential not only musically, but ethically and spiritually?
Meech: I don’t know. We won’t know till it comes about. I mean shit…
Juice: Life has to reach its full potential first.
Meech: I can’t really call it. Are people really ready for that?
It doesn’t seem like it.
Meech: Then it ain’t gonna happen. It seems like shit don’t happen nowadays until people are beyond ready. Until it’s overdue. I don’t know. Shit shifts, it just takes one motherfucker to do something the other way, flip the guitar upside down and play it and then it’s like, “Oh shit look what we can do now.”
Hip hop’s weird though, it’s probably the youngest fuckin’ genre out of all this bullshit, and it’s probably the strongest. So, you know, hard to call.
Erick, have you ever thought about experimenting with binaural beats in your music, or do you ever consider frequencies and their effect on the body while making music?
Erick: 100%. I read a book called The Psychology Of Music and learned about frequencies and where..I mean there’s a literal place where things should sit in a mix, but there’s this thing called third harmonics, notes that are so low that you can’t hear them, but you can feel them.
Meech: BOY YOU FEEL EM!
Erick: So let’s just say if I know what it is, then we been doin’ that.
Meech: Can I say this? Let’s stop calling everybody producers. There’s people who make beats, and there’s people that produce. You hear what Erick just said about third harmonics? I don’t know what the fuck that is, but now I know. You ask half the motherfuckers that make hip hop beats they don’t know what the fuck they’re doing at all, they don’t know anything about music, they just don’t. I just wanted to say that.
If you could recommend one book to sort of introduce someone to your thought process, what would it be?
Erick: A book? Um…The Mole People. If you’ve never read that book you should. To me – and you can look at it literally – it’s about perception. It’s about people that lived in the subway in the 90s, at the 34th street station I believe, and they were poor and people would look at them and say they’re unhappy and fucked up, but they were actually very happy people and they had a community there until the NYPD I think made them leave. That’s the book I’d recommend.
Meech: Shit man that’s a hard fuckin’ question. I’m gonna say….The Bible [Laughs]
Juice: Yep, I was gonna say the same thing. I’ve never read it though. I just heard a lot of good things about it. [Juice and Meech Laugh]
It’s been a best seller for forever.
Meech: It is the top stolen book ever!
Do you guys consider yourselves to be indigo children?
Juice: I mean what does that really mean? I don’t really know.
Meech: It’s just a theory. In all honesty what is it really? It’s just a theory. Just like anything else. I read I guess years ago, there’s like a test to see if you are, and I mean, I fell in that category, but do I really know? I mean I’m not like those kids that are psychic and reading minds that people are not talking about, making shit float and fucking telepathic powers. I’m not that level, but I would say that we are what seems to be more in tune with the universe and what goes around than a lot of people our age, and it’s probably not their fault. It’s TV and fluoride in the water and a bunch of bullshit. I just wanna say that you don’t need psychedelics to figure out what the fuck is going on. I have friends that don’t take any psychedelics and they figured it out. I just happened to be a little bit more cloudy.
Erick: This is totally unrelated but can I just say something? Juice has two wrestler wristband things around his wrists right now and he made them out of tissue. I just wanted to say that, and he looks like a futuristic wrestler.
[Laughs] Ok, well that actually brings me to this question. I was going to ask this at the end but fuck it. Who is your favorite wrestler?
Erick: Umm…Roddy Piper.
Meech: Heartbreak Kid Sean Michaels, The Main Event.
Juice: I’ll go with Undertaker for now.
Erick, if you could make a project using samples from just one movie or album, what would you pick?
Erick: Man that’s a fuckin’ fucked up question.
Meech: Probably Clockwork Orange, right?
Erick: Yeah, I’d say Clockwork Orange. That shit is just the most trippiest, weirdest shit…it’s fire man. I love that movie. I love the sounds, I love the way it makes me feel, it’s a great movie. I’d definitely pick that.
I saw that ZombieVision video y’all just released and saw you guys jamming to “Worldwide Choppers”, do y’all listen to much Strange Music?
Juice: Oh yeah definitely man. We love that shit. Krizz, Tech N9ne, all that shit is beautiful. They spit real fuckin’ raps, very technical raps. Very amazing flows unlike anything the world has seen. [Laughs]
Anything else you want to say before we get out of here?
Juice: Open your mind. It’s all a matter of perspective.
Meech: Yeah man, look out for It’s All A Matter Of Perspective.
When can we expect that to drop?
When it’s hot outside. [Laughs] So, summertime.
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