Ever since the Flatbush Zombies released the single “Thug Waffles” back in 2012, fans have clamored for a full-fledged studio album from the Brooklyn-based rap trio. Two mixtapes and four years later, that album, 3001: A Laced Odyssey, is finally here.
Wordplay aside, the album, despite receiving the upgrade from mixtape, is more of what listeners have come to expect from the Brooklyn-based trio.
This is not necessarily a bad thing. The formula consisting of Erick “The Architect” Elliot’s celestially stellar production, Meechy Darko’s gritty voice and lyrics and, of course, Zombie Juice’s seemingly endless acid trip is one that works well and has produced a wealth of quality tracks — including many on this album.
With this consistency, however, comes the same criticism the group has faced throughout their career. The intended lack of polish is one that equally builds the group’s appeal and weaknesses, and is as prevalent in this recent offering as it was in the past. A lack of coherence and consistency also plagues this album, as some tracks excel whereas others flounder. At times, the album transitions jarringly from one track to another.
Highs and lows define this album. Highs come in the form of tracks like “R.I.P.C.D,” “Trade-Off” and “Good Grief.” The natural lyrical talent of Meech and Juice on these tracks explores topics like the digitalization of the music industry, the effects of long term drug use and friends left behind in Flatbush.
The Architect’s production shines brightest on these tracks, as the producer’s trademark emotive, yet tranquil sound thoroughly anchors the distinct styles of the group’s two emcees.
Especially impressive is “Good Grief,” where The Architect seamlessly transitions from a beat featuring a classical violin sample to a dreamy R&B outro, creating a emotionally stirring effect.
Any critic would also be remiss to not mention the song’s finale, “Your Favorite Rap Song,” which closes the album. It fully realizes the collective’s ’90s influence to create a track that carries its length well and exudes both quality and nostalgia.
On some tracks, however, it simply feels like the group as a whole did not put forth a focused effort, evident in offerings like “Ascension,” “New Phone, Who Dis” and “This Is It.” The Architect’s beats on these feel less inspired from original creativity, and originate more from the trap sound that has been circulating through the rap genre as of late.
Meech and Juice also fail to rescue the lackluster beat, and really do not feel at home as they do on other tracks. They, however, make up the minority of the album, and do not put too much of a dent in the overall listening experience.
In the hook of “The Odyssey,” the album’s opener, Meech says, “sometimes I feel like the past is catching up with my ass.” But one must wonder if Flatbush Zombies have ever left the past to begin with — or if they ever will.
And while this may keep the group from reaching the same bar as their genre’s contemporaries, especially those on the West Coast, it also means that Flatbush Zombies will do what they do best — explore reality through musical expression, bringing their fans along for the ride.