Flatbush Zombies, ‘BetterOffDEAD’ – Album Review
The triangle of the Brooklyn youth-driven Beast Coast movement includes the ‘90s boom bap referencing, Joey Bada$$-led Pro Era, the psychedelia-favoring Underachievers and the perpetually weeded out Flatbush Zombies. The former two have received at least a decent level of critical appraisal, while the Flatbush Zombies grew to be arguably the least favored of the trio. That could very well change on ‘BetterOffDEAD,’ the group’s sophomore effort.
The Flatbush Zombies exist under the already limiting label of weed rap, and their style was even more limiting. They smoke cannabis — a lot of it — but the boasts became their crutch as the trio could barely find anything else to convincingly talk about, which is a huge problem if you have an entire mixtape to carry. As a result, their mixtape ‘D.R.U.G.S.’ became a boring listen.
Are they detailing life philosophies on ‘‘BetterOffDEAD’? Well, no. It’s still weed rap mixed with braggadocio.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing though. If 2 Chainz taught us anything on his newly released ‘B.O.A.T.S II: #MeTime,’ it’s that if you’re going to do something that’s been done countless times, then at least be good at it. Flatbush Zombies are pretty good at what they do on ‘BetterOffDEAD.’
If ‘D.R.U.G.S’ represented weed-induced drowsiness, then ‘BetterOffDEAD’ represents a paranoia. With that paranoia comes the thrills, and they’re plenty to be found on this latest effort.
Erick Arc Elliott produces all but two songs on the mixtape, adding a sense of continuity instead of monotony. The beats for the most part mix some effervescence into the mixtape’s overall dark tone. The ‘BetterOffDEAD’ highlight ‘Regular and Complex (GNB)’ has a bass line that just adds a bit of crunch to the songs overall ambiance, while ‘Club Soda’ has a type of trance that feels applicable to a club setting and in a car’s stereo system. Harry Fraud and Obey City also have production credits, but their contributions are decent at best.
The backdrop is nothing if the stars don’t sound engaged, which fortunately isn’t the case here. The rappers rap with the same sense of danger of a frayed wire, whether it’s Meech’s bewildered, “DTA I don’t trust none of my homies Meech’s / Juice laced my spliff with PCP and never told me,” on the rumble of ‘BetterOffDEAD’ standout ‘Death’ or Juice’s purposeful, “Mortal dog, living through all of y’all / Treat this s— like my only child son of God.”
Action Bronson and Danny Brown swing through as the two lone guest stars to provide some color to the album’s cloudy atmosphere. Bronson swings through with a sleepy but semi-hilarious verse, slinging lines like, “She put sugar in the vegetable, she grew up in the gutter,” with a matter-of-fact-sensibility. Brown is welcomed on ‘Drug Parade,’ but his verse is a bit too indecipherable to add to the relatively bland track.
Speaking of blandness, the Flatbush Zombies do have their missteps like in the abysmal hook on the hook-driven ‘TP4’ and Meech’s cacophonous performance on ‘Palm Trees.’ Mistakes aside, ‘BetterOffDEAD,’ stands as another well put-together effort from the Beast Coast movement. If progression is one of the main focuses of the movement, it’s clear that Flatbush Zombies are living up to the philosophy.
Listen to Flatbush Zombies’ ‘BetterOffDead’