Thug Workout 105: FlatBush Zombies’ 3001: A Laced Odyssey

Thug Workout 105: FlatBush Zombies’ 3001: A Laced Odyssey

Week 5 Day 1: 2 x Metis

Round 1: 10 x Burpees, 10 x Climbers, 10 x Jumps
Round 2: 25 x Burpees, 25 x Climbers, 25 x Jumps
Round 3: 10 x Burpees, 10 x Climbers, 10 x Jumps
Round 4: 10 x Burpees, 10 x Climbers, 10 x Jumps
Round 5: 25 x Burpees, 25 x Climbers, 25 x Jumps
Round 6: 10 x Burpees, 10 x Climbers, 10 x Jumps

After a brief gap in the Thug Workout due to a knackered back, a hectic final week on an external work project and subsequent post-job celebrations upon my return I was set thoroughly adrift and up shit’s creek by my trusty Freeletics coaching, app with not so much as a set of armbands and a “good luck fatty” to see me off.

In fact fuck arms bands, I was gleefully set adrift up shit’s creek with a breezeblock tied to my feet and three KFC Bargain Buckets inside me. A total of ninety burpees alone was enough to make me wish I had gone on the piss instead but factoring in the additional climbers and the (deceptively) exhausting high knee-jumps and you’re essentially looking at the exercise equivalent of Guy Ritchie’s Revolver: in other words a complete and totally unbalanced, ill-advised shower of steaming hot shit.

By the end of it I literally fell to the ground, completely bypassing the need for a sit down. Just goes to show what five days of drinks, crap food and other fun chemicals can do to a wannabee athlete who doens’t take his training even remotely seriously.

What I Listened To: Flatbush Zombies’ 3001: A Laced Odyssey (2016)
After my week of throwback hip-hop classics and shite drum & bass experimentation I promised you all I would start listening to some more contemporary work in the coming episodes and, seeing as my last feature was on Non Phixion’s underground classic The Future Is Now, I thought a natural jump-off for the next piece would be the new album from Flatbush Zombies; some fellow New Yorkians whom I referenced in the Future Is Now review and whom also share some definite lineage with the styles and approach of Non Phixion.

For those unfamiliar Flatbush Zombies is a trio of emcees from (funnily enough) the Flatbush area of New York composed of Meechie Darko, Zombie Juice and Eric Arc Elliot aka The Architect. They rose to (relative) prominence over the past half-decade with a pair of banging mixtapes and some rather fine guest spots here and there on tracks from folk such as A-Trak, RZA and Mr Muthafuckin Xquire. Stylistically they sit in a fairly unique pocket that draws elements from that gloriously crusty Golden Era boom-bap sound, the more contemporary thugged out / drugged out sound rife across most of chart hip-hop at present but with slight twinges of that whole Horrorcore thing made popular by artists like Tech N9ne (whom they shoutout on the album) Necro and Jedi Mind Tricks in the early / mid 2000s.

It’s quite a mix and definitely more interesting than if they simply pigeonholed themselves to any one definite style but, as their new album 3001: A Laced Odyssey shows, it’s a heady combination of flavours that doesn’t always quite blend.

Album opener Odyssey is a fairly bombastic number; acting as a pretty tight starting point for both new listeners and returning ears alike with the Zomies’ trademark nimble flows skittering all over the gaff atop some fat melodramatic string production and solid thundering percussion. Second track Bounce provides a nice one / two hit for the album opener; even denser verse structures than on Odyssey, packed amongst hazy strings and melodic guitar and piano parts with a breakdown similar in aesthetic to some of the production on Weeknd’s House Of Balloons album (albeit with slightly less infectious hooks and far less crying over spilt milk). It’s a definite album highlight but just needs that little something more in the hook / chorus department to make it a truly big tune.

This need for a couple of hooks is something that seems to elude the Zombies’ throughout 3001. Across the whole record flows are on razor sharp point and the aesthetic of the beats (all of which handled entirely in-house by Eric Arc Elliott) is pretty much flawless but, in spots, the album does tend to disappear inside itself. Tracks regularly blend into one another amongst all the talk of nefarious psychedelics, smoking blunts and that general sort of outsider stuff. Trade-Off is definitely the closest the record gets to a true anthem, with the endlessly quotable / shoutable hook “it’s that work hard, play hard, I just got a blowjob.” Aside from this and a few other truly standout numbers much of the album feels like it’s made of a bunch of verses that are sometimes left to simply meander around on the beats in their own little worlds… Although I suppose from a conceptual viewpoint this goes nicely with their constant drug talk and will definitely be familiar to anyone that’s found themselves mid-way though a conversation in a smoking area of a club at 6am trying desperately to remember what the fuck the point was they were getting at.

This meandering and spaced-out vibe serves its purpose perfectly in places, A Spike Lee Joint and Fly Away in particular, but by the end of the album’s twelve track run a bit of listener’s fatigue does start to set in. I’m not saying I want some clumsily shoehorned, Skrillex produced, piece of shit brostep banger mid-album, but if this album is thematically supposed to be a laced up, drug fuelled odyssey then a couple of uppers is would always be great to take the edge off all the downers.

Overall though this is a thoroughly enjoyable album, the Zombies are without doubt talented emcees and far more unique than most of the audio mulch currently topping the hip-hop / download charts and the aesthetic of the group is superb, as is the wonderfully illustrated cover courtesy of comic book artist David Nakayama, which again definitely put me in mind of the Mere One illustrated sleeve for Non Phixion’s Future Is Now). Personally I think great design always deserves to exist in actual physical space and as a result I’ve just ordered a copy of the album on CD (which seems a little ironic seeing as there’s a track on the album called R.I.P.CD but whatever mate, I’m not a pedant)

Between current stars like A$AP Mob, Odd Future, Future, The Weeknd and Young Thug to name but a few there seems to currently be a rich vein in contemporary hip-hop of artists who seem to want to fill their time doing drugs and then clamouring for their therapists and subsequently documenting it via shit pop songs and its getting really little wearing. Flatbush Zombies fall into the whole drug talk / therapist routine a little themselves sometimes but, thankfully, are able to eschew the dull pastiche levels of those bigger stars through both their willingness to not chase overtly commercial sounds and taking a staunchly independent / DIY approach. If that means sacrificing a few hooks here & there and carrying on putting out solid projects then I’m fine with it… If they start reaching for the Auto-tune features you’ll find me listening to old Ruff Ryders cuts again instead… On the subject of Ruff Ryders, drugs and the need for a therapist has anyone from the aforementioned artists considered putting in a courtesy call to their docs on behalf of DMX? That man looks like he’s be running a tough paper round of late. Get well soon Darkman

Beats: 8 out of 10. Consistently nuanced and intricately assembled throughout but without ever sounding samey. Made all the more impressive by the fact they were all made by the same producer in-house.
Lyrics: 6 out 10. Some really creative stuff, some wonderfully wilfully obscure references and always with a unique spin on tone and delivery but the endless talk of dropping acid can get a little wearisome. Referencing drugs in general stopped being “rebellious” long before Flatbush were on the scene.
Thugness: 5 out 10. Keen to point out on this one that low Thugness ratings are usually a positive. Flatbush have a bit of that stuff going on but tend to go more into the surrealist / horrocore style with it which actually suits them better as creatively they don’t get bogged down in all that dull “proving authenticity” stuff.
Chauvenism: 6 out of 10. It probably wouldn’t officially be allowed to be called a hip-hop record without some unfair representation of the fairer sex and the Zombies do alright here. No female features whatsoever and a track with a hook about casual blowjobs. Hip-hop.
Geographical Shoutouts: 10 out of 10. They put one in their fucking name so that’s full points by default

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