Flatbush Zombies - D.R.U.G.S.
To call Frankenstein a simple zombie would be grounds enough to lose your horror card (something akin to a man card but for horror junkies). While Frankenstein is in essence a reanimated corpse, much like zombies, he is the epitome of back alley science―a morbid invention that could only be the result of twisted genius. In the rap game, the Gravediggaz’ debut album 6 Feet Deep, and Kool Keith’s, under his Dr. Octagon alias, Dr. Octagonecologyst, come to mind as examples of that brilliance. Both are inspired works in the horrorcore/abstract hip-hop tradition that run their scalpel with the precision of a surgeon even when committing crimes of the Jack the Ripper variety. Unlike the Flatbush Zombies, Prince Paul and Kool Keith (and their respective company) know that the true monster is not the lumbering beast (wrongly remembered as Frankenstein) but Dr. Frankenstein himself.
If the Flatbush Zombies carried themselves more like the Flatbush Frankensteins, they would have taken the working parts of D.R.U.G.S., their recently dropped mixtape, and sewn them together into a functioning body. A bio-engineered version consisting of only “S.C.O.S.A.,” “Laker Paper,” “Jupiter Sound,” the new ghetto anthem (sorry Jay-Z) “Thug Waffle,” “YBA,” “Drama,” and to a lesser degree, “Face-Off”, would have been a true feat in shock and awe. Instead we get the walking corpse of a freebaser with none of the storied regret. In its worst parts, D.R.U.G.S. is little more than Tyler, The Creator with none of the R.L. Stine campiness but all of the vileness toward women. And, unlike RZA with “Domestic Violence,” or the Psycho Realm with “Love Letters Intro/Love From The Sick Side,” it seems that the resentment comes from a place not of personal demons but of personality disorders. That’s not to call the supremely talented trio consisting of Juice, Meech, and producer Erick Arc Elliott unstable, but their work on Death and Reincarnation Under God’s Supervision (D.R.U.G.S.) certainly is. The name’s inspiration, for one, seems to make no appearance on the album.
The release starts with an intro, aptly-titled “Intro,” that is equal parts Brotha Lynch Hung and early bass-bumpin’ UGK, which sets up a record reminiscent of Aquemini. Heck, “Breakfast at Epiffanies” shares the cymbal rumble with the title track from Outkast’s magnum opus. In “Intro” Juice purports to be “no goblin,” distancing the group from the Odd Future brand; Meech too is introspective, marveling at how this [life, it would seem] could have “all started from a molecule.” But then kills whatever semblance of observation he had pieced together by peppering the end with rantings of the word “ho.” If the contrast was intentional, it would have made sense to follow the intro with “S.C.O.S.A.,” a wall of sound that matches the cryptic swagger of A$AP’s “Goldie.” But instead they fool around with the wind chime synths of “Mary, Nothing Above Thee,” which is plagued with horrible bursts of satanic feedback, and the drudgery of “Al Bundy,” before arriving to any value. Somewhere lost in the middle is the sultry meditation that is “Laker Paper.”
Prior to its release, the Flatbush Zombies remarked on the value of not working under label overlords. Certainly they have a lot of free reign on this effort, but ultimate freedom is good for toddlers and not necessarily working musicians. Discipline, opposed to most artist mantras, can help just as much as it can detract. If the Flatbush Zombies were hoping to reinvent horrorcore, they ultimately failed, since Busta Rhymes is scarier on The Coming than anything found on D.R.U.G.S. If the Zombies were going for pussy-pop theatrics, they also fell categorically short given the underscored sensitivity of “Jupiter Sound” and “YBA.” If they were going for the humored spirituality of a Brand Nubian or a De La Soul, considering the acronym, and some of the ideas expressed throughout, there they faltered as well. Instead of playing the role of mad scientists, as I believe they had hoped to do, they come off as aimless stiffs stricken with the munchies (which might be appropriate when one takes into account their fascination for the green stuff). In the end, it is “Thug Waffle” that best indicates their potential powers of creation, since the track is a fascinating collage of genres that has been sewn together by true madmen.