Album Review: Flatbush Zombies – 3001: A Laced Odyssey

by Dustin

3001

7/10

This review is late. So very late. It would have felt wrong to ignore this album, though, so here we go…

3001: A Laced Odyssey is the long-time-coming debut studio album from New York based hip-hop trio Flatbush Zombies. This debut would come nearly three years after releasing a couple of mixtapes which stirred up quite a bit of buzz and helped establish a loyal fan following. Somewhat spectacularly, 3001: A Laced Odyssey sold 28,000 units in its first week. This may not sound like a lot, but for a self-released independent record it is wonderful.

You may now be asking yourself, what did this album do to be able to sell so well? And the answer is, lots of things! Most importantly the Zombies as a group established their sound on this record. While their mixtapes were well received, they were fairly chaotic. 3001: A Laced Odyssey is an incredibly cohesive album on all fronts. As a group, the three rappers build off of each other in more of a team-like fashion than fans have seen before. Even the production meshes beautifully from track to track.

This new found tightness is no doubt a product of the artistic evolution Zombie Juice, Erick the Architect, and Meechy Darko.

Zombie Juice perhaps shows the most signs of growth as an artist on 3001: A Laced Odyssey of the three group mates. Juice, at times, has been the victim of critical panning for not being able to keep up with his group-members in terms of flow or vocal presence. Fortunately, he definitely seemed to work hard at correcting these errors on this album. There are still times where Juice feels slightly weak on a track next to Meech and Erick, but the difference is not as noticeable here as it was on the Flashbush Zombies’ mixtapes.

Every day, live it like it’s it for me,
Black on black in time with my roots this is my ghetto symphony,
Shout out to my fam and my homies, we making history,
Never had a degree, but the streets made me a sicker breed.
(Zombie Juice – The Odyssey)

Erick the Architect displayed progression as both a producer and vocalist on this album. His instrumental work was solid, and probably his most most important contribution to the project as a whole. The beats are smooth, rely less on sampling, and fit together very cohesively. It was clear that he had direction when constructing the atmosphere for 3001: A Laced Odyssey. His writing still may not be the best of the group, but Erick has strengthened his vocal delivery which was a pleasant surprise.

Streets full of wolves so my appetite grew
I was hungry for this rap shit way back in high school
(Erick the Architect – A Spike Lee Joint)

Meechy Darko did about what you would expect if you’ve listened to other Flatbush Zombies’ music. His verses are punchy, gritty, and sinister sounding. He did a good job at scaling back his ultra-gruff delivery when needed, as 3001: A Laced Odyssey is a smoother sounding album than previous Zombies material. He didn’t show as much improvement as Erik or Juice, but this isn’t necessarily an issue as he was the Flatbush Zombies member with the strongest vocal presence prior to this release.

My only mission is to burn in hell and not in prison,
That’s why I’m spitting shit that make Jesus question religion,
This fan told me her parents said I sound like the devil,
To me I sound like a poor black kid from the ghetto.
(Meechy Darko – The Odyssey)

3001: A Laced Odyssey is not without its flaws. For example, Meechy Darko’s attempt at shock humor felt a little forced occasionally. That’s not to say that he should have avoided it entirely as subtle horrorcore influence has always been present in Meech’s writing, but there was the odd moment where these lines felt out of place relative to the song. As mentioned earlier, Zombie Juice also came up short on a few tracks; however, none of his underwhelming moments really stood out as terrible.

The absolute worst part of the album is probably the multiple minutes of fan messages on the last song. Admittedly it was cool for the first listen, but after that it felt like a nuisance. It would have been better suited as a whole separate outro track rather than part of a song, entirely for skipping purposes.

These things considered, 3001: A Laced Odyssey is an all-around solid debut album. For new fans, it’s a focused listen that serves as a wonderful entry point into the Flatbush Zombies’ catalog. Those who have followed the group since their mixtape material might be surprised by the more relaxed sound, but that hopefully will not deter them from listening. There are most definitely still areas that the group could improve, but 3001: A Laced Odyssey has laid a sturdy groundwork for future albums.

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Album Review: Open Mike Eagle & Paul White – Hella Personal Film Festival

by Dustin

HPFF

7.75/10

After kicking off the month of March by winning the incredibly prestigious Extraordinary Nobodies Artist of the Month nod, Open Mike Eagle looked to have a strong finish to the month with his brand new full length album. Having found a home for his unique brand of “art rap” on Mello Music Group, Mike set the bar high for himself with the one-two album-extended play punch of Dark Comedy and A Special Episode Of. You may be asking, “did he follow up these two projects with another exceptional album”? Well, if you had paid attention to the little score at the top you would already know that yes, yes he did.

The album is also titled Hella Personal Film Festival. So yeah, that’s a thing too.

Hella Personal Film Festival listens almost conceptually, with every track being a movie script to some aspect of Open Mike Eagle’s life. He’s always been a very relatable artist, yet this album manages to push that a little further. Though Mike keeps his absurd, witty, and sometimes sarcastic approach to analysis, it becomes obvious right from the opening track that this project will be at times more serious and introspective. There are moments on Hella Personal Film Festival that seem to put him at his most vulnerable, exposing scars and concerns to the listener.

I heard that when you in a fucked up space,
No one can hear you signal help,
I tried to set them straight,
And tell them I self medicate,
All they saw’s a glitchy video,
But then I never show my cards,
Instead I write for stealth,
Blah blah blah, I cry for help,
All this bellyaching’s just to say,
My belly’s hurting after all.
Admitting the Endorphin Addiction

At times it did feel like Mike had lost some of the vocal energy that he had in abundance on Dark Comedy, but the more somber approached fit the subject matter well. His delivery at times felt more similar to Rappers Will Die of Natural Causes than to his newer work, which was a bit surprising at first. Don’t take that to mean that he took a step backwards though, because that couldn’t be less true. Open Mike Eagle’s writing, emotional awareness, and presence on Hella Personal Film Festival has quite clearly progressed. It’s just more closely related to his older records in terms of overall sound.

The album only has two guest features, Aesop Rock and Hemlock Ernst (the rap personal of Future Islands’ Sam Herring) on “I Went Outside Today” and “Protectors of the Heat” respectively. This selective use of guests artists is fairly typical for an Open Mike Eagle album, and both managed to add something to the songs on which they were featured; however, Aesop probably had the more interesting verse of the two with his ever-so-confusing charm. Busdriver also makes a quick appearance at the end of “Dang is Invincible” where he says a grand total of nine or ten words. He’s not listed as a feature, but the voice is unmistakable.

Gotta admit it’s hard to feel good without being narcissistic,
Did the whole tour and didn’t get a parking ticket,
Looked in my heart and there wasn’t no darkness in it,
Feel awesome dude, found some wind to throw caution to!
Dang is Invincible

Production also really has to be discussed for this album as it was a collaborative effort with UK based music producer Paul White. White is perhaps most well known for his work with Danny Brown will on both XXX and Old. He has also provided production for the likes of Homeboy Sandman and Guilty Simpson. As far as the instrumentation on this album, he did a wonderful job at providing beats which compliment Open Mike Eagle’s voice. The sound is somewhat more conventional that most of Mike’s discography, but in this case that is certainly not a bad thing. There is not a single instrumental on Hella Personal Film Festival which feels out of place. They flow into each other very nicely, building a cohesive atmosphere throughout.

If you were looking for powerful booming production though, you wont find it here. It would be kind of questionable to be looking for bangers on Open Mike Eagle album in general because that’s not really his style, but hey, it was worth a mention.

Living from check to check, I keep checking,
Incoming call, directly reject it,
If you want to talk, suggest you leave message,
I check, check, check like every three seconds,
I’m recording right now and I’m checking between takes,
Every notification that my phone machine makes,
I put it down whenever, but it’s never a clean break,
I should get a heavy phone and pretend it’s a free weight.
Check to Check

Basically, if you are a fan of Open Mike Eagle’s previous work it’s not a stretch to say that you’ll enjoy what Hella Personal Film Festival has to offer. It might not be the best jumping off point for a new listener, as it is surprisingly more dense than an album like Dark Comedy (which is probably the easiest album in Mike’s discography to jump into in terms of lyrics and overall sound). If you’re looking for an record that takes multiple listens to fully digest, but still offers some comedic relief, then Hella Personal Film Festival may just fit your taste perfectly.

Just be sure to give it more than a single spin (you’ll want to anyway).