Hailing from their namesake of a borough in Brooklyn New York, Flatbush Zombies' debut studio album 3001: A Laced Odyssey was a fun record that regrettably lacked a sense of identity throughout. The biggest issue was that while there were a lot of fun tracks, bangers or otherwise that could be taken out of context, the album as a whole lacked a sense of creative direction or forward momentum.
Their follow up studio LP Vacation In Hell makes for an impressive stylistic sweep, trading in psychedelic and trippy beats and effects for more traditional trap bangers to fling bars against. There's also some more emphasis put into hook and chorus work this time around, aiming for some more mainstream pop-sensibilities. Meechy Darko's throaty voice helms the chorus of lead single 'Headstone' which makes for an irresistible hook positioned over a compelling and deceptively simple beat. Erik The Architect captains the producer role for the majority of this album, flip-flopping between the cosmic and heavy-hitting.
A slew of inspired guest features helps elevate some tracks, adding variance between the trio but not saturating the tracklist in guest spots. Brooklyn native Joey Bada$$ lends a verse on 'Vacation' which in conjunction with Juice's uplifting hook makes for an infectious, relaxed banger. Artists like A$AP Twelvvy and Denzel Curry might be standard fare on the likes of 'Leather Symphony' and 'The Glory' respectively, but eyebrows raise when it comes to Portugal. The Man's John Gourley making an appearance on the chorus of 'Crown'.
Although sharing the same disc, the album features a divisive split around the halfway mark that could have worked just as well as a double-album. Opening the album by rattling off bangers one after the other lulls the listener into a false sense of security before being rear-ended by the album's more sentimental back-half. Tracks like 'U&I' and 'Trapped' are far more introspective, recollections of depression and suicidal thoughts followed up by the political bite of 'Best American'.
It's clear that the group are packaging Vacation In Hell as an old-school rap record rather than a contemporary one, and at 19 tracks and running at a little over 70 minutes, the record's biggest detriment is that it's a touch overbearing. Most of what landed on the finished product is indeed quality listening, but there's also a lot here to digest, and a few lesser tracks could have been omitted and not really have impacted the tracklist all that negatively.
It's a petty gripe that comes from a place of preferring a concise album front to back, instead of a collection of all songs put together, but thankfully, Flatbush Zombies have enough charisma and style to get the listener all the way to the finish line. The trio are on their way to ascending towards greatness, and if you're looking for a quality hip-hop record that you can jam in your headphones or play in the background of a social session then Vacation In Hell is a home-run.
Dre’s Top Three:
- Vacation (feat. Joey Badass)
- The Glory