[Review] Flatbush Zombies – BetterOffDEAD

The Zombies have finally released their follow-up to 2012’s D.R.U.G.S. mixtape(Death and Recreation Under God’s Supervision), which raised the eyebrows of people the world over. The mix-tape spawned hits such as ‘Thug Waffle’ and ‘Face-Off’, which were both accompanied by music videos which went viral, gaining millions of YouTube views. February this year saw the trio drop another video for a track called ‘MRAZ’, and the audio for ‘Palm Trees’ soon followed. Now we are faced with a 19 track mixtape entitled BetteroffDEAD from the perpetually stoned, zombified collaborative of Meechy Darko, Zombie Juice & Erick ‘Arc’ Elliott.

BetteroffDEAD in some ways acts as a coming out party for both Juice and Erick; Juice’s lyrical progression from D.R.U.G.S. is definitely noticeable, he has stepped his game up to Meech’s level (who has seemingly always been the slickest of the slick). Also, Erick comes out with some great verses, as well as having produced every track on this album except for two.

The Zombies are 1/3 of the ‘Beast Coast’ rap collective, which also features Joey Bada$$’s Pro Era and The Underachievers. The distinctive values and ideologies manifested by the ‘Beast Coast’ movement are made clear by the Zombies from the start of BetteroffDEAD.

The opening track ‘AmeriKKKan Pie’ could be viewed as paying homage to the late, great Capital Steez of Pro Era who released a mixtape entitled ‘AmeriKKKan Korruption’ before passing away late last year. The use of KKK in these titles is an obvious expression of their views on racism in America, which is made evident from the first line of the tape, Meech spitting “I am redesigning the minds of the masses, that fear of black man with tattoos and bandanas, but when a white man wear tattoos and bandanas, and joins a bike gang it’s all cool with the balance.” This track features some of the more politically potent lyrics we’ve seen from the group thus far, with Juice later on trashing the Mayor of New York Michael Bloomberg and ending the track with “In debt to the red, white and blue. Your government lies so who the fuck is you?”

This is followed by a flurry of impressive tracks; ‘Nephilim’ features stand-out verses from both Meech and Juice, while ‘Bliss’ attempts to set a world record for most f bombs dropped on a song ever, in between this they manage to carve out one of the catchier hooks on the tape. ‘Minephuck’ is a solo effort from Juice, and he doesn’t disappoint. Atop a dark, grandiose beat from Erick, Juice shreds through his bars in under two minutes coming off hungrier and more polished than ever. This continues over to one of my favourite songs on the release ‘G Tearz’, Juice is again phenomenal while this song sees The Architect come out blazing; “If labels are in panic, rap should be reprimanded, I rap like I’m on a canvas, keep treading, keep hearing… Spark the sinsemilla, I dig the stench like a sixth sense.” (Sinsemilla means “no seeds” in Spanish). He then continues later with lines like; “Really are you inferior to my mirror, you slipping. Aware that I’m tripping, don’t even give me reason to listen to rap, I rap talents with my pants sagging, middle finger to the law excuse my bad habit.”

The next two tracks ‘Death’ and ‘Death 2’ belong to Meechy as the latter features him solo dolo, just as ruthless as ever; “I crack your fucking skull and use it as a bowl for cereal, I’m so serial, Ted Bundy give me money.”

‘Regular and Complex (GNB)’ is potentially the best-rounded track on the record, with all members of the trio combining equally to create an epic 5 minutes that’s pretty much bars on bars on bars, with the usual drug-addled references, effortless flows and wordplay. ‘Thugnificense’ is another solo Juice track which is nice except for the auto-tuned hook.

One of the only two features on the mixtape comes in the mammoth form of Action Bronson on the track ‘Club Soda’. The beginning of the song features Juice and Erick trading verses rapidly, again flaunting their honed lyricism, before Meech arrives on the track with; “Pop up at your funeral shirtless and spit on your hearse bitch.” Classic Zombie shit right there, Bronson comes through with a nice, slightly forgettable verse but the song again is owned by Juice and Erick.

‘LiveFromHell’ is the one of the two songs not produced by the Architect, Harry Fraud takes the reigns in a song that could’ve been an outtake from their last mixtape, nothing extremely memorable. ‘Palm Trees’ is one of the many blunt blowing anthems in the Zombie repertoire, and is up there as one of the best with Meech’s versatile flow ranging from rasps to high pitched growls over the captivating hook and lines such as; “Lions don’t lose sleep over the opinions of sheep, on the road to the riches, money sticking to my cleats. I am moi, magnifique, skin noir, Darky Meech.” 

‘222’ is Erick’s turn at going lonesome, and he again comes through strong. His true talent and potential is beginning to shine through like never before on BetterOffDEAD, making a claim for one of the best producers in the game, as well as a premier lyricist.

This is followed by the second, and last feature on the mixtape, and who other than the like-minded Danny Brown to feature on the track ‘Drug Parade’, which features the family friendly, campfire sing-a-long chorus; “Shrooms, shrooms, LSD, mescaline, a lot of weed.” Although I had higher expectations for the song, it still turned out pretty decent. Danny Brown’s opening line makes me fear he has finally lost his mind, but once he stops wailing he hits his classic Danny rhythm.

‘TP4’ and ‘GOD Blessed The DEAD’ aren’t the most captivating from Meech, however he more than makes up for it with his verse on ‘MRAZ’. Possibly my favourite verse on the entire body of work, no matter how long ago it came out. Meech drips charisma and oozes lyrical proficiency all over the track, switching up his flow to sync with Arc’s production; “I am like Randy Savage on acid, that’s very vibrant and classic, a walking disaster hazard to any rapper that’s rapping, we the underground killers, but globally they feel us cos we restoring the feeling, this guru spit voodoo yes, I am that mass appealing.” The only element to this song I didn’t dig was the hook, given the lyrical potency of all members verses they could’ve done more than rhyme the n bomb with the n bomb.

‘My team, SUPREME’ is another of my favourite songs from BetterOffDEAD, featuring all-out fire verses from Erick the Architect and Meech. Arc is possibly at his peak lyrically on this track; “Tripping to existence is often labelled as for miscreants, cause we position it different, real hard to make sense of it… Now we acting senseless, fuck you, architect for president.” ‘The Results Are In’ closes out the album nicely, with Juice and Erick again playing starring roles.

All in all, BetterOffDEAD is like D.R.U.G.S. on steroids; keeping loyal to their original roots and themes, the Zombies have made bold step forwards both lyrically and production wise. Meech has remained a lyrically gifted delinquent, with Juice rising from his above-average performance on the previous tape to be considered as something to be reckoned with. Perhaps the tapes biggest winner is Erick the Architect though, producing 17/19 songs, without one dud as well as dropping some of the more eye opening lyrics on the mixtape, BetterOffDEAD  announces his arrival as one of the best talents out at the moment.

MARCUS LOGAN

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