Vacation in Hell
Reviewed by Thomas Herron
The Flatbush Zombies are one of rap’s hidden gems. The Beast Coast trio has been quietly grinding for eight years. This April they released their second studio album, Vacation in Hell, following up on their debut studio album 3001: A Laced Odyssey.
Flatbush and the Beast Coast movement means a lot to rap. The Zombies, along with Pro Era and the Underachievers have collectively revived New York boom bap.
The Brooklyn-based trio have also defined innovation and the evolution of rap. They don’t rap about typical content matter, though they’re fully capable of falling in line with the game, and making it sound good. But that is not typically what they do, and Vacation in Hell is a great example of how the group has balanced the classic Brooklyn flow with dark, unorthodox content matter and sound.
The 19 song LP features a good balance of Meechy Darko, Erick Arc Elliot, and Zombie Juice. The group’s innovation and artistic ability is well displayed on this album.
The opening track, “HELL-O,” is a great example of this contradictory ignorance infused consciousness. Meechy’s signature raspy flow comes on with a statement: “Man fuck that new shit, that mumble rap, this that scully low rumble rap.”
The second song, “CHUNKY,” features what feels like Zombie Juice taking over, being one of the more conscious rappers of the three, his bars regarding a “generation disconnect” and “modern slavin’” define the song.
“Vacation,” featuring fellow Beast Coast member Joey Bada$$ is one of the more popular parts on the album, because one of Flatbush’s weaknesses is lacking a good hook. That’s not the case on this song, as they found a melodic, catchy chorus to compliment a fire Joey Bad feature.
“Headstone” features a hard-hitting beat to compliment the Zombies intent to throw a middle finger up to the game, in the hook which Meechy states that they’ll put your favorite rapper on a headstone.
Meechy continues with a powerful tribute to an iconic Pac line from “Hail Mary” and combines it with a Mobb Deep reference; “Right now I’m on the edge, so dont push me, troublesome since 96, you a shook one, breathe easy know the ledge, i’m your pusher, what’s that? I smell pussy.” The same verse closes with an array of iconic references to Tupac’s discography, Kanye’s first hit “Jesus Walks,” and Biggie’s “Who Shot Ya.” All around a strong song that bangs and the lyrics are not only well thought out, but hit.
“Crown” plays a huge part in the staying power of the album with content focusing on their destiny as individuals and a group. Despite Meechy’s low-pitched voice, he finds a way to match the melody of the beat and his counterparts, and the sheer effort in doing so shines through.
“U&I” illustrates the groups understanding of hip-hop’s roots in storytelling, and shows growth in that they conquered an aspect of rap that was previously a weakness. Meechy dominates this song as well, talking about his personal life and the brotherhood they’ve all found in their group.
The Dave B. feature was a great decision simply because his melodic, emotion infused chorus brings out a soothing flow from all of the members, which has been a rarity up to this point in their discography. “The Goddess” is easily one of the best songs on the album, and also a slight turning point to a darker side of the album.
Flatbush shifts from their careless consciousness over harder-hitting beats to a more melodic sound, expressing their own battles with mental issues such as anxiety on “Trapped.” The growth is really evident in the latter half of the album, and that is by design as the initial half showcases what the Zombies are known for.
The trio also expands on the variety of their flows to match Pro Era spitter, Nyck Caution, on “Misunderstood” in doing a beautiful job of continuing their newfound personal openness over an upbeat track. The juxtaposition of a positive sounding beat with their darker subject matter is art and innovation in rap at it’s finest.
“YouAreMySunshine” is definitely one of the most appealing songs on the album, consisting of Meechy’s calm soliloquy to the late A$AP Yams.
The album also features A$AP Twelvyy, Houston legend Bun B, New York icon Jadakiss, Dave B., Nyck Caution, and Denzel Curry, among others. The variety of artists gives the album a sense of reflexiveness that keeps the listener interested and maintains the group’s versatile feel to be able to match Joey Bada$$, Jada, and Curry all on the same album.
Vacation in Hell overall feels like Flatbush not only attacking the game, but the current state of the world while attempting to establish their arrival and consequent dominance in both playing fields. The album’s value comes in the group’s lack of hesitance to express their opinion and their confidence.
The only glaring weakness is the length of the album. Some of the earlier songs could be cut easily. The listener doesn’t need to be reminded of the group’s roots for as long as they are. Songs like M. Bison could be cut easily, which would shift the focus to the parts of the album that accentuate the newer aspects of their music.
Overall, Flatbush has managed to stay true to their roots while evolving their ability to harness more sensitive subject matter. The group has always been melodic, but what was missing was the sort of soul music we see near the end of the album. It is obvious how much the Zombies capitalized on prior weaknesses through attempting to master storytelling and showing us another side of their usually aggressive, purposefully ignorant persons.