Lucid dreams are the original virtual reality. Succinctly put, they are dreams in which the dreamer is conscious they are within a dream and what they are experiencing is different from the conventional, waking world. In lucid dreams, the dreamer can alter what happens in their reality, making it an invaluable tool for creatives who can harness such an experience.
Meechy Darko, Erick Arc Elliott and Zombie Juice, better known as the rambunctious Hip Hop trio Flatbush Zombies, are lucid dreaming all over the group’s studio debut 3001: A Laced Odyssey. Inspired by Stanley Kubrick’s zany and partially prophetic 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey, the zombies of Flatbush stretch their voices to their limits of animation, excavate the zaniest sounds fit for a sci-fi acid trip and deliver constant, extensive lyrical displays not normally found on debut albums from commercially unproven artists.
3001: A Laced Odyssey sounds nothing like the conventional world. There isn’t a chorus to break up the stream of consciousness or to give any semblance to a traditional song until the third track, “R.I.P.C.D.” Zombie Juice employs, by my count, about six different flows on five different songs by the time Meech’s solo song “Ascension” appears midway through the opus. Erick, the “mild temper venter” (“R.I.P.C.D.), intensifies his usual calm flow on a few songs but it’s when he glides memories over “Good Grief” that he delivers one of the most replayable verses on the album.
Then, there’s Meechy Darko. The idiosyncratic MC is the “LSD drops in my iris” that reminds us that we are listening to life from a lucid dream vantage point. He raps “they hog tied my grandmama and whipped my grandpa with pistols, that’s a fact. OG reefer, hash, wax,” on the titular intro, expanding on escaping realities. He’s the only one that would stop a verse in the middle of rapping about drinking Hennessy and rappers copying him just to remind fans “whoops, I wrote this in another dimension.” He’s steering this odyssey, one sheet of LSD at a time.
Meech’s “R.I.P.C.D.” verse is the axiom of that lucid rapping and currently one of the best rap verses of 2016. For nearly 2 ½ minutes, he is “grimy and vibrant like Busta Rhymes in the early 90s,” he “wants the head like ISIS” and by the end he warns you “it’s about to get violent” so you should “take this lyrical dose Dr. Meechy Dark prescribed ya.” It’s a truly dizzying display of unhinged lyricism that by the end has Meechy expelling the last remnants of breath he has left just to tell you to pass him the lighter.
Produced entirely by Erick “The Architect” Elliott, the 12-song mind trip is hodgepodge of haunting strings, ambient sounds fit for a sci-fi film and hard-hitting drums. “Bounce” is an infectious balance of acoustic guitar licks and light drum hits that crescendo into power strings that could overshadow the brightest ultralight beams. The myriad of violin strings of alternating keys on “Good Grief” will induce dream like hypnosis. Reminiscent to the floaty goodness of 2013’s BetterOffDead standout “Club Soda,” the dreamy “A Spike Lee Joint” is a soundbed of baritone hums and soft horns ideal for Erick’s storytelling about growing up in a “street full of wolves” and having “ADHD, smoking weed before church.”
But, it’s the production that proves to be the odyssey’s only signs of turbulence. While there are numerous heat rocks throughout and impressive sequencing, there are some clunkers that disjoint the momentum. The keys on “Trade-Off” are Fisher-Price piano weak and the hi-hats sounded like rustling leaves. “Ascension” is a noteworthy attempt at a power rock songs that sounds too paint-by-the-numbers compared to the dynamic soundscapes he blessed the album with on songs like “The Odyssey” and “New Phone, Who Dis?” There is enough fire for the weak production to not be a total entertainment deterrent, but also keep the project from transcending into a true gamechanger.
The ending outro “Your Favorite Rap Song” bridges six minutes of audio recordings from fans speaking on Flatbush Zombies from over their initial five years of activity. It’s the perfect way to remind new listeners, this is not their first trip, and will not be their last.