The Flatbush Zombies' whole crew is sleeping the day away when I enter their crash pad somewhere in Brooklyn. It’s the midafternoon and four dudes are still sprawled out over two oversized mismatched couches under a haze of last night’s stale reefer smoke. From hung-over murmurs, I gather that there are acid tabs in the refrigerator and treasure troves of sour diesel weed hidden like stinky Easter eggs all over the apartment.
Zombie Juice and Meechy Darko, the MC duo that make up the Flatbush Zombies, are in the flophouse’s only bedroom. The tiny room has two bare mattresses on the floor and a single microphone looming in the corner. These are humble digs for a group that has been fawned over by every hip hop site on the web and is getting attention from major labels all on the strength of one really fucking good music video.
It’s only been a few weeks since they released “Thug Waffle,” their debut music video that boasts copious shots of orange-hair weed nuggets and the duo’s gold-toothed fangs. Already, the clip has received over 100,000 hits with no label support and its naggingly contagious hook, “See we float/Must be from that weed smoke/Eyes Chinese cause we smoking sour diesel,” has become ingrained in my mind and the mind of every kid rocking Supreme and not reading this article because they are too busy sucking on the smoky teat of a colorful glass pipe.
It’s clear that weed is very important to these guys. Meech, who’s already dressed, looks like a Jamaican Bart Simpson with his twisted naps standing straight up in the air. In a mush-mouthed speech pattern that speeds up and slows down just like his reggae-influenced flow, he tells me his stoner philosophies.
“I live by D.R.U.G.S., which stands for ‘death and reincarnation under god's supervision.’ I fully believe we’ve been here before. I died when I was 16—that was the first time I did shrooms. I got hit in the face with reality. After all the years of brainwashing and bullshit, that trip really woke me up. That’s when I became a zombie.”
Reincarnation is a strange word to hear from a rapper, because glory in the genre of hip hop is so closely associated with death (think Tupac, Biggie, Big Pun). If the Zombies’ transformation from kids surviving in the notorious Flatbush neighborhood to rocking shows with A.$.A.P Rocky proves anything, it’s that you might not have to die to be reborn.
Juice is still shirtless and under the covers, taking deep drags off of a spliff. Half his hair is dyed blonde and he sports an unruly facial hair that looks like one of those fake beards you clip over your ears and have to pull down and mold around your chin. He’s the mystic of the group with butt loads of PMA, which is strange considering his loss: his mother has passed away and his father is a stranger he’s never met. Juice also has a three-year-old son to take care of who can’t be fed on internet hype. The responsibility adds extra urgency to turning this music thing into something viable.
“The night after my son was born, it hit me. I actually have responsibilities now. I can't just drift away. There were times before that I didn't know what my purpose was, but now I have something to live for,” Juice says as he throws on a bandana Tupac style, knotted atop his forehead.
I follow them out into the street, and it’s a cold winter’s day in Brooklyn. The snow on the road is dirty and the contact high I got from sitting inside their smoked-out apartment is making me feel like I am floating over the pavement like a character in a Spike Lee joint. We head to a park nearby close to where Juice was raised by his grandparents and meet up with the duo’s childhood friend and exclusive producer Eric Arc Elliott, a lanky music nerd who’s been pursuing a music career as a solo rapper/producer years before he started making hyper-synthy bangers for the Zombies.
“When you try to make music too structured and spend too much time perfecting it, it strips away the feeling,” Elliott says. “There’s a time for perfection, but with hip hop right now people just want to know how you feel. They want to have this other side that is not timid or shy, they want to be Zombies.”
Together in the park the three tell me stories about their misspent youth causing havoc around the neighborhood. They did the typical punk shit—blowing up mice by sticking firecrackers up their ass, throwing cheeseburgers at their neighbor's windows, and holding their own wrestling matches. “We didn’t want to sit around and be regular. We just wanted to have fun,” Juice says.
Although they are in thick of it, the Zombies are clearly looking for a way out of the street life through music. “In due time we’ll be out of here. I’m not going to let these streets limit me. I may be here physically but that doesn’t mean I can’t project my energy all over the universe with tools like my music and the Internet,” Meech says.
In terms of his rise out of the streets, Juice is concerned with not just himself but also his son. He seems determined to do it different than his father and be a fixture in his son’s life. The baby comes up in nearly every conversation we have. Before we can even return to Juice’s crib from the park, we have to stop at Target to pick the kid up some Pampers.
The Target has a white-cold to it that reminds me of a hospital or heaven. The boys come through like naughty four-year-olds, jumping from one distraction to the other—trying on bras, hollering at girls, and jacking one of those electric shopping carts for morbidly obese men and grandmothers.
When we arrive back at Juice’s spot, the rest of the Zombie crew seems to finally be stirring. One of the guys has just pulled a tab of acid out of the refrigerator, he’s contemplating whether he should drop today or wait. Meech is adamant not to push it. “You’ll know when it feels right.”
That’s the same way they are approaching their music, balking at my question of when they will drop their first complete mixtape or when and if they will sign with a major label. “We’ll know when it feels right.” That seems so lackadaisical to me, but then again, I’m not on drugs.
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