With Flatbush Zombies and The Underachievers it’s no hyperbole to suggest that theirs is a scene representing an antidote to the derivative, retrograde hip hop that had infected the mainstream for, arguably, the past two decades. The sweeping critical hype surrounding two of Beast Coast scene’s crews – along with Pro Era, Joey Bada$$’s crew and Phony Ppl - is matched by frenzied fandom. From beats to lyrics, the Beast Coast scene is anathema to the overly-produced meaninglessness of commercial hip hop, a rejection of its unfettered worship at the altar of consumerism. Where the name of the game for their chart-topping peers is self-aggrandizement, theirs is a study of introspection - a sacred to the profane rap muzac of Pitbull and Nicki Minaj.
Underachievers and Zombies descend on London’s Koko off the back of the former’s debut LP Cellar Door and the groups’ collaboration on Clockwork Indigo with the latter’s It's All A Matter of Perspective tantalisingly close to release. Although vastly opposed in delivery – with Meechy Darko, Zombie Juice and Erick "Arc" Elliott’s lacerating, rasping vocals contrasting AK and Issa Gold’s more attenuated stylings, both revel in the progressive, the experimental and the psychedelic.
Underachievers’ Revelations on 2013’s mixtape Indigoism, with its fuzzy organs and trumpets and Zombies’ Death, edolent of producer Nicolas Jaar’s more warped offerings, are cases in point. And with The Underachievers’ especially, introvertive lyrics augment forward-thinking sampling: it’s all ‘searching for treasures in souls’ and ‘inclining Third Eyes’. Mercifully, neither collective indulges in those cringe worthy, out-of-their-depth political statements that some of their genre peers – in attempts to rebrand themselves as street intellectuals – try, sadly, so often. This is all about the inner self. Prog hop? Yeah, maybe. Whatever these 90’s kids with designs on reclaiming hip hop are, this is meaningful stuff.Words: Bilal Abood