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Weekly updates

In a year where free mixtape downloads dominated the hip-hop market more than ever before, Flatbush Zombies, an unlikely trio of Brooklyn-based rappers inspired by horror films and rebirth through use of psychedelic drugs, emerged on top with their debut, D.R.U.G.S. A year on we find the group prepping their sophomore release, completely unfazed by the hype that is surrounding them. “Our one bedroom recording studio has become two bedrooms,” explains Erick Arc Elliot, the production wizard behind the trio’s sound and formidable rapper in his own right. He is in London alongside his fellow Zombies Meechy Darko and Zombie Juice preparing for their show at Village Underground for Livin’ Proof.

Words by Grant Brydon.
Photography by Verena Stefanie Grotto.

Having spent the year preparing for the release, they’ve finally set a date for their follow-up. BetterOffDEAD will be available online from September 11. Despite attracting the attention of a number of parties, including A-Trak, who has publicly expressed his interest in signing the group, the trio remain independent. “I don’t even like Juice telling me what to do!” Meech responds when quizzed about signing with a label, “I got the man on my back enough bruh. I don’t like authority.” Their penchant for anarchy and creative freedom is raised multiple times throughout our interview, and their integrity is admirable.

Initially announcing the project toward the beginning of this year, they’ve been in high demand for the past eight months. “We’ve been touring around everywhere.” Explains Juice, “The fans inspire us to put on these shows.” Their live shows have set them apart from their peers with a reputation for high energy and strong stage presence which Eric attributes to their shared love of wrestling: “We’ve been watching wrestling since we had eyeballs. I feel like we need to be entertaining on stage. We need to capture the crowd by being interesting. We’re not trying to go to rap shows to watch people smoke weed and be bored, and to watch rappers wear nice clothes and be corny. We’re trying to watch a good performance.”

But between stints on the road they’ve been huddled away in their bedroom studios cooking up the next release. “We’ve been grinding and trying to put together a project that you might like,” says Meech, adding wryly, “like that first classic Vanilla Ice EP.” With the project’s first single MRAZ dropping late in 2012, and being followed up with Palmtrees in June (along with a number of loosies and guest features along the way), new music from the Zombies has never been far away. Differing from the majority of rap’s new school, the Zombies keep work exclusively in-house with their production. Perhaps partly due to their determination to avoid any outside authority or reliance on anyone else, but more likely due to the sheer talent of Eric, who Meech describes as being “The best artist since Prince and Miguel in one man.” This also gives their sound an impressive cohesion. “Plus,” adds Meech, “if shit comes out wack. Then it’s all Eric’s fault.”

Whilst the project’s inspiration and meaning seem to differ slightly depending on who you ask. Meech offers, “As my friend Juice would say, the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ inspired him. But he didn’t inspire me to do this shit. All those who passed away [did],” he pauses, “so I guess that does include him. All the niggas that died for this shit. It’s about when you’re gone – are you going to be better off if you do the right things while you’re here? Live your shit right. Otherwise you’re just going to be a dead motherfucker with nothing.”

Flatbush Zombies’ BetterOffDEAD is out on September 11.