Let me preface the following “concert review” with a perspective into my personal lens. I put a lot of physical and emotional energy into going to this show. It was the first concert I attended in solitude since I had what I will call ~a traumatic experience~ a handful of months back. I am working hard toward getting back into the swing of things by moving forward, finding a new normal, and committing to finding happiness in activities I used to enjoy. I also put a lot of emotional investment into getting through this evening unscathed as a way to gauge my “recovery process.” I hope this serves to set the scene and tone for some of the overarching messages I felt transpired throughout the evening. ALSO, disclaimer/trigger warning: I will be discussing alcohol use, drug use, mental health, and other similar topics the artists rap about. Reader discretion advised.
I was first introduced to Flatbush ZOMBiES around 2014. My former roommate, Matt, would play their music in the car when we would run errands. Their songs were undeniably catchy, packed with intricate production and diverse rapping styles. I am pro hip-hop groups (see Three 6 Mafia, Wu-Tang Clan, and Dipset). I also have an affinity for Brooklyn and/or New York-based hip-hop artists (see Notorious B.I.G., Lil’ Kim, and Jay Z before I questioned his rationale behind cheating on Beyoncé). The more I explored FBZ independently, the more I began to appreciate the lyrics behind the rapping styles. They spoke about “real” topics, such as mental health struggles, drug use, political turmoil, and current social events. Not that I don’t enjoy me some nonsensical rap I can dance to (see Migos, Rick Ross, and Ludacris), but that’s neither here nor there.
In March 2016, they dropped their first album, 3001: A Laced Odyssey. Following the success of their freshman release, they took to the road for tour. I was fortunate enough to catch them at Starland Ballroom in December 2016. That was also quite an adventurous evening. I literally fell OUT of the venue following Matt to the smoking section. I did a poor job of predicting the height of the steps, which I have quite the knack for. But I digress. This album and concert verified my full appreciation and commitment to support them. I vowed to see them whenever I got another opportunity.
Their second album, Vacation in Hell, was released on April 6, 2018. As mentioned in the preface, this was in the middle of my own personal vacation in hell. It turned into something I really needed at the time. It was an album I could jam to while relating to the lyrics on a deep emotional level. It stimulated my mind while making me feel less alone in the struggle. It was an album I didn’t know I needed until I had it. I’m not trying to be dramatic. I genuinely connected to the album and the concept. Sometimes the struggle can look sparkly, fun, and glamourous. It helped me work around the pain to experience fun times and gave me some form of solidarity to connect with. I appreciate nothing more than raw art telling it like it is.
The trio then announced their tour and I was reminded of the vows I’ve made to myself, which are: go to as many concerts as you can, travel for worthy artists and adventures, and when an artist or group is amazing the first time, see them again. I noticed their concert at the Fillmore Philly was not sold out yet and tickets were not too pricey. I tend to presume friends are unavailable for concerts on weeknights (you know, adult responsibilities and all). I used to not let this stop me from attending concerts but with my new fear and lack of trust, I was nervous to do this on my own. Eventually I convinced myself I could handle it and bought a ticket. I let a few friends know of what I was doing in case they were interested and to let them know of my whereabouts in case something happens (you know, girl things). I told myself I was “fine” going alone. I knew past self would just get a drink, find a good spot, and chill for the evening. I hoped I could maybe, possibly do it again. Being “chill” has been hard as of late, but I figured if I found a nice little corner I could keep to myself.
I survived the drive. The venue had ample parking, which is always a blessing for us travelers. I safely avoided the unofficial t-shirt sellers in the lot. I had a lovely interaction with one of the security guards about my essential oil roll-ons while going through security. She told me I was awesome and knew I would be zen tonight. She wasn’t incorrect. I then followed my tradition of finding a “nice little corner” and made myself as comfortable as possible for the evening. “Comfort” is also a newly foreign concept but I’ve learned to manage.
I’m not going to lie. I didn’t get see the first opener, Nyck Caution. I had to preserve my aforementioned low energy with the drive back and forth along with seeing FBZ. I also do not have a knack for planning my concert timing. I’m either way too early (see my DMX experience) or miss good openers. I did get to see Kirk Knight and his set was enjoyable. I don’t really listen to him but seeing him made me want to check out his music.
Flatbush ZOMBiES started approximately 9:30pm, which is beautiful for an old lady like myself. They revealed their stage set up with two standing caskets, one laying casket in front of a hearse, headstones, and some flames, which I thought was a great touch. They opened with HELL-O, which was appropriate and made plenty of sense. Zombie Juice came out of a standing casket with a black heart on the outside to rap the first verse in the song. Then Erick the Architect followed by exiting his standing casket with a purple triangle in front to share his verse. Finally, Meechy Darko stood up from the middle casket and jumped around while rapping his verse. His casket was shaking back and forth while he was jumping around, adding extra effect. They started flawlessly and were in it from the get.
They followed up with Chunky, which is the second song off their new album, Vacation in Hell. With that, I was wondering if they were playing the album in chronological order, but spoiler alert: they did not. I must admit I have gone to a few 10th Year Anniversary tours recently, thus clouding my judgment. It really would have been cool either way. I will definitely go see the Vacation in Hell 10th Anniversary tour in 2028… just sayin’.
It was then confirmed to not be just a ViH tour when they played Bounce from their 2016 album 3001: A Laced Odyssey. This is an exciting song live, since they all just literally bounce and shout their lines throughout. It really got the crowd hyped, myself included. Great song placement and perfect for the theme of the tour.
What happened next was… fascinating. They jumped back to ViH with Headstone, which I felt was following the flow nicely. Business as usual, they were getting into it with Juice doing his first verse. In the middle of the second chorus, however, the speakers BLEW, making them all jump but recover and attempt to continue the show. The speakers continued crapping out, so they went backstage. Because they played it off casually, I was having difficulty telling if this was a stunt or unexpected. If you’d like a peak into this, my notes read,
“headstone …..? either speakers blew out or it’s an act idfk
OHHH cool okay they put background music on??? k definitely not an act
now everyone lights up ok cool too
damn this kinda blows for them tho!!
After approximately five or so minutes, the trio approached the stage and Meechy asked, “Still with us?” He then explained how he never went to engineering school, had no idea what happened, and that the techs were “fixing shit” and they would be “picking up where we left off.” He asked us to “pretend it never happened,” but I think it was important to include. As performers, they handled it the best way possible and picked up without skipping a beat. I always value these type of people. They redid Headstone and sincerely acted like nothing happened. It was a great example of real showmanship.
They continued the ViH trend for three more songs. Next on their list was M. Bison, which I lovingly refer to as the Gelato Song. I like how in this particular album and on tour, the trio shined light on each individual artist and producer’s talents while performing together. I felt this was a start to Zombie Juice’s spotlight, but each member had their chance later on. They followed up with Vacation, which I highly recommend watching the music video linked here. It’s such a summer jam but totally stays in their Brooklyn drug rap genre. As a kid who grew up watching TRL, I can fully appreciate a well-crafted music video. But anyway, back to the concert. Sans Joey Bada$$ it was still an amazing, dramatic performance. When Meechy shouted, “I just got back from Australia,” I felt that and I’ve barely been off this continent. I remember the set then getting quieter for a few seconds, which was broken by Meechy starting the chorus of Big Shrimp slowly for us to all get into the rhythm. Much like Vacation, Big Shrimp has a catchy chorus while still hitting hard in the verses. Quite a different tempo thanks to Erick the Architect, but still a similar vibe. If you didn’t know, Erick produces all their beats AND has an even portion of the rapping responsibility of his own in each song. He’s quite the powerhouse and force to be reckoned with.
The ZOMBiES switched back to 3001 with This Is It. Opposite to their Vacation video, this music video is stripped down with the three in black and white, no background beyond their individual dancing, rapping, smoking, outfit changes, and other dramatic effects added with moments of solidarity. Similar to this video, they all support one another while individually rapping live, giving quite the unified feeling. Somehow they do an amazing job of highlighting their individual talent while showing genuine symmetry. The whole bigger than the sum thing, but its even more than that. The sums are pretty damn incredible, too. It was a perfect song to play in ~the city of brotherhood~ or whatnot.
They stayed on the 3001 vibe for two more songs, following up with New Phone, Who Dis? where the term Zombie Mami came to exist (dammit, I NEED that necklace) and Ascension, which began the trend of each rapper having their own individual spotlight in their set. This began Meechy’s spotlight and was an exemplary intro into his harsh, raspy style. Presumably to show diversity in his style, he flipped back to ViH with Facts unfortunately not featuring Jadakiss. Similar to how he introduced Big Shrimp, Meechy Darko aka “Count Rackula aka 2Cup Shakur aka Durt Cobain aka” started Facts without the beat, which allowed the crowd to join in the rap-along. This concluded the first spotlight, which led to a lovely transition supported by a sample of Jimi Hendrix’s If 6 Was 9. I think the love for Hendrix was collectively felt within the crowd, myself very much included. He’s one of my personal favorites. Maybe that’s my own projection.
Zombie Juice aka Bud Bundy’s spotlight then commenced. This is not to say that none of the men didn’t say anything prolific before this moment, but it was definitely one that stood out prominently in my memory. Juice had the crowd repeat after him, saying,
“myself,” and made the crowd do it several times, just in this one instance. If anyone needed that reminder and the repetitive nature of that reminder, it was me. If no one else was grateful, at least I was. Juice then jumped into Leather Symphony without A$AP Twelvyy. I believe this was chosen to show how he makes a dang catchy chorus while having a hard-hitting, creative verse included. He then went into what’s being referred to on Setlist.fm as Unreleased R&B. The video links to M. Bison, which is inaccurate. Anyway, my notes simply say, “bust that pussy open 4 me,” so I’m pretty sure that was the gist of the song. He closed out his spotlight with Lava Prod. By The Architect which was released last summer. He assisted in cultivating self-love in the crowd with the “I love myself” callback again, then let The Architect take the stage with a sample of Kids With Guns by Gorillaz bringing him out.
Erick The Architect began with Proxies, which features a lot of samples he regularly uses in his beats along with his intense signature introduction. Beyond that, he is great with his rhymes. He’s just great. Before getting into his next song, he took a second to “talk about mental health,” which incited cheers throughout the crowd. He then noted how mental health is quite the real and tough issue to experience and shouted out to anyone who knows someone going through mental health struggles, even if the person was themselves. I wouldn’t dare attempt to butcher and fake quote the words he specifically used. He then asked for light either via a cell phone or lighter for the next song and transitioned to Trapped. Though mental health struggles come up in plenty of their songs, it was an appropriate time to discuss the topic. Full disclosure, much like Juice’s request to feel self love, this hit me. I had been struggling quite tremendously for the months leading up to this evening. It was another moment of harmony, one that actually brought me to tears. Only a few. Enough to wipe away subtly, or so I thought. After this, I noticed the couple in front of me hugging in solidarity, and the dude next to me got his lighter out. Remember how I thought I was being subtle?
The mood was switched with the transition to 222 from BetterOffDEAD, which was way more boppy and lighthearted (in FBZ’s own special way) to bring the remaining members back on stage. They reunited over 3001’s Trade-Off, which is yet another song that highlights their uniqueness with their own separate version of the chorus and verses. This song pulls no punches, which are some of my favorites from them personally. I think this song has particularly witty lines throughout, partnered with an intricate beat. The men then discussed their opinions on the concepts of power and influence. Of course my sociological brain always gets too into these one-sided conversations artists have on stage. I really wish I could sit down, chill with FBZ and talk further about their opinions on the topic with them. But really, if you guys want me to come to Brooklyn and chill, LMK. I’ll be there whenever you’re down. After the ZOMBiES’ lesson on power and influence, they got back into the See You in Hell vibe with Best American. How appropriate. I really, truly, deeply love political rap. This is a solid example of political rap at its finest. I promise to provide a list of other wonderful political rap songs in the future.
I did not anticipate the song that was to come on next. The beat for LUAM came on and the crowd started dancing hard. According to Setlist.fm, AK came out to join in this performance. I honestly was way too into it to notice but I trust them. If you’re unfamiliar, Flatbush ZOMBiES also are in Clockwork Indigo with The Underachievers. Check out their EP if you haven’t already. This then led to another sampling, this time featuring System Of A Down’s Toxicity. Oh yeah, SOAD is another band I casually loved growing up so I was not mad about the throwback on this Tuesday evening. Some of my favorite memories are of my friends drunkenly screaming along to Chop Suey! while out on the town. If you’ve ever been out in downtown Asbury Park, you’ll know what I mean.
They followed up the sample appropriately with S.C.O.S.A. an early jam of theirs. This assisted in keeping the crowd dancing and grooving. Another surprise followed with Bath Salt by A$AP Mob, wherein FBZ is featured. If only A$AP Mob came out, all of my dreams and fantasies would be fulfilled. They “concluded” their set with the last song on ViH, The Glory, a wonderful choice to bring the crowd down to earth before the encore.
Per concert tradition, the trio left the stage just to hear the crowd chant their request for “one more song.” The couple to my left and I joked about wanting two, or three, or ten more. They of course returned on stage to close out with arguably their most popular or recognizable song, Palm Trees. This influenced another collective cloud of smoke to end the evening, which was fitting for the closing song. They officially ended their set thanking the crowd for sticking with them through the technical difficulty, noting to request at least two more songs for next time, and leaving the crowd with the concept of, “open your fucking mind.”
The concert was in fact a mind opener for me. Not to say I keep my mind closed, but I am always seeking experiences to make me further reflect on life, people, music, traveling, society, and within myself. I got enough people-watching out of my system for a bit. I enjoyed the performance of one of my favorite hip-hop groups. I actually survived the evening relatively unscathed. I only cried once! That’s pretty solid, all things considered. I kept to myself for the most part but did have lovely interactions with the people I did speak with. Overall this was a successful date with myself and I think I would go out with me again sometime soon.
See? I survived. I lived. I felt alive.