This past Friday, April 6th was a big day for the music industry. Cardi B dropped her hotly anticipated Invasion of Privacy project. Kali Uchis dropped her long awaited sophomore album, Isolation. Famous Dex dropped some straight heat on Dex Meets Dexter to make Chi Town proud. The one album that may have been overlooked by the masses was Flatbush Zombie’s second studio album, Vacation in Hell.
Ever since the trio formed in 2010, Flatbush Zombies have been something of an unsung act in the hip hop community. Critics never have a bad thing to say about them, but they have yet to receive major attention from the mainstream. Often faded, yet underrated. Their debut album, 3001: A Laced Odyssey, was critically applauded, but failed to give the group the spotlight and opportunity to breakout to the top of the rap game. Vacation in Hell is where they demand all eyes on them.
When Flatbush dropped the first single off their album, “Headstone,” on February 23rd, the posse set a tone for what promised to be a much more haunting experience compared to the psychedelic odyssey from 3001. While the album did live up to those expectations in many ways–mostly lyric-wise–the most noticeable trait about Vacation that separates it from 3001 is that Vacation is much more accessible instead of experimental.
That isn’t to say that Vacation arrives without the depth or emotional impact of 3001. Just don’t expect another trippy day dream laced within an existential nightmare. What you should expect is a much more refined and evolved production from Erick the Architect, sharper wit from Zombie Juice, and an even more devilish charm from Meechy Darko. This album also benefits from some top notch guest appearances from Joey Badass, Jadakiss, Denzel Curry, Bun B, Dave B, Nyck Caution, and even A$AP Twelvyy.
Audiences should also expect the Zombie Gang to come through with a couple unique concepts for their songs. One example is that aforementioned single, “Headstone.” Just about every line the tribe spits on “Headstone” pays homage to some of the most celebrated classics in hip hop from legends like KRS-One, Snoop Dogg, Eazy E, Nas, 2Pac, The Fugees, and countless others. This makes for just one of several bangers on this album.
From the first track onwards–that track being “HELL-O”–the trio deliver a bevy of straight bars to the mic. Sometimes, those bars are vividly demented, like “Summertime tripping, I’m Janis Joplin / Cut off that b*tch like Lorena Bobbitt” from “M. Bison.” Other times, they’re authentically affectionate and empathetic, much like Meechy Darko’s ode to A$AP Yams on “YouAreMySunshine:”
“No lie, I stopped getting high once we lost Yams / I was there the night he died, he was blue cold in my hands / Ain’t been the same since that day, god damn / You was a prophet, you was a king, you was a visionary / You formed more than the Mob, you made you a military / You, always supported / Missed your funeral, I wasn’t man enough to see you in a coffin / But to you I give this offering and hope that you forgive me / Cause truthfully in my eyes, you was king of this city”
Such a contrast in tone is especially evident in the gap between “Reel Girls” and “The Goddess.” Within just a few tracks, the Zombie Gang go from pining for women that they want to court sexually–“I wanna f*ck you like a pornstar, a pornstar / make you SKRRT like a NASCAR, her a** large”–to gushing about the type of women they can see themselves falling in love with–“I wanted to rekindle this flame, yeah this rainstorm / Water this flower while making this moment ours / This combination exceeds the limitations / In all of our conversations, should validate love is sacred.” The latter lyrics come packaged with such passion, care, and tenderness that it’s hard to believe that these are the same guys who gave us the savagery of the former lyrics.
In many ways, listening to this album feels like coming down from a stellar high. At first, everything’s fun, hype, and rowdy as all hell. Then, the more that high starts to wear off–as the album progresses–things take on a more introspective, and surprisingly sincere turn as the trip nears its end. That transition feels evident around the halfway point and despite the drastic tonal shift, the quality of the music remains as high as ever right up until the final track, “The Glory,” which definitely lives up to its name.
Flatbush Zombies have always been known for the multiple facets of their musical personas, but their versatility feels all the more polished and perfected on Vacation in Hell, an album that is certainly their best album to date. Without a single track that feels rife with criticism, this just might be an early contender for album of the year. We have to score this one a solid A. Stream it. Buy it. Share it. Tell a friend to tell a friend about it. Just get a hold to it and listen to it by any means necessary, because Vacation in Hell is worth every second of your time.