If Flying Lotus says that he wants to work with you after hearing half of one of your songs, you have to know that you’re on to a good thing. Now affiliated with both Brainfeeder and Beast Coast, this was the case with The Underachievers, Ak and Issa Dash. The track Flying Lotus heard was “Gold Soul Theory”, a cautionary tale into the world of materialism. The verses are punctuated with evidence of psychedelic drug use and constant reinforcement as to the importance of self awareness, themes which were very much built upon in The Underachievers debut mixtape, Indigoism. Putting this new age, spiritual mentality across with such passion is what garnered that tape a lot of respect amongst fans and reviewers alike. Six months on from the release of Indigoism, fans were ready for another dose of the doctrine. The Lords of Flatbush was announced and eagerly anticipating consumers reached out to their dealers, in order to secure the psychedelics that would see them fully integrating with the new output.
With this in mind, it must have come as a surprise to most when Issa took to Twitter to say the following to the masses: “This tape is mostly bangers. All the lyrical conscious expanding knowledge filled magical triple optic shit will have to wait for the album.”. There is, of course, an art to making bangers, just as there is to making mind-expanding rap which aurally harks back to the “golden age” of hip-hop. Luckily, The Underachievers have enlisted one of the best in the business for banger duties (and no, it’s not Miley).
Stream: The Underachievers – Midnight Augusto
Lex Luger takes charge of production for the first six of the eight tracks featured on The Lords Of Flatbush and whilst none of the beats reach the crunching trap levels of “Hard In The Paint” or “Blowin’ Money Fast”, the sonic change of direction is definitely noticeable. Be it the immediately recognisable synth which announces the arrival of the MCs to the track or the machine gun hi-hats, all of the signature Lex sounds are present here. Track seven, “Ain’t Shit / Midnight Augusto” is produced by NYC’s Eff.Dope. The percussion here is as frantic as ever but the cloud rap, haunting synth which drawls out over the top diminishes the vibe to almost uncomfortable levels. Erick Arc Elliot, chief beat maestro for long time homies Flatbush Zombies, is given the reigns for the closing track “N.A.S.A.” and delivers something nearer to that which you might have heard on Indigoism. Soul is the order of the day here with sliding guitars, a heavily filtered, diva vocal sample and relaxed piano chords providing the melodies, whilst the percussion retains the highly pressurised trap sounds you’ll have become accustomed to by this point.
If the beats on this mixtape are foreign sounding, the choice of material which Issa and Ak have chosen to base their verses on is frankly alien. It’ll almost certainly take some adjusting to hear hooks built around making money and the belittling of others in the rap game. There are still elements of the themes which were ever present in Indigoism, notably self-awareness and the Beast Coast movement, but they’re much harder to pick out. This isn’t necessarily as negative as it might sound, mainly due to the fact that Issa and Ak both have undeniably solid flows. The multitude of tricks they employ whilst delivering, such as a sudden doubling in speed, sound just as much at home here as they have done in the past, perhaps even more so.
With everything considered, The Underachievers are having some well earned fun here. They’ve got one of the most well respected producers in the game to hit them up with some beats and they’re making the most of the opportunity. It might take a while to adjust your thinking from the mindful to the mindless as you’ll need to in order to get full enjoyment out The Lords Of Flatbush, but once you’ve made that transition, you’re in for around twenty five minutes of high energy, infectious bangers which sound accomplished enough to be worth another listen.
Stream: The Underachievers – N.A.S.A.
The Underachievers’ Lords of Flatbush mixtape is available now via DatPiff.