"I’m gonna need a lighter, some weed, and some Backwoods. Anything else I’ll be able to find. I’ll run up in a police station to get a gun if I have to,” says Meechy Darko when asked what three things he'd take if he needed to escape a zombie apocalypse. The reason for asking such a question? With a name like Flatbush Zombies you'd expect Meechy and his fellow group members, Zombie Juice and Erick Arc Elliott, to be an expert in such a thing.
Endorsing the zombie lifestyle before it was even cool to do so, during their teenage years the Zombies began experimenting with psychedelic drugs. It was after a trip on mushrooms Meechy says his ego died resulting in a rebirth of conscience which lead him to the zombie lifestyle - and ultimately inspired the group's name.
Releasing a couple of mixtapes and the EP Clockwork Indigo - inspired after having a trip whilst watching Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange - they've earned themselves quite a following. Now with a studio album, 3001: A Laced Odyssey, and the opportunity to reach even more fans, zombie season is officially back in session.
Talking to Gigwise about the new album, Meechy Darko also discusses a variety of other topics, including getting out smoked by Mike Dean, the anniversary of the Notorious B.I.G.'s death, a bad experience with Spike Lee, and why if you don't like LL Cool J you don't like Hip Hop.
Are you excited to finally have the album out there?
“Oh hell yeah man. It’s way overdue. Get that monkey off my back. I’m ready to hit the road. Sell music for the first time, but it ain’t about the money it’s just good to feel official and have an actual physical copy of our album, and I know Juice and Erick feel the same way. It’s beautiful to see what you had in your mind in physical form, and be able to touch it.”
So to you, it’s still important to release an album in a physical format, even in this day and age?
“I think our fans are very hands on, they like merchandise, they like novelty things, and I’m that type of person also. We have a song on the album called 'R.I.P.C.D.' where we talk about the death of the CD, how it’s died, or is dead pretty much. You have to do really, really cool and crazy things to get people excited enough to actually go and buy a physical copy of an album. I grew up buying actual copies of CDs so I could flick through the book and see who helped write a song. I used to have all the Ruff Ryders albums where you’d flick to the back, fill out the form and post it out and then you’d get a hoodie back. I come from those days so having an actual physical copy is very important to me.”
Do you remember the No Limit Records albums where you’d flick through and see adverts for all the upcoming albums and their covers?
“Yo! I was just telling Erick and Juice about that the other day. They’d be advertising like 10 albums with covers in them. Master P would be have his next three album covers already planned out and printed in the albums of his other artists. That shit was crazy!”
And they would never come out…
“Never! But that was still genius marketing because it made you excited like, ‘Oh shit! C-Murder and Silkk The Shocker are doing a joint album together?’ It would never come out but it got you excited nonetheless.”
Now obviously you guys are from Flatbush, Brooklyn. Why the zombie part of the group's name?
“A lot of reasons, man. Outside of the fact that we loved the zombie culture way before there was even something called the zombie culture, one time I had a trip off of a psychedelic and I told Juice that I had died. He was like, ‘What do you mean?’ I didn’t mean died as in physically, it was more like the death of my ego. I had a real wake up call and sometimes it takes a really groundbreaking trip to do that. So that’s when the zombie shit came into play. It was a lifestyle and it made perfect sense. We were zombies at that point in our lives while we were trying to figure out the next step.”
So let’s talk about the album. How come it took so long for you guys to release a debut studio album?
“We were just trying to figure out what we wanted to do and how we were going to do it. The difference between us and other people is we’re not on a label so we don’t have that pressure of a man on our shoulder telling us we need to drop something. You also have to remember that we’re hands on with everything. We do everything. I’m not complaining, I like to work. But you have to understand that as an artist we don’t want to rush our shit, so we don't. I don’t give a fuck if someone says they want something right now.
"If I don’t want to give it to you now I’m not going to. I’d rather release something and feel comfortable. There must be no worse feeling than releasing music - and luckily I haven’t had this experience yet - and and not liking it. Even if the people like it but you don’t, surely that's not a good feeling. If you step out in something you don’t feel good in but everyone else thinks otherwise, you’re not going to feel comfortable. That’s not good. And it’s the same thing for music. So we gave them the Clockwork Indigo EP with the Underachievers in the meantime. And we did BetterOffDead, so it’s not like we didn’t give the people songs. We wanted to get our shit together, you know?”
Word is you were meant to work with Mike Dean on the album, is that true?
“We were meant to do some shit with him but we didn’t have enough time because [the fans] really wanted to hear the album. He heard bits of the album before it came out. That was our first time meeting him too. He’s a very cool guy. That nigga smoke a lot of weed! And the crazy thing about it is I was just getting back on my smoking weed tip. I took a break from smoking whilst making this project because I wanted to try something and see if I could make music… well, I know I can make music without weed, but this time I really wanted to challenge myself. And it was a challenge because I’d been smoking weed since I was 17 - I’m now 26. Three or four months was the longest break I’ve ever taken from smoking weed, and it’ll probably be the longest break I ever take again.
"I just remember going back to Mike’s crib, we broke out the wax blunts - remember, I had just started smoking again - and this is two times this happened to me - the other time was when I did an interview with B-Real in the Smoke Box - do you know how high I was? I know I was high as fuck at Mike Dean’s house. I was stoned! This nigga’s system was booming. I was feeling the vibrations from the bass. I was fucking stoned! Shout out to Mike Dean for that man.”
You have a song on the album called ‘A Spike Lee Joint’. What was the reasoning behind the title?
“It’s a funny story. I’m a really big fan of Spike Lee’s films - Jungle Fever and Do the Right Thing are two of my favourite movies, I watch them all the fucking time. So, I was walking my dog around Brooklyn one day, it was a hot summer day. There’s a street called Do the Right Thing Boulevard and I happened to see Spike Lee on Do the Right Thing Boulevard - the irony, huh? So I greeted him with the most respect possible - I come from a Caribbean background, so I have manners and shit. I said, ‘Spike, blessings. I respect you my brother.’ Man! He looked right through me. He instead looked at his man behind me and started talking to him and totally ignored everything I said. I looked at him, I laughed and just kept on walking. Ironically when I walked around the block and came back around he was stood talking to a lady, they were talking about me because I was walking around with no shirt on. I was hot. It’s my neighbourhood, I don’t give a fuck. So I was laughing because he was discussing me while I wasn’t present yet when I was present and I gave him my presence he said nothing. It’s funny. It’s like when they say you should never meet your heroes, don't meet the people you admire. It was kinda like that, like, ‘Oh shit! This nigga’s really an asshole.’
“When I got back to the crib I decided I wanted to vent, the shit had me feeling a type of way. It was funny to me. I wasn’t in my feelings, it was just hilarious. So I started writing. I was mad a lil’ bit because I felt like he’s supposed to be a part of the community, an important part. He doesn’t know what I have, who I am, you don't know if I’m about to be the next Mekhi Phifer. I didn’t ask him for anything, I just wanted to give him the respect for giving me beautiful art.
“Anyway, to make a long story short I went back to the crib, wrote a little song dissing Spike Lee but instead of releasing that version I put those bars to the side and figured, ‘Hey, let’s just name the song ‘A Spike Lee Joint’ because it is what it is. It’s a song that was made at that time and every time I see that title now I’ll remember the time Spike Lee played me.”
Will the bars you put to the side dissing Spike ever see the light of day?
“I don’t know. People keep on asking why the song is called that and if I keep saying why then maybe eventually I will release them, who knows? I’m gonna see Spike again one day - I plan on getting court side [New York] Knicks tickets for the rest of my life soon enough. If I ever run in to him… I don’t know man, probably not. It just depends on how I’m feeling, I get crazy sometimes.”
You’ve mentioned previously that a drug trip whilst watching A Clockwork Orange inspired your Clockwork Indigo EP. Was it another trip whilst watching 2001: A Space Odyssey that inspired the album?
“Nah, it actually wasn’t a trip. I’ve never tripped to that movie because the movie is a trip in itself. If you didn’t know when that movie was made you’d never be able to guess. It has iPad’s and Facetime in it, the type of shit we have now. It’s a journey. We’ve been in the game three years, four years - I don’t know as time flies - and that’s a journey, and that’s an odyssey. It was our odyssey so it was just perfect, you know?
“I always like to find a way to incorporate our influences into our music, into our art, even if it’s a movie title, we’ll flip it and turn it into something to do with our lifestyle. I’m running out of Stanley Kubrick movies to flip though.”
You’ll have to find a new director whose movies you can flip…
“Yeah, [Quentin] Tarantino is next.”
What are some of your guys musical influences?
“Jadakiss, Raekwon, Ghostface [Killah], the whole Wu-Tang Clan. Nas, Notorious B.I.G. - I actually have a Notorious B.I.G. tattoo on my chest - 2Pac, LL Cool J. In fact something my mother always tells me is that some of the first words I ever said were the lyrics to LL Cool J’s ‘Mama Said Knock You Out’. DMX, maybe Sticky Fingaz - who is someone I admire as far as the way he uses his voice and the way he makes you see what he is saying.
“Those are the guys I really listen to, and listen to the science behind the music they make. Eminem is another one, I love exploring the science behind how they make the music they make and try and incorporate that shit into my shit, like syllable counts and all that. That’s how I see rap sometimes. Sometimes I don’t want to be scientific, I want to be a free spirit but you can’t help it when you listen to say, Eminem and you’re like, ‘What the fuck?’ You listen to the syllable count and you’re just amazed.”
Too many people are quick to write off LL Cool J…
“People are crazy if they don’t think he’s one of the best ever! At 19-years-old he put Def Jam on his back. He is that label. That label was built from his blood, it’s the house that LL built. All these rappers making music for women, he opened that door for you to even be able to do it, and he was a tough guy, and he was an actor. LL Cool J is one of the best man!
“Whenever people don’t respect LL Cool J I play two songs for them. I play them ‘The Ripper Strikes Back’ and ‘Ill Bomb’. I let those joints ride and if they don’t like them then they don’t like Hip Hop… period.”
March 9th marked the 19th anniversary of Biggie’s death. You’ve already stated you have a Biggie tattoo on your chest, so you’re obviously a big fan. Can you remember the first time you heard Biggie’s music?
“I wanna say the first time I heard Big… I mean, it had to be ‘Juicy’ because my mother, and everyone in my family in fact, they were loving it, they played it all the time. But for some reason my most distinct memory is hearing ‘Warning’ as a kid and thinking ‘What the fuck?’ and then hearing his voice - I had never heard a presence like that before, it was like a drug to me. This nigga’s voice was intoxicating, it really was. And that’s one of the most distant memories I have of Big growing up.”
So who was better, Biggie or 2Pac?
“Ahhh, this question. This question really does hurt my soul. On the anniversary I posted a picture of Biggie and wrote that he was my biggest influence. Then underneath kids were commenting saying ‘Pac was better or fuck this dude, or whatever it may have been, and I was just like, damn, these two men were born having totally separate lives. It sucks that some people feel like they can’t like both, it’s always a Biggie or ‘Pac scenario. It’s like, ‘No! I like Biggie and ‘Pac.’ I love them both so much.
“They both do something different for me, that’s really what it is. 2Pac was a special human being. He succeeded at anything he did. That man was a blessing, we all know that, and everyone can see that. Biggie, he did something totally different for me. I got into 2Pac later on in my life. The people around me didn’t listen to ‘Pac as much as they did Biggie, I was from Brooklyn, and this is the 90s we’re talking about here. So I didn’t get to hear much else, I only got to see those key west coast artists when I watched music videos, you know? So yeah, I got into him later on, but I got a tattoo on my stomach not because it looks cool but because of 2Pac. So, I love them both man, I don’t wanna pick sides.”
As a friend of Joey Bada$$ and Pro Era, what’s your opinion on the whole Joey vs. Troy Ave recent situation?
“First of all I want to say R.I.P. to Capital Steez. Secondly I want to say that as an artist you have the right to say what you wanna say, but you also have to understand that people are going to take what you say however they wanna take it. You can’t be mad at anyone for how they feel after you say what you say. I’m a big, big, big fan of freedom of speech and shit like that but you have to be selective about what you say and what you do. At the end of the day Joey said nothing but the facts [on ‘Ready’].
“Since we’re talking about facts let’s talk about the facts. You can’t get mad if someone sells more records than you. If they sold more records than you then they sold more records than you. It’s like when your record comes out and someone says, ‘Well, you know Michael Jackson shattered your numbers.’ Hell yeah he did. That’s just facts, you have to swallow that pill. The best thing you can do is work harder. I feel like we shouldn’t even be giving [Troy Ave] shine, we’ve given him enough shine. We’re giving him energy now by talking about him. He sees what we’re doing. No one here wants to just be a local artist. None of us here are doing this just for us, we’re pushing the culture forward. I’m not associating myself with selfish artists.
“I was just with Kirk Knight, [A$AP] Twelvy, and [A$AP] Ferg. We were talking about how we just need to come together more, we don’t get together enough, we don’t chill enough and just talk about life and what the future is for each other, and how we can help each other. So we’re not associating with guys like [Troy Ave] because we’re all trying to be millionaires. I want everyone’s family around me to be good. I don’t want anyone around me to starve. It’s a blessing to even be a part of this culture, some people take that for granted. I’m blessed to be a part of Hip Hop culture. I’m blessed to be someone’s favourite artist, you know? That’s very important to me. Some people don’t realise that because they’re in it for the wrong reasons.”
So you’re not a fan of Troy Ave’s music?
“I don’t listen to him. It’s not about not being a fan it’s just not my thing. I’m a weirdo…”
How does it make you feel that he calls guys like you and Joey ‘weirdo rappers’?
“Let me name all the ill weird niggas on the planet earth. Rick James was a weird nigga. Marvin Gaye was a weird nigga. Michael Jackson was a weird nigga. Kanye West is a weird nigga. Flatbush Zombies are weird niggas. A$AP Rocky is a weird nigga. Jimi Hendrix was a weird nigga. The Beatles are weird niggas. Kurt Cobain was a weird nigga. You wanna be average? Be average then.”
“You said it, I didn’t say it. I like that my friends are weird. I’m fine with that. [Troy Ave] is weird to somebody. Wanting to be average is weird to me, just remember that. I’m a weirdo, I don’t wanna listen to that. I would rather listen to somebody who is better at rapping and raps about those same things than listen to that, personally.”
So what’s your stance on the opinion that when it comes to lyrical beef you should be able to say whatever you want?
“I’m with it man. I hope nobody’s gonna be mad at me because it’s just how I feel. My friends know I love Steez, that was my man. I’ve got 47 tattooed on my body - I cried for 47 nights when he died, dead ass. That’s my brother. But I don’t want to be a hypocrite. I believe in freedom of speech. You battle me, there’s no limit. And everybody needs to know that. You come at me then I’m going to go really deep, but I will be smart about it. You understand? That’s what it is, [Troy Ave] wasn’t smart about it. That’s all I’m going to say. There’s no limit. You diss me just understand nothing’s off limits. But I’m a different kind of guy. I’m a weirdo."