The mood before the Flatbush Zombies show was relaxed and easy going as a long line of people drank depanneur wine and cans of Grolsch outside Montreal’s Olympia Theatre. Thanks to the efficient security team, and three separate lines checking for contraband, the line moved quickly and I was soon inside the doors. I grabbed a seat in the balcony and the show started at 8:00pm sharp. This event ran like clockwork.
New York was overwhelmingly in the house, and all artists on the See You in Hell Tour represented the Big Apple. Brooklyn-based New Era crew member Nyck Caution had the packed venue jumping with his hard lyrical style and high energy performance. Caution flexed his vocal range on “Fortnite” while the DJ loaded up gunshot samples and eerie lullaby sounds. When the bass kicked in, the rapper jumped as high as he could and sent the crowd into a frenzy.
Caution continued flailing his body around and shouting like a man possessed. At one point he brought someone on stage, waited for the crowd to get extra hyped, and sent the guy flying onto the dance floor. Caution’s also made sure everyone knew about Pro Era by constantly shouting his crew’s name. Near the end of the short set he dropped his hard-hitting new track “See You in Hell” and then jumped into the crowd to do some surfing of his own.
The crowd was lit, and the energy onstage matched the enthusiasm on the floor. When fellow Brooklyn rapper and Pro Era member Kirk Knight took over, things really started heating up. Knight told the crowd, “If you got any weed you need to light that shit up for this song.” His set had great style, flow, and versatility, deftly alternating between raw hip hop and trap to soulful R&B. Near the end of his set the rapper told everyone to “Shut the fuck up” and waited until the crowd was completely silent before screaming, “Are you ready for the Flatbush Zombies?!” The venue already smelled like a Rasta’s basement, so yes, I think they were ready.
After a long wait, the curtains were pulled back revealing Flatbush Zombies’ stage show. In between two television screens projecting psychedelic visuals were three coffins and a DJ booth on top of a hearse with a license plate that read “Hell-O.” This was the See You in Hell Tour, in support of their latest album Vacation in Hell, so the macabre imagery fit. Flashing lights and the sound of thunder enhanced the creepy vibe and it seemed like a big storm was brewing before the set started. The three coffins then opened and Meechy Darko, Zombie Juice, and Erick the Architect—Flatbush Zombies’ band members—appeared out of the boxes like a campy horror flick. It was all very dramatic and over the top.
After opening with several songs from Vacation in Hell, including “HELL-O,” “Chunky,” and “M. Bison,” the band tore through dozens of tracks at breakneck speed. The rapping and flow were raw, tight, and fast, so fast it was hard to tell who was on the mic. By now the bass was shaking my seat and I felt like I had developed a contact high from the environment. Songs flew by so quickly they all started to sound the same. Nonetheless, the trio’s crisp chemistry, with rappers often finishing each others sentences, reminded me of another heavyweight New York rap trio: the Beastie Boys.
Written by Rob Coles
Photography by Eric Brisson Photography
*edited by Kate Erickson