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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

The Underachievers shine on new rap album

Published: September 13, 2013
Section: Arts, Etc.

In 2011, Brooklyn’s Flatbush neighborhood experienced a musical renaissance. Underground, independent hip-hop groups consisting of young and extremely talented artists released excellent debut mixtapes online, and suddenly, East Coast hip-hop returned to the popular lexicon. That isn’t to say that rappers were not recognized by their geographic origins before this. But for me, there wasn’t much in the way of modern hip-hop that was specifically West Coast until Kendrick Lamar’s opus, “Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City,” or specifically East Coast before Flatbush native Joey Bada$$’s brilliant “1999” tape.

“1999,” the “D.R.U.G.S.” mixtape by the Flatbush Zombies, Nyck Caution’s “The Pursuit” and my personal favorite, The Underachievers’ debut “Indigoism,” shirk today’s party-hard, club obsessions in favor of atmospheric, nineties-style beats and introspective lyricism.

This year has seen the sophomore releases of Joey Bada$$ (July’s great “Summer Knights”), Flatbush Zombies (the upcoming “BetterOffDead”) and The Underachievers (“Lords of Flatbush”). Though a significantly shorter collection—“Lords” features only eight songs, while “Indigoism,” has 17—with “Lords,” The Underachievers cement themselves as some of the most gifted MCs of the current rap generation.

Beginning with the psychedelic, retro-synth driven “Leaving Scraps,” The Underachievers’ rappers Issa Dash and AK immediately make their intentions known—to keep smoking pot and to keep defying the establishment. “Flexin,” the next song, continues their grand entrance and features great chemistry between the two rappers as they brag about their fame and skills and shout out to the late Capital STEEZ, who passed away last year.

“Cold Crush” is a slight change in pace, as it has a more social focus, but it ups the lyricism. A boast track about their beloved New York City, “Cold Crush” is also a manifesto for The Underachiever’s subversive philosophy. In this way, both “Cold Crush” and the following “Still Shining” recall the lyrical themes of “Indigoism,” including resisting institutional authority (the group’s recently released “The Proclamation” music video features Dash and AK flipping the bird to the Federal Reserve building) and promoting communal solidarity. Both songs are defiant, and lyrically heavy without club hooks or cheesy shouts in the background. Both are outstanding.

With the punk-rock feel of “Lords,” and anti-authority undercurrent now in the forefront, the duo calls out aesthetic-obsessed fans and rappers in “Fellow Fans,” before once again proclaiming their individual strength powered by peace and illegal substances in the beautiful “Melody of the Free,” which also features some good life advice from Issa Dash. The final two songs, “Midnight Augusto” and “NASA,” are both very similar in that they call out “fake” people who just want fame and do not care about real music or social issues. “NASA,” which is produced by the Flatbush Zombies’ Eric Arc Elliott, hammers home this theme in particular.

The Underachievers are the real deal; They’ve never faked what they care about or any other aspects of their personal philosophies, and they show this through their artistic expression. With “Lords,” they have done just that, and in spades. The mixtape is available for free on