In the two years since the release of 3001: A Laced Odyssey, Brooklyn rappers Flatbush Zombies have freed themselves from their cinematic constraints and continued to refine their own sound. Thematically, Vacation in hell is a blend of psychedelic hip-hop and aggressive horrorcore that’s remained, for the most part, unique to the group throughout all of their recent projects. As a project it’s sharp and fresh, while the production remains rich and nuanced.
Listeners are greeted with the appropriately named, Hell-O, with it’s bouncy synths that wouldn’t sound out of place on their previous full length release. It’s energetic and moody, with Meech exclaiming ‘fuck that..mumble rap’, which effectively sets the tone of the rest of the album; it doesn’t conform to the current popular sound, instead carving out it’s own sonic niche. M.Bison, named after the Street Fighter antagonist, is the closest track to a traditional trap song, but the shrill, varied production keep it original. On the other end of the spectrum is songs like Vacation, Ask Courtney, and Facts, which are brooding and syrupy, but never feel repetitive thanks to unexpected elements, such as drab harmonies, or a change of roles from one of the members. The geography of Vacation in Hell is lush and undulating, and remains one of the Zombie’s greatest strengths as a group.
Out of the nineteen songs on the tracklist, eight feature guest vocals, enough to add even more variety, but not too many that it feels like a crutch that the group lean on. Denzel Curry defies all expectations on the final track, The Glory, which is a smart twist, but fans will have to continue to wait to see the true energy of both artists collide on a future track. On Vacation, Joey Bada$$ effectively trades roles with Zombie Juice, and his flow and urgent delivery compliment the group well. Meech takes YouAreMySunshine solo, not just from features but from the rest of the Zombies as well. It’s surprising that A$AP Twelvyy doesn’t feature on this tribute to his group mate, who was his introduction to the rest of the mob, the late A$AP Yams, but the powerful message works better from being delivered by one voice.
Perhaps the weakest element of Vacation in Hell is the lyrics. All three members of the group have a habit of over-explaining their wordplay, instead of allowing the listener to connect the dots themselves. For example, on the first verse of Ask Courtney, Meech spits ‘Love hurts, ask Courtney, she killed Kurt’, which is a connection that didn’t really need explanation. It doesn’t detract much from the project, but still with noting.
Vacation in Hell is a masterpiece; It’s sonically diverse and listeners can feel the chemistry between the trio well. Despite it’s length, the project never feels stale or repetitive, and although some lyrics lack a little, it’s more than made up for in the other areas. Give this record a listen.