Emu Devine
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While most famous for his work within the hip-hop trio Flatbush Zombies, rapper and producer Erick the Architect has been releasing solo music for a while now, most notably with his Arcstrumentals album series. His most recent release comes with his new EP Future Proof, released on Jan. 22. Hailing from Flatbush, Brooklyn, the group has already made a name for themselves as one of the faces of the modern hip-hop scene in New York. Specifically, Erick is not only known for his vocals, but his unique instrumental style as a producer, giving the Flatbush Zombies their signature laid back sound, with organic instruments and soul and jazz influences. I actually had no idea he was releasing new music until I tuned into his studio livestreams on Twitch, where he was promoting it. I’ve been excitedly anticipating the release of the EP, and decided to review it here, despite it not being a full-length album.

Honestly, the project didn’t have the strongest start, leading off with “I Can’t Lose.” While the sampling and production on the instrumental was very strong, the lyrics didn’t feel all that developed, and felt somewhat immature. I didn’t feel like there was much of a sense of direction, kind of taking me off guard knowing Erick’s previous work. The project did improve, however, with “WTF,” an emotionally charged song on systemic racism and police brutality. He did a great job of embodying the sadness and pain of having to experience those issues in the U.S.; the chorus, sung by Col3trane, as well as the sampling choices really helped solidify that.

The EP took a step back, though, with “Let It Go,” which also suffered from a lack of lyrical direction and maturity. While the subject matter of family and the melancholic tone was set up for a strong emotional message, Erick’s verse came across as lackluster, and the two features on this song sounded more impressive than him. There was a slight improvement, again, with “Die 4 U,” which came across as a genuine artistic portrayal of mental health issues, but it still felt like the lyrics themselves weren’t completely thought through. For him, it felt like an underdeveloped song.

Image of Future Proof's tracklist
Future Proof finishes strong with Selfish. Image courtesy of Spotify.

This changed with the outro, “Selfish,” sporting the simplest and most stripped-down instrumental, but the most fleshed-out lyrics — talking about living as a Black man, as well as the fear of dying. Erick reached a peak for emotional complexity here; it was just unfortunate that it came as the final song of the EP. Before moving on, though, I’d like to give a mention to “Skinny Ramen Freestyle.” While not a song that made the project, a music video for it was released leading up to the release date of Future Proof. It was a lot more of an energetic song without sacrificing emotional complexity, and, despite being a freestyle, was a lot more impressive lyrically than almost every song on the EP itself, second only to “Selfish.”

I can’t say any of these songs are bad, but it was a lot less exciting than I was expecting. The project suffered from a lack of fleshed-out and at times immature-sounding lyrics throughout, even if the subject matter itself was complex and emotionally significant. In addition, the features on this EP almost always sounded better than Erick himself, which becomes a problem when the only song without a guest feature was also the worst one, “I Can’t Lose.” This took away from the impressive instrumentals, and I came away from it pretty disappointed, as this was far from his best work. If this was a full album, I’d just say it had a slow start with “Selfish,” but this isn’t an album, so the improvements as time went on weren’t as meaningful. I’d have to give it a 6.6/10, but I can’t recommend it for someone looking to get into Erick the Architect or Flatbush Zombies music for the first time. If you’re just looking for some jazzy, soulful hip-hop, however, it does hold up, and songs like “Selfish” and “Die 4 U” are still playlist-worthy.

Featured Image: Courtesy of Genius 

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