REVIEW: The Underachievers – ‘The Lords of Flatbush’ Mixtape
Brooklyn’s the Underachievers capitalized on their YouTube-driven buzz this past February with the release of their debut mixtape, the sprawling-but-cohesive ‘Indigoism.’ Its 17 tracks are filled with gruff, third eye-wielding introspection and braggadocio -- the kind of mindset brought about by battle raps mixed with plenty of psychedelic drugs.
It was a well-timed mission statement and a fascinating sign of things to come from the duo, made up of rappers Issa Gold and AK. And before they deliver their first retail project, they gave their increasingly fervent fan base another free sampler in ‘The Lords of Flatbush.’ The eight-track mixtape is not a step forward or backward but merely a jump into another realm. It’s one brimming with intergalactic, speaker-smashing joints and more bravado raps than you might be able to stomach.
Issa made it clear prior to the tape’s release that anyone looking for the “lyrical conscious expanding knowledge filled magical triple optic s--t” of ‘Indigoism’ will have to wait. Those raps will instead land on their debut album, ‘The Cellar Door.’ So, then, what are we to expect on ‘The Lords of Flatbush?’ According to Issa, “This tape is mostly bangers,” a sentiment he and AK most certainly delivered on here, perhaps to a fault.
The first six tracks are all handled by Lex Luger, the 22-year-old producer known for crafting unrelenting bangers for the likes of Rick Ross and Waka Flocka Flame. Luger’s monolithic style has been aped and bit heavily since bursting on the scene with the career-making ‘Hard In Da Paint.’ He’s also been criticized by listeners claiming all his beats sound the same, an issue he addresses in nearly all of his interviews. In speaking with Complex in February 2011, Luger noted that he can “[send] out 40 beats a day to one artist, out of those 40 he might pick two just because they sound like ‘B.M.F.’ or ‘Hard In The Paint,’ and he feels like that’s his hit.” This, he added, is a major problem within the music industry, but he clearly doesn’t let it affect him to greatly.
Luger’s work on ‘The Lords of Flatbush’ mostly fits into his uncompromisingly heavy wheelhouse. Opener ‘Leaving Scraps’ crushes despite some shoddy audio quality and ‘Still Shining’ is equally effervescent and heavy. But it’s when he channels No I.D. on standout ‘Melody of the Free’ that Luger and the Underachievers find the pocket. The track is a smoky, pensive piece that admittedly sounds out of place amid banger after banger. But it’s a much-needed moment of clarity. ‘Melody of the Free’ also somehow-seamlessly leads into the unbelievably menacing ‘Midnight Augusto’ and tack-sharp ‘N.A.S.A.’ produced by Eff Dope and Erick Arc Elliott, respectively.
The mixtape’s three closing tracks make for one of the finest three-track runs of the year so far. Saying that Issa and AK float over these varied instrumentals is to also undersell their talents. These guys have flows so aqueous and refined that they could simply spit battle raps or even pure nonsense and it would be pleasing. But their LSD-induced insight and snarling tough-talk is what made their first project, ‘Indigoism,’ such a delight and the reason they were able to stand out from the ‘90s-biting nostalgia rappers. They might not have brought everything they have on ‘The Lords of Flatbush,’ but the Underachievers are still not living up to their namesake.