As a neophyte to the Flatbush ZOMBiES movement, it took me several spins of their last project, Better Off Dead, to fully appreciate their brand of lyricism and the intricacies of their style. However, one track in particular caught my ear off the bat, ‘Palm Trees,’ mainly due to Meech’s phenomenal verse. Within his first couple of stanzas, Meech drops bars that implicitly define their Flatbush, alpha-male mentalities: “Lions don’t lose sleep, over the opinions of sheep” and “Niggas with the most opinions, usually have the least.”
Despite the braggadocio charm, Meech really finds his mark when he illuminates the blatant hypocrisies in urban culture: “This white bitch had the fucking nerve to call me a nigger/ When she the one paying the surgeon for her lips to get bigger/ Do you get the bigger picture/ Shit is backwards my nigga.” It is an interesting dichotomy he highlights, in which people sexualize and idolize the African-American body and culture, while directly criticizing African-Americans behind said culture, oppressing them with stereotypes and racists remarks like the one Meech describes. A prime example of modern day America sexualizing the African-American body is Miley Cyrus. Her unforgettable performance at the VMAs was riddled with unintended, but ignorant, cultural reappropriation. Miley, and her team of African-American backup dancers, brought ‘Twerking’ to the forefront of white, mainstream consciousness with their media barrage.
Back to the music at hand – Erick Arc Elliot’s fantastic flip of the vocal riffs from Jeni Suk’s Wildfire cover creates a smooth base for this instrumental. Add the laid back 808’s, simple drum pattern, and the long, ambient synths to the mix and you have an impressive beat from a severely underrated producer. The second the track starts, the listener is thrown into a state of sweet serenity, creating a subtle, contrast between the laidback instrumental and the aggressive lyrics.
It’s necessary to take a second look at Meech’s verse and decipher some more of the lyrical content he delivers. For example, take the line,
It’s funny how now rappers be on the druggy shit/ Download my tape, sat back, studied shit/ Acid Pack a hundred hits, shrooms, caps and hash bricks/ trippy like the Destiny Child chick, on 106.
He questions the authenticity of the multitude of substance-influenced rappers teeming out of the woodwork, riding the coattails of the new “druggy shit” that (he would argue) ZOMBiES helped to usher into the mainstream. With the simple ‘Acid Pack – Acid Rap’ wordplay, Meech alludes to (and possibly fires shots at) Chicago’s newest Chance the Rapper, while also identifying his favorite performance enhancing substances. And for good measure, he throws in a comical reference to former Destiny’s Child member Michelle Williams falling during a 106 & Park performance.
In their quest to carve their spot in the halls of rap, Meech and the other ZOMBiES have found a way to immunize themselves to the hate. Their hook, “So much grams, unzip the bag/ dip in my hand, and then I palm trees/ So when you throw shade, it could never harm me,” clearly states that their dank is the key to success, and because of it they are impervious to their detractors. The act of “throwing shade” refers to the subtle disses that Flatbush has received, but Mary Jane lifts Meech and his crew out of this shade by providing them with a loyal companion, as opposed to being a “backstabbing bitch.” Erick Arc Elliot hammers this point home when he closes his verse and the track by leading into the hook with, “Not offended when you call me a genius, all that means is…” He doesn’t care what you say about him or his music – he’s going to grab his bag of weed and do him regardless, and so will the rest of the ZOMBiES.
– Jordan Perteet