With their long-awaited collab project on its way, it's time to highlight the essential work of Pro Era, Flatbush Zombies, and The Underachievers.
It may have been an informal identifier for years, but the Beast Coast is finally mounting up to enshrine their moniker in the annals of hip-hop history. Generally employed as a collective term for Pro Era, Flatbush Zombies, and The Underachievers, Beast Coast is seceding from the ranks of a likeminded collective such as The Universal Zulu Nation or Native Tongues to become a rap crew in the truest sense of the phrase. No longer bound by shared ideology alone, the three entities are consolidating their talents into a full-length project. Announced via the blistering posse cut of “Left Hand”, the group of Joey Bada$$, CJ Fly, Powers Pleasant, Kirk Knight, Nyck Caution, Erick ‘Arc’ Elliot, Meechy Darko, Zombie Juice, Issa Gold and AKTHESAVIOR are leaving the proverbial nest and heading out on a mammoth US tour together known as the "Escape From New York".
With the impending album marking the culmination of a long road, it seems like the perfect time to examine their respective catalogs to pinpoint the Beast Coast essentials. Some ground rules before we begin. To prevent this from becoming a blow-by-blow account of their entire discographies, each artist has been limited to a maximum of two projects that define them as artists. Given the sheer level of ingenuity on display, it would be easy to lionize them for their whole catalogs - but that would defeat the purpose of highlighting the cream of the crop.
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Capital Steez - Amerikkkan Korruption
Although he took his own life before it could come to fruition, the spirit of Jamal “Capital Steez” Dewar lives on through the spirit of the movements he spearheaded. Issa previously said that the group was only made possible through the keen mind and foresight of the dearly missed MC. “STEEZ is the best thinker I know,” he reflects. “He taught me how to think. Beast Coast wouldn’t exist without him. He was the one who brought the idea to me, that we needed to link all groups.” While we as humans tend to embellish an artist’s legacy after they’ve died, the saint-like praise and limitless potential that PRO ERA and their cohorts ascribe to him is by no means unfounded.
For evidence of Steez’s boundless ambition, you’d need only listen to his underground classic Amerikkkan Korruption to see that his cult following is justified. Constructed when he was 18, the 14-song project displayed Steez as a virtuosic wordsmith, communicating with clarity and power beyond his years. Laden with cuts that re-appropriated beats from MF Doom, DJ Premier and Atmosphere alongside original productions from Kirk Knight and Joey Bada$$, the project allowed him to espouse his unifying philosophy on life with charisma and conviction to spare.
Essential Tracks: Free The Robots, HYPE/BEAST, Dead On Arrival, Talking S**t
Joey Bada$$ - 1999
No record heralded the arrival of BEASTCOAST as combatants quite like Joey Bada$$’ 1999. A harmonious marriage of boom-bap revivalism and intricate lyrical acrobatics, the young Brooklynite put the world on notice. Pairing old school tropes with youthful vitality, Joey proved himself a capable lyricist, adaptive and able to embody any type of flow on tracks such as “Waves”, World Domination” and the LA Noire sampling “FROMDATOMBS.” Charming in its naivety and exuberance, it would take a while for the Josef Badmon that we know today to take on his form. But there’s no denying that 1999 put Joey -and by extension, Pro Era- on the map.
Essential Tracks: Survival Tactics, Waves, FromdaTombs, Righteous Minds, World Domination
Joey Bada$$ - All Amerikkkan Bada$$
No longer dizzied by the spotlight that he’d been thrust into as a teenager, the 22-year-old Bada$$ delivered his most consistent and insightful work to date on 2017’s All Amerikkkan Bada$$. Released on 4/7 as a homage to his late comrade Capital Steez, the record showed that Joey had more to offer than sheer technical wizardry or punchlines, going toe-to-toe with any conscious rapper in terms of producing pertinent content. Now, the man who once brashly proclaimed “f***k government, f**k Listenin’ and s***t” could articulate his point of view and exhaustively outline his vision for a better society. From radio-oriented smashes to bombastic aggression, All Amerikkkan Bada$$ provided something for everyone, all while keeping a cohesive thread throughout.
Essential Tracks: FOR MY PEOPLE, LAND OF THE FREE, TEMPTATIONS, RING THE ALARM, ROCKABYE BABY
Flatbush Zombies - BetterOffDEAD
Between the untapped middle ground of nihilism and hedonism, therein lies The Glorious Dead. Better known as Flatbush Zombies, the trio of Erik Arc Elliott, Meechy Darko and Zombie Juice blazed a trail through the genre, leaving piles of psychoactive residue in their wake. While it wasn’t their first project, this BetterOffDEAD showcased the group as purveyors of a strand of hip-hop that was subversive for all the right reasons. Cloud rap without the inanity, horrorcore without the gratuitousness, the Zombies remain impervious to the industry’s games and refuse to yield to commercial whims. Instead, the gravelly voiced Meechy, musical savant Erick and the typhoon of energy that is Zombie Juice used BetteroffDEAD to sculpt 2010’s hip-hop in their own image.
Essential Tracks: Nephilim, G Tearz, Palm Trees, Mraz, Thug Waffle, Drug Parade
Flatbush Zombies - 3001: A Laced Odyssey
Although 2018’s Vacation In Hell was another immersive trip into the shadow realm of The Glorious Dead, it marginally fell short of their full-length studio debut 3001: A Laced Odyssey. Helmed by Erick from the start to the exhilarating twelve-minute crescendo, the trio act as your tour guides into an astral plane containing no shortage of menace. Amid the ethereal touches and Kubrick references, Meechy, Ark, and Juice ensured that the griminess and sinister atmospherics of their breakout mixtape remained scattered throughout. The next logical step in their evolution as artists, this conceptual work bristles with an authenticity that makes you feel that they genuinely loved every moment of its painstaking creation.
Essential Tracks: Bounce, R.I.P.C.D, Ascension, Trade Off, This Is It, Your Favourite Rap Song
The Underachievers - Indigoism
“First things first, let me lay it down, young indigo n***a here to take the crown.”
From the very moment that AKTHESAVIOR doles these bars out, you know that Indigoism is no mere pedestrian mixtape. Imbued with contempt for the rap game as they saw it, The Underachievers’ debut project was a shot in the dark that put the world on notice. Distributed by Flying Lotus’ Brainfeeder imprint, the notoriously daring label proved to be a suitable home for AK and Issa Gold to dispense with all constraints and ransack the entire musical world for inspiration. From disorienting weed anthems to jazz-infused ponderings on the inner-workings of the universe, it’s no surprise that Indigoism’s highlights remain fan favorites, occupying their top song spots on streaming services to this day.
Essential Tracks: Philanthropist, The Madhi, Leopard Shepard, Herb Shuttles, Gold Soul Theory, T.A.D.E.D
The Underachievers - Evermore: The Art Of Duality
Often overshadowed in their catalog by Indigoism’s hulking presence, it’d be a stretch to say that their 2015 record Evermore: The Art Of Duality is objectively better. Still, it’s an accomplished body of work nonetheless. Concerned with the conflicting aspects of human nature, this sprawling record took Issa and AK’s philosophical musings up to new heights. Fixated with the day-to-day struggles to stay on track, it contrasts their unrelenting desire to carve out a better future with the ruinous temptations that risk condemning them to a life of monotony. The meeting point for high-minded ideas and the harshness of reality, Evermore reasserted the duo as a thrilling pair that harbor an unorthodox outlook on life and the construction of hip-hop music itself.
Essential Tracks: Rain Dance, Shine All Gold, Chasing Faith, Take Your Place, Moon Shot
Nyck Caution - Disguise The Limit
Surrounded by acclaimed rappers on all sides, Nyck Caution had an uphill battle to gain recognition as a high-caliber MC within the Beast Coast ranks. Yet against the odds, that’s exactly what the self-styled New York City Kid managed to do on Disguise The Limit. Titled as an ode to Capital Steez’s “Negus,” this is but one of several earnest memorials to the Pro Era architect throughout the project. Split between trademark boom bap production and more eclectic fare that touches on rock & electronica, Disguise The Limit is the sound of Nyck Caution pleading his case to come in from the cold, and proof that he could pit his considerable skills against any of the collective’s critical and commercial darlings.
Essential Tracks: What’s Understood, Out Of Reach, Crucifix, Wordsmith
Nyck Caution & Kirk Knight - Nyck @ Knight
As concise as it may be, the tandem of Nyck Caution and Kirk Knight embodied everything that makes the Beast Coast hivemind so enthralling. At a little under 25 minutes, Nyck @ Knight could be construed as an album by today’s standards, with a linear structure and enough merit to exceed a more long-winded effort. Across eight varied offerings, the pair’s innate chemistry allows them to scour the depths of hip-hop’s stylistic arsenal and consistently deploy new sounds in effective ways. A star-making turn on both fronts, the sheer joy of the Pro Era posse cut “Audiopium”- which features Joey Bada$$, CJ Fly, Rokamouth, Dirty Sanchez and an acapella from King Cap- is enough to get anyone enthused about the bright future of the collective.
Essential Tracks: Off The Wall, Dial Up, No One Seems To Care, Audiopium, Wake Up
What’s your favorite project in the BEASTCOAST Discography? Let us know below.