Thirty minutes before the Converse Rubber Tracks show featuring Flatbush Zombies, the line snaked already around the corner of Wythe avenue. The crowd skewed young – Brooklyn kids in black leather, camouflage, and hypebeast-worthy sneakers. One enterprising teen tried to sell me a lukewarm Heineken of a Herschel backpack. The show was free, but the investment to grab tickets and wait on a street corner dissuaded the more fickle fans. These kids were here to party – hard.
The event catered to this with a DJ set between each act by Nick Catchdubs – who co-founded Fools Gold Records with A-Trak. His ability to play a solid mix of the most popular hip hop tracks turned the Music Hall of Williamsburg into a massive moshpit party. I think some of the bros in the moshpit had a religious experience during his version of “Pop That”, which blended into a heavy trap beat punctuated by air horns and the “Fool’s Gold” drop. People were crowd-surfing and kick-fighting to tracks by Waka Flocka Flame and Kanye West way before the Zombies took the stage.
A$AP Nast came onstage in an unexpected appearance, heralded by six dudes in hoodies yelling “ASAP!” and throwing water bottles into the crowd. People quickly realized how wild Nast and A$AP Mob get, and I was struck by how many of Nast’s songs I knew. He played “Black Mane” and the crowd was singing along to every NSFW word. Nast ended with a performance of “Trillmatic”, an internet favorite that lightened the vibe and reminded us that Nast does, indeed, have bars as well as antics.
Eventually, eager fans started getting antsy for the Zombies. A spontaneous group-rap of “Thug Waffle” broke out amongst some bros, and it was surprisingly good. Just before the Zombies took the stage, cheesy dollar store graveyard decorations were set up on the stage, and a giant sticky spiderweb was thrown over the crowd.
With the theatrical elements in place, Zombie Juice jumped on stage. Erick “Arc” Elliott and Meechy Darko emerged from the sideline, with Meech wearing a ski mask. The trio’s strong chemistry was amplified by the fact Erick serves as producer on many of their songs. I have seen the Zombies before, and I knew what to expect: crowd surfing, mosh pits, blunt smoke and a compelling medley of spitfire lyricism. But this was all put to the test when the Zombie was forced to go acapella.
Two songs in, the music suddenly cut out. Meech jumped on the mic said he ‘spilled his 40 oz’ on the DJ’s computer… and it was dead. Despite the lack of instrumentals, the guys were devoted to the performance, spitting verses a cappella to enthrall the awestruck crowd until another computer was found. It was a moment I was glad to see – the energy and delivery of the Zombies made the a cappella verses in some ways more compelling than even the mixtape tracks.
For the rest of the show, the crowd sang, smoked and crowd surfed right along with Meech, Juice and Erick. At one point, a kind fan passed a blunt onstage to Meech, who welcomed it with deep inhalations. To take the party to the next level, Bodega Bamz joined the Zombies onstage for their song together “Thrilla”. The “New New York” whipped up the crowd into a frenzy. I guarantee more than a few people in the moshpit woke up the next morning with gnarly bruises acquired during this song.
The performance ended with Meech saying that he felt like it “wasn’t their best performance” – referring to him computer issue forcing us to endure 128 kHz instrumentals. Maybe he was right – the sound was a bit off. But the crowd energy was vibrant in spite of, or maybe because of, the intimate a cappella portion and the hours of waiting. The fans came out to turn up with rockstars, but in the end it felt a lot more like a house party with the coolest kids in Brooklyn – where the turn up doesn’t stop, even when the music does.