Can't Hold Us
Sure, they're becoming rap stars but the Flatbush Zombies were diehard comic book and superhero fans first. Go figure.
Words: Miranda J.
Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared in the Spring 2016 issue of of XXL Magazine, on stands now.

Rappers aren't normally labeled comic book and superhero fans but the Flatbush Zombies have always gone against the grain. The rap trio from Flatbush, Brooklyn, who are best known for their energetic live shows, recently released their debut album, 3001: A Laced Odyssey, to strong reviews. Made up of members Meechy Darko, 26; Zombie Juice, 25; and Erick The Architect, 27, the group formed in 2010, and have since dropped two mixtapes -- D.R.U.G.S. (2012) and BetterOffDEAD (2013) -- before finally releasing their much overdue debut on their own label, The Glorious Dead Records. Days before the release of their LP, XXL spoke to the three MCs about their serious comic book fandom and more.

Nerds unite.

XXL: You guys are known to be big comic book fans. Is that why you did a cartoon cover for your new album?

Meechy Darko: As a kid, I used to read comic books growing up, a lonely child in his little small-ass apartment, in his room reading comic books. I figured, “What’s better than having a comic book cover?” I see pictures of rappers on [album] covers and it can be very boring. I already know how this person looks. I already know Michael Jackson’s face. It would be better if they painted him or made him a statue rather than just us getting in front of a camera and shit, showing my gold teeth. It’s kind of boring. You can get more done. [Our] cover has a building blowing up. It has the Statue of Liberty with a gun in her hand. We can’t do that in real life. You get to really stretch your imagination when you have drawings and paintings, and shit.

Zombie Juice: Who wants to stare at their face all day?

How is the artwork significant to you guys? What’s on the cover that you felt you needed to get in there?

Erick The Architect: The dude who did it name is David Nakayama. We told him that we wanted to be superheroes. The aesthetic, the drawing style was taken from Jamie Hewlett, illustrator of the Gorillaz. My particular character was inspired by another character [Jamie] llustrated, which is Tank Girl. I’m not a girl so he did Tank Boy, I guess. I think we just tried to illustrate our personalities the best way we could. It’s us but basically a part of [us] that’s imaginary. We were in the destruction of New York City. Maybe people don’t realize that but after looking around you would see that either half the people are contributing to the madness that’s happening or totally secluded from it. That’s probably what would happen if the world were to end. That’s what we foresee, which is why the album is called 3001. It’s not 2016. If it was 2016, it would only be cops shooting Black people on the cover.

Meechy Darko: Probably lean,cops shooting Black people and twerking.

Your most recent video “Bounce” definitely had a cartoon feel.

Zombie Juice: Fun fact, the video was inspired by Grand Theft Auto. There’s only a handful of people that actually noticed that.

Meechy Darko: We love the people at Rockstar Games so we wanted to pay tribute and pay homage. We did it dirty like Grand Theft Auto. I got my porn star mustache on, Juice is a homeless man and Erick is a dirty cop. It was fun. It was like Black exploitation almost, just not as exploited.

Favorite comics books growing up?

Erick The Architect: I used to get Archie. My dad used to buy Archie for me. Obviously Spider-Man and X-Men. If there were any type of future stuff, my dad always put me on to it. Like Wolverine in the future. Or if it was something already [known] and it was like a kid version of it.

Meechy Darko: Like Spider-Man 2099.His father was a collector. His father was part of the fluctuation in the 1990s when people thought comic books were valuable, so they bought them all. They didn’t realize that the more you buy, the less valuable they’re going to become because we’re all going to have the same ones, thousands and thousands of them. My father was the same way. Not to get all sad, but when my parents broke up and my uncle went to the military and my other uncle left; all three of them left me comic books. So, I read comics books growing up. That was my main shit. I like X-Men because it’s political. I liked Spawn because Spawn was Black, he was grimy and he was from hell. I identified a lot with him when I was a kid. There are not a lot of Black super heroes.

Zombie Juice: Luke Cage, Spawn, [and] Michael Jackson. The Green Lantern.

Between Marvel and DC Comics, which one is your favorite? Marvel?

Erick The Architect: You’re right. Marvel by like 25 percent because they’re really both great companies period.

Meechy Darko: I identify with Marvel more. Superman is boring. He has a boring job. He has a boring life. His hair- style is boring. His powers are boring.

Erick The Architect: I agree with that. It’s predictable. I like Batman.

Meechy Darko: I like Batman. I like Lobo. I like random shit from DC but DC is kind of boring to me. Wonder Woman is dope. That’s about it. I want to be in a Marvel movie, that’s our ultimate goal. I want to be in the next X-Men but they’re fucking around. They’re not fucking with us.

You mentioned the fluctuation in the 1990s. It’s definitely happening again, but with comic book movies. Why do you think that is?

Erick The Architect: They’re making money. That Spider-Man shit blew up big. Once a Spider-Man movie came out, people saw the potential because back before we were just talking about comic books, but what was also synonymous with that was trading cards. Pokémon and all that stuff, we saw people fiend over that. That stuff never made it to the big screen. Once they actually started seeing the numbers coming back [from the movies], it was like these production companies are forcing people to make shitty super hero movies. If they were all really great, that would be cool but you can see that, at least for me, you can see they are also being taken advantage of. Because [if they weren’t], they would all be good. The budget is maybe not there or the plot is different from the story that we know. It just kind of like kills it but once people see potential in anything, they’ll make it.

Meechy Darko: I just want more mature movies. They don’t all have to be like Spider-Man. There’s mature comic books. They need a movie. Not for nothing, there’s no fe- male superhero movies period. Elektra was garbage.

Zombie Juice: I like what they’re doing with the Netflix thing. In general, that’s just my favorite ones so far.

Meechy Darko: That’s what we need. Fuck a movie,we need to be on Netflix.

Do you guys like Netflix’s Daredevil?

Meechy Darko: I like Jessica Jones better because it’s more relatable.

Zombie Juice: I want to see what Daredevil has for the next season.

What do you like about Jessica Jones?

Zombie Juice: Period, I just think that Kilgrave is an amazing villain. I think that it’s just amazing to be able to control people’s minds. The best part of the show is Kilgrave.

Meechy Darko: My favorite part is just watching somebody with superpowers who didn’t want their superpowers and to see how they deal with it. We all as kids would be like, “I would love to fly and I would love to do this.” But, then it’s like would you really want that responsibility, to save every crying person that’s caught up? I wouldn’t do it.
If you could have powers what would they be?

Zombie Juice: I would be able to transform my body into any element, so I could pretty much exist anywhere and everywhere.

Meechy Darko: Matter manipulation, mind control and teleportation. I would like to teleport. I’d go to the top of the Statue of Liberty, smoke a blunt and come back.

Erick The Architect: I would do cloning, like copies of myself. My original self is the really strong one and every time I would clone myself, I would get weaker.

Everyone thinks Flatbush Zombies and The Walking Dead go hand in hand. Are you guys big fans?

Zombie Juice: I read all of [the comic books] pretty much. I bought the last two and I didn’t even get the chance to read them yet but I got them.

Meechy Darko: He’s obsessed. Action figures and everything.

The Batman vs. Superman movie, you ready for that?

Erick The Architect: Batman, I love probably more than anyone. I’ve always been a Batman fan. I don’t like Superman. So, when I seen the trailer, I was like “Oh, this might be cool.” But, then Batman looked too crazy to me. He’s using a gun, which is weird. I understand it’s like a different version but I don’t like that. I like the traditional Batman.

Meechy Darko: I just think Ben Affleck is going to play the best Bruce Wayne but not the best Batman. It’s for the kids. Let them have fun. Let them watch people beat each other up on the screen.
What are your thoughts on Marvel’s new hip-hop variant album covers?

Meechy Darko: They forgot about us.

Zombie Juice: They don’t know that we know and love everything.

Meechy Darko: Marvel Zombies is actually a very beautiful comic book. I have the comic. They need to let us into the next Marvel Zombies comic book. It’s only right. Even if you kill me in the first square that you show me in, just have me in there.

Check out more from XXL’s Spring 2016 issue including Big Sean’s cover story, the Letter from the Editor, Macklemore’s thoughts on White privilege, Kodak Black's Show & Prove interview, Doin' Lines with Boosie BadAzz and more.