Last week, Brooklyn trio Flatbush Zombies were on hand for the official media preview of BAPE's artist collection. The event, held at the A Bathing Ape flagship store in Manhattan's SoHo neighborhood, gave media outlets a first look at the collaborations done between BAPE and the artists, as well as the Flatbush Zombies collab.

Keeping their hometown of Brooklyn in mind for their collaboration, the Zombies and BAPE pay tribute to the legendary Notorious B.I.G. and New York City on the collaboration. Consisting of three pieces—a shark hoodie, long sleeve tee and a T-shirt—the Flatbush collection includes the Zombies' branding throughout the garments.

The Flatbush Zombies x BAPE collaboration was officially released worldwide last Saturday (May 2) at select BAPE retailers. In conjunction with the release of the collab, XXL sat down with Erick Arc Elliott, Juice and Meech to discuss the importance and influence of BAPE in New York City and their collaboration with the brand. —Roger Krastz

XXL: Growing up, tell me about the importance of BAPE for you guys?
Erick Arc Elliott: I'll say that there was different levels of flee in my school and if you wore BAPE you were the flee-est. There were different levels and I'm just glad to be a part of that higher level at some point in my life. I'm part of it right now.

Juice: It helps you express yourself, you know, with the great patterns and designs and multiple colors. They have a color for every color of sneaker, so you can almost wear anything you want as long as you have that sneaker with that color because they have a color for every color on every color for every sneaker.

Meech: I like to express myself and when you have every color for color, like Juice just said, it's easier for you to express yourself. And when I was younger, I guess gravitated more to this brand because they had more to work with than other brands.

When did the talks between you and BAPE begin for this collab?
Meech: Shit... When we first went to Japan a while back.

How involved were you guys in the design of your collaboration?
Meech: It's all us. I mean, I didn't do it on the computer myself. [Laughs] But we designed it. It was our idea.

Juice: It's really the original Flatbush Zombies font mixed in with the BAPE people's design of Biggie Smalls as an ape with the Jesus piece and the Versace shades.

What was the story you wanted to tell with this collaboration?
Meech: It's about New York City, you know? Ten years of the New York City store. It's not about Flatbush Zombies, so instead of putting ourselves there we decided it would be better to put someone that made us proud and happy to represent New York. One of the first people [Notorious B.I.G.], if not the first rapper to wear BAPE. It looks beautiful. Every time I look at it I just laugh and smile.

As far as New York City, how do you think BAPE has managed to be so influential in the hip-hop culture?
Eric Arc Elliot: Man, there was a time when I first started learning about BAPE [when] it was just impossible to find. There was a certain year that all the shit was so hot that it was like, if you had anything from that year you could tell that it was older BAPE shit. And that was, to me, when I realized the brand was really flourishing. You can now purchase the new shit, but the older shit, you see it now and it's just rare. And once you start collecting shit and things become more valuable with time you know it's important to the culture and it's important to the people because now people are saving their shit. Their shit is still in plastic and that's a beautiful thing. People don't do that for trash brands or brands that don't last long.

Meech: They also have collaborated with everyone. No matter their color, no matter their genre, the music they made. It could be a graffiti artist. It could be a street dancer. If they have a following and are part of the culture, [BAPE will] gravitate towards it and they give everyone a chance. We're a lot less famous than a lot of people on here I think, but we still up there and we're just as important to what they are trying to show the world, I guess.

What do you think is needed for a collab between an artist and a clothing brand?
Meech: Freedom, mutual respect and a contract. [Laughs]