Words: Dylan Murphy
Words: Dylan Murphy
Having enjoyed ten years as part of one of the 2010’s most influential rap trios, Meechy Darko is setting sail on his first serious solo mission – Gothic Luxury. He spoke to Dylan Murphy about his fortuitous relationship with Dot Da Genius, navigating a tragic loss and paying homage to the O.Gs.
There’s a live radio interview from 2005 with Bizzy Bone of Bone Thugs-n-Harmony that Meechy Darko returns to every year. For ten painstaking minutes, the rapper is almost completely incoherent. He rambles at the pace of an auctioneer at a warehouse sale and bookends his long, winding spiels with reverent-like calls to “Praise God”. The interviewer can barely get a word in. It’s the kind of scenario that would be unfathomable now. No credible producer would let a guest in the midst of an episode continue for so long without intervention and yet, for all its flaws, Meech can’t help but be in awe of the rare moments of clarity that arise.
“I just go back to it every year, I’ve been watching that shit for 15 years. It’s just a reminder of how your brain can lead to so many different places”, he notes.
“I love rants because there is so much…” he says, before trailing off and reframing his thoughts. “Genius and psychosis is this thin line… this very, very thin fucking line. There’s a crazy guy on the train right now saying some shit that isn’t actually crazy but right after he says that shit he is gonna say something that is crazy. I’ve seen people say some prolific shit in the midst of rambles in a stream of consciousness.”
“If I went to breakfast club and rambled like that… they’d probably stop it or be like, ‘are you ok brother?’. No one really said that to him, they let him just run wild”, Meech says sympathetically as he caveats his interest from the other end of a Zoom call.
Usually, Meech would have watched the interview alongside countless films and music videos with Jewice back in Brooklyn. It’s the kind of material that influenced the horror-inspired trip that is the Flatbush Zombies universe. But during 2020, he moved out west in search of finalising his debut solo album. For a rapper that prides himself on repping his area, (to the point his rap trio was named after his neighbourhood) it’s a move he didn’t take lightly.
“New York felt…” he says, before pausing. “I could tell music wasn’t gonna be happening unless you were making a certain kind of music at that moment. I wasn’t going to be making a drill album so I was like ‘let me go to LA and link up with Dot Da Genius’.”
Until this point, Meech’s career has consisted of working almost exclusively with Erick The Architect and Jewice on Flatbush Zombies material. Erick produces the records and all three of them rap. It’s a formula that has stayed the same for a decade, because it works. In that time, the trio have charted independently, built one of rap’s most rabid fan bases, collaborated with acts ranging from Snoop Dogg to Portugal The Man and produced one of the most influential mixtapes of the last decade in Better Off Dead. All without compromising a single thing. Save for some standout guest verses on the likes of Piñata and a James Blake-produced Flatbush Zombies album (which he tells me will see the light of day when the timing is right), Meech’s creative hustle has remained free of external forces.
However, his solo album was never going to be more of the same. He’s already spent ten years pouring his soul into often intensely personal music with his best friends, so he didn’t intend to reintroduce himself on Gothic Luxury. The other side of the coin is, having that same openness with another producer may not come easy. Luckily, in Dot he found another brother.
Fans will know Dot as the producer behind Kid Cudi’s ‘Day N Nite’ and associate him with the Cleveland rapper’s message of survival and unmistakeable croons. So it makes sense that Meech, an artist that wears his heart on his sleeve with one of the most recognisable growls in music would make an appealing collaborator. He explains that Denzel Curry introduced his music over FaceTime to the GRAMMY-nominated producer. Then they linked in the studio and the more they worked with each other, the more the stars aligned and frequent coincidences started to feel like fate. They quickly realised they had mutual friends, spent their childhoods in adjacent areas of Brooklyn and predictably, this coalesced into a natural chemistry in the studio.
“It’s funny cause we hit it off so naturally coming from the same place, that there wasn’t a lot of stuff lost in translation and shit. He’s a fucking genius, it’s in his name for a reason. There’s some songs I made before I even met him to give him an idea of the texture and ideas I had and explain to him what Gothic Luxury is to me” he explains. “He helped me make it something real. A lot of the time you have an idea in your head… I’m not a producer so I have an idea of the soundscape and you need the right words or the right person to actually make that music. And he did it.”
“It’s important to me because those people help make me who I am as an artist… So if you love me you better love them too”.– Meechy Darko
For all the new beginnings stemming from Gothic Luxury, there’s plenty of welcome continuities. Flatbush Zombies have consistently made a point of paying homage to the greats. Even going as far as making over fifty clever references to their favourite acts on ‘Headstone’ – their modern shrine to hip hop. With features from Busta Rhymes and Black Thought on his solo record, Meech is maintaining that same advocacy.
“I mean it’s important to me because I’m a child of Hip Hop and before I go die or retire or both I want to be able to say I worked with my idols. I’ve rapped with the best, I’ve kept up with the best… I love to be able to look at my list and say damn I’ve worked with Bun B, RZA, I’ve worked with Snoop Dogg, I’ve worked with Black Thought and Busta Rhymes.
It’s important to me because those people help make me who I am as an artist… So if you love me you better love them too”.
The creative hurdles of creating a solo album after working in a group for ten years were challenging, but they weren’t unexpected. What Meech could never have prepared for, was the loss of his father who was shot dead by a police officer in Miami in January of 2021. It’s the kind of trauma that was only amplified by the lingering effects of the pandemic and one that was always going to play a huge part in shaping his album.
“I didn’t take a break since my father’s killing”, Meech reveals. “I’m not really in the place where I think I can stop anything I’m doing regardless of how difficult it may be. I made this album. I’m still coping.”
Whilst there’s longing for absent loved ones on Gothic Luxury, pain isn’t what defines the record. Instead, it’s better understood through his uncompromising response to chaos. On ‘Lost Souls’ Meech recruits two of hip hop’s most energetic MCs in Busta Rhymes and Denzel Curry to subvert expectations on a tear-jerking track. While on ‘What If’ he questions what would have happened if his dad never died. However, it’s tracks like ‘Kill Us All’ where we see Meech’s unshakeable resolve carry the album. He stares adversaries straight down the barrel of their gun, daring them to take a shot. On ‘Get Lit Or Die Tryin’ It’s not enough for him to just survive in the face of life’s torrential shit storm, he’s hellbent on obnoxiously living it up – it’s hedonism over everything.
It’s intentional too. Meech’s versatility is a blessing as much as it is a curse and he’s prone to meandering. That’s why he designed a concept to keep him focused.
“It’s funny because originally the name of the album, I was thinking of naming it Cursed and then Black Magic, but then Gothic Luxury was a mood I created… I’m very into themes for stuff. So if you tell me we’re doing this project together and it’s based off these tapes I listened to. You tell me it’s Charles Manson or Mindhunter? Ok, I can stay in that character. I have to do that for myself sometimes, because if I don’t I’m a mad man, I’ll make a reggae song, a RnB song and go all over the place. I made Gothic Luxury, this terminology because it best describes the mood, sound, feel and vibe of what I wanted to do. I wanted it to feel dark and luxurious.
The world is burning outside right? Would you rather be your regular house you are in now, or something you always dreamed of? Black marble floors and fucking chandeliers hanging and all that kinda shit. That’s what it is to me, “Gothic Luxury” is finding comfort in the darkest shit… If the world is burning outside or my life is shitty at least I can be in the darkness in some fucking luxury.”