Meechy Darko Lets in the Light

On ‘Gothic Luxury,’ the debut solo album from the Flatbush Zombies’ rapper

On November 15, 2022
Photo by ZEITWEITZ

Meechy Darko believes in the law of attraction. On his debut solo album, Gothic Luxury, he summons Basquiats and brimstone with a gravelly rasp that’s become synonymous with psychedelic hip-hop. As one-third of Flatbush Zombies, he’s spent the better half of the last decade living a rockstar lifestyle, coveted by crowds and camera lenses. The glow from the eye of a spotlight paints Meechy Darko as one of the lucky few, but lights cast long shadows.   

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“I’m not lucky. I made a choice,” he said over a video interview. “To them, I’m sitting on this big throne in the sky and it looks crazy and shit, but it’s like it’s also made of fucking marble and it’s cold. It’s cold up here, bro. You feel me?”

Meech prefaces Gothic Luxury on “The Genesis” with: “This album contains sex, drugs, love, pain, a lil fame.” The foreshadowing is a warm welcome for the returning fan and a fitting introduction to new ears.  

“I didn’t want to rap like everybody already knew my story and I didn’t want to rap like I’m brand new. Because I’m not brand new. I been doing this shit for damn near almost a decade now,” Meech said. “Some people love when I’m the ‘shock rapper,’ when I do the punch lines, and some people love when I’m introspective and talk about mental illness. Some of my Black brothers love when I talk that pro-Black shit and some people love when I talk about fucking and taking drugs.”

Building Meech a pulpit to spit all the above, long-time Kid Cudi collaborator Dot da Genius, executive-produced the project. The strings that bookend the album with “CURSED” and “BLK Magîc” are lofty and tense, fitting to fill cold cathedrals with vaulted ceilings and lifted archways. The tracks between, more often than not, are kissed by the ghost of a choir. 

  

Photo by ZEITWEITZ

 
 

The cover of Gothic Luxury depicts the emcee seated on a slab of obsidian marble and sprouting wings — one angelic, one demonic. The shadows that fall across the artwork nod to the way that Gothic architecture traps light with intention. It’s both sinister and marvelous. Among his inspirations for the album’s tone, Meechy cites Edgar Allan Poe and the burning of Notre Dame.

“There’s always going to be darkness. Maybe because this is the path that I gave myself with the law of attraction. I named myself Meechy Darko for a reason. Maybe that’s why I live the way I live and feel the way I feel,” he said. “It’s always a battle of, like, even when things are terrible, how do I make it feel comfortable? I’m gonna make suffering look as good as possible.”

“CURSED” was almost the title track, but, aware of the energy such a name carries, Meech renamed the project. “It was about generational curses and things you bring upon yourself, cosmic fucking karma,” he said. “But that’s just real heavy. I’m already synonymous with death and darkness and the devil and all this bullshit. So my whole goal is, like, to move away from that, which is why I have a half angel, half devil [on the cover], because that’s how I feel like people view me.”

Half angel, half devil is where he finds himself on “CURSED,” fighting fate, rapping, “‘Karma’s only inches away from where you’re sittin’ / Pulled my arm away and said, ‘Bitch, you better tell me different’ / She said that ‘You deserve what you’re gettin’.” His bars are prophetic and looming — fire on a mountain, prophecy dashed against his stony will by a scorned palm reader. It’s live fast, die young for the uninitiated, but those familiar with the emcee’s ongoing lyrical dance with the reaper know it’s more personal than that. 

Even on the brooding and paranoid “Hennessey & Halos,” where he raps of the last conversation he had with his late father (“I said that I will kill him when I saw him / Who knew the next time I see him was in the coffin / The law of attraction, be careful what you talking”), he finds space for light in true Gothic fashion. He raps, “My life’s Hennessey and halos / I get everything I pray for,” but it’s more a record of his surroundings than it is braggadocio. Not every prayer is sent to God and signed, “Amen, Meechy Darko,” but energy is returned whether his fingers are clasped or curled. 

He externalized his relationship with death on the album’s first single, “Kill Us All (K.U.A.),” where he addresses a system that’s not just indifferent to the lives of Black Americans but actively working against them. The song has one of the most potent rhymes on the whole project: “I turn on CNN, they tell me be MLK / Instead of Malcolm X but they both died the same way.”

“The reason why they want me to be MLK is because he’s looked at nonviolent and that makes them look better, but does it make my people, what we’re fighting for, better?” Meech asked. Since his assassination, Martin Luther King Jr. has been quoted just as often by the opposition to civil rights movements — high-roading peaceful protest as the institution’s preferred response to its own violence. “Kill Us All” points Meech’s skepticism at the way media sanitizes Black liberation and the public’s tendency to hastily adopt the narrative paths of least resistance. 

It’s a staple of heavy psychedelic use to question psychological conditioning. If you put Flatbush Zombies’ catalog on a dartboard and took a blind shot, you’re more likely than not to find Meech rhyming about mind-altering substances and the way they change your perspective. 

But on Gothic Luxury, the lysergic lyrics are more sparse. Meech says he didn’t mention LSD until recording the last couple of songs on the project and he didn’t trip to the music until it was nearly finished. When asked about how psychedelics have influenced his life, his answer shares essence with the famous psychonaut Alan Watts, who, after a long life of experimenting with LSD, wrote in the 1970 edition of The Joyous Cosmology, “If you get the message, hang up the phone… The biologist does not sit with eye permanently glued to the microscope; he goes away and works on what he has seen.”

“I used to give it all to the psychedelics,” Meech said. “The older I got, the more I realized I give it all to my family and my friends and psychedelics second. Me and [Zombie] Juice, and the Underachievers, and my neighborhood, we felt like we had something that no one else had. And also, my thinking was always like that. My father was a thinker. That was the person I called when I used to have a weird theory about some shit.” 

The law of attraction has brought Meech pain and pleasure, but like the architecture that inspired Gothic Luxury, both light and shadow are tools of the artist. Unlike most of us, Meech doesn’t pursue success in flight from pain. The chill of his marble throne isn’t reward or punishment, it just is.  

“You know how many times n---as have asked me, ‘Are you happy?’ I doubt it. I don’t really think so,” Meech said. “But I’m doing what I’m supposed to do. Not many people figure out their purpose, and even if making music is not my purpose, I'm doing damn good at something if I'm not supposed to be doing it.”


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Brandon Hill

Brandon Hill is a freelance journalist covering arts and culture, mental health and labor. He is a frequent contributor to Okayplayer, CentralSauce and the "In Search of Sauce" podcast. Find him on socials and subscribe to his free weekly newsletter at Authory.com/BrandonHill. 

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