Erick the Architect is already prepped for life after the global pandemic - and his debut solo EP 'Future Proof' is the ultimate hitchhiker’s guide.
One third of the ominous Flatbush Zombies trio, Eric the self-titled architect raps and produces alongside fellow Brooklyn natives Meechy Darko and Zombie Juice. Infamous for their phantasmagoric “ghoulish” rap style - but equally the finest talent produced by the New York neighbourhood since Talib Kweli, Busta Rhymes, and Shyne.
Eric’s bass-heavy yet laid back production is credited silently amongst hip-hop heads; over 50 artists including RZA, Denzel Curry and Danny Brown. A mix of hits and respected artists have moulded the totemic symbols that are the producer’s ever-growing industry ties and knowledge. And so, when making his debut as a lone zombie wolf, Erick knew two things; he wanted it to be relatable, and he sought to open the pandora’s box of gems he’d kept from these 50 different artists.
Recruiting three British natives - Col3trane, Pip Millett and Loyle Carner - while mashing up a Stateside sound from FARR, Linden Jay and Sophie Faith, Erick has constructed an EP that advocates extended kin-ship.
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But first: what is Future-Proofing?
"You know, I think a lot of our pain is usually the trigger for artists to work harder. When you look at a thing like Facebook. Facebook was created because this dude got into an argument with his girlfriend and he coded his website really fast to stalk her. I'm saying like, that was like one of the craziest, lucrative companies in the world was created from something that showed you that I was upset and I created out of that."
"That manic feeling futureproofing to me is similar in the sense that when I look at history, I look at 1999 and 2000, very similar to 2019 and 2020, where we're going through a transitional period where we kind of don't know it's an unforeseeable future. Everyone is scared. Everyone is running everyone is feeling this anxious. Future-proofing to me is not just buying the latest computer, it’s Improving your diet, it's making sure that your mental stability is where it's supposed to be because we're so fragile, you know?"
Erick is a constructor and in his world of beats that condense human emotions so accurately, he is king. The 32-year-old credits this to his Caribbean-American upbringing and the diverse environment that forged his childhood. Much like an architect, on the construction site of his project, Erick insists on a foundation built on his roots and in doing so, he takes it back to a time when production wasn’t his biggest brag.
“I think people have this kind of misconception about me that like, I started making beats for my group, and all of a sudden, I decided to rap. I was rapping before I made beats, I just learned production because people were sending me really wack beats when I was rapping.”
"[Let’s give 'Future Proof' five pillars] right, so I got like, mental stability, right? I'm learning a new skill, whether it's carpentry or learning to code a website. If you do that you're future-proofing yourself for the future. Because, you know, you have all this time. You can't just say I got more followers on Instagram, you know, you got to say you got skill, too. I learned to speak another language."
"Recycle. Everyone is ordering a bunch of sh*t all the time. Because we can't go anywhere. Recycle those fucking boxes, man it’s making me sick. There are separate bins for a reason, you know, but you just see everything thrown into one bin. What do you think happens when you do that? And you could think it's just you doing that, but imagine if there are 50 people in your neighbourhood that are doing that every week, that overtime is fucking the planet."
"Ownership and copyrights. You know, like, I think that as the people, especially Black people, we are less informed about those things. We consume a lot, we are usually the face for a lot of things right before they become mass-produced and loved and everything. So it's If you have an original idea, you should trademark it, you should copyright it you should learn about how to own businesses own property."
"I just think that to rent your whole life, you know, I've rented my whole life until two years ago, and the number of advantages I learned that you walk with an air of confidence knowing that something belongs to you can go your whole life without, without learning what that's like. You got the money? Do it. Do it fix your credit. Let's get it popping, bro what are you waiting for?"
"The other one is on the diet. I don't have the best diet, but I'll tell you this you can't go outside and do all this sh*t. It's just like, Man, you just sit there and kind of eat food. And you don't even monitor what you're eating and where it's coming from. There's so much to learn about that in itself, like, whatever your body is."
"And also, there's a big misconception that one diet works for everybody. So I never want to promote to say you should be a keto or vegetarian or vegan because you can get sick from trying to copy something. You need to see a nutritionist or monitor your blood levels, blood sugar levels, all that stuff to kind of figure out what works for you."
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With such a large discography, when an artist comes out and says they’d like to do solo projects we often wonder if there is much left to be said? Have the gems and hits been given away? Are is there still room for a hit for yourself?
"I reserved it for sure. I think I learned a lot from collaborating. And the joy that I experience, after a song comes out, it makes that whole process so worth it. And I think being in a group, you know, you sacrifice a bit of identity to tell a message.[ This happens] with any good group; Tribe Called Quest, Wu-Tang, or Lost Boys, Roc-A-Fella or Dipset, whatever, they all come together to do this thing that we all support, and everybody identifies as a group. But, you know, you still want to hear that Juelz Santana and that Cam’ron."
Your friends include James Blake and Joey Bada$$, both of which you have some archived gems. You’re also the producer of Joey’s long-awaited album...
"I'm a fan of Joey, I've known Joe since he was 16 years old, you know, about 10 years, you know, I've been the first tour I went on with him, with Joey. He saw something in me, kind of like we said earlier, he was saving something, almost like he saw me from like, oh, Erick is capable of bringing people together. So he called me and he's like, yo, bro, you know, I need you. He's like, I need you to executive produce my album. I was like, say less."
"So, you know, he came out here last year. And we made a bunch of records in my basement and my studio. And I produced the intro for his album, I'm pretty sure it's gonna be the intro and also the last track of his album too. So it's cool to be able to have like, the top and the bottom of something. And in the middle is kind of like the sandwich. You know, like, the pieces that, you know, to me. I feel like this is Joey's best work today."
"Once I moved to LA I met James Blake, I want to say almost three years ago. And it was like a brother from another. I can't say that. He solely is the reason that made me want to do this more seriously. But I will say that he instilled confidence in me that I didn't think I had. He, he challenged me. And I think in a lot of ways, him and I are very similar, offering our nuggets of information and help to other artists."
"But, you know, we kind of sit in a world where we're one, one of one on one, like, He's incredible. He's the way he thinks is, is I never worked with somebody that was telling me 'Yo, go have a seat over there, and I'll make the beat'. I was like, 'Damn, and then when you're done with that, you can come over and contribute to the beat too' and I never really like, work with somebody like that."
Erick is apologetic and willing to make things right - particularly with those closest to him. In his journey towards consciousness and relatability to his listeners, we spoke of two things close to his heart: his family and Black consciousness. Both are the bricks that form the walls of his project. When creating the vision of his solo debut, Erick was sure he wanted to be the cool uncle to his nephews and niece; creating something that was watershed for young ears, yet inspiring and motivational for young minds. Love for family and keeping close ties with the ones you love was perfectly crafted in 'Let It Go' alongside Loyle Carner.
"I have a 13-year-old nephew and I have a niece and nephew that are five and three. So like, I want to do something that they can hear. And unfortunately, the music we make as Zombies is not for children. And it will take a bit of explaining to explain that to a kid as to why they can't listen to that yet."
"Whereas 'Future Proof' is like, there are some curses, for the most part, the song with Col3Trane is world fucked, but besides that one, there's not any I can’t let my nephew hear. I can be like: you got to future proof yourself, bro. Like, I know you're 13 you growing up, I know time is difficult for you, but listen to this music and see if you can get some help. And if you have any questions, you can always come to me and ask me. I would love to become a teacher and I think I have an air about me, you know that I would love to help children, especially through my experiences."
"I feel like I'm not so old or disconnected where a kid won't fuck with me. You know, I'm not a grandpa. So I'm like, young enough to still talk to these kids, I also came from the hood. So it's not like I'm some super fortunate person that was given everything, I had to work hard to get out of the hood and change my life. I don't get along with people who haven't had internal or external struggles. So if I'm overtly putting that out there."
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While 'Future Proof' is the rapper's composite of adroit lyricism and a somewhat self-help EP, the guide was written with the backdrop 2020 Black Lives Matter uprising - a theme heavily explored in the track 'WTF' and 'Selfish'. At the time, musicians and public figures were put under the spotlight from supporters to publicly support the movement. Erick admits he isn’t one to give in to pressure, instead, like many others, insists his music was always going to do the talking.
Erick’s own way of using his skills to be future proof. In doing so, without intention, the EP is very good at bringing Black creatives from the UK; Loyle Carner, Pip Millett. “I’m tall, Black, skinny with dreads - of course, I’m aware.”
Knock you down once, get back up again. Knock you down two times, get up twice as fast.
Knock you down three times though - might not get back up, don’t slip.
Some are just given raw talent others just little lost balance
While many still living off highs, I’m wondering how they stay grounded.
Too many still living uncanny - and I’ve already got my speech for the Grammys.
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'Future Proof' is out now.
Words: Thandie Sibanda
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