“For The First Time Ever I See The Power In What I Say” Meechy Darko On His Solo Debut

New York rapper on grief, COVID isolation, and pursuing his truth...

Are we more powerful together or on our own? A question I’m sure that has been passed between countless musical collectives. But one that doesn’t necessarily hold much weight if you know the reality that one is not better than the other, just different to it. You face different challenges, grow in different ways and ultimately, through both, get a better understanding of who you are and what you’re making.

That’s precisely the process Meechy Darko has come to know. Born in Flatbush, New York, to a Jamaican family, Meechy Darko exists as one-third of the critically acclaimed Hip-Hop group Flatbush Zombies. A trio of rappers inspired by horror films and rebirth through the use of psychedelic drugs. Flash forward ten years after their formation and subsequent success, now the NY rapper has released two new singles, ‘Get Lit Or Die Trying’ and ‘Kill Us All’, ahead of his upcoming debut solo album ‘Gothic Luxury’ set to be released on August 26th. The album has been Executive Produced by Dot Da Genius, a longtime collaborator of Kid Cudi and spectacular producer in his own right. Both of these singles have set the stage for an electric and candidly raw album that does the rapper just as much justice as the rest of his catalogue.

Meechy Darko tells Clash about the challenges of becoming a solo artist and drawing healthy lines when sharing your personal life with an audience:

It’s dusk in London when Meechy picks up, he’s in LA so as London is winding down he’s primed and ready to get on with the start of his day. He’s set to release the music video for ‘Get Lit Or Die Trying’ in a few hours, the preview version of which I won’t lie has been set on repeat in my house for a good two days before we actually spoke.

According to him, some people say they find his voice scary, maybe it’s the Lewisham girl in me but I struggle to access that feeling when he talks. To me, he sounds direct and bright, ready to talk at length about what going solo has brought into his life. “It’s hard to describe it. I knew the challenges were gonna come and they were not the most challenging things ever, because at the end of the day it’s what I want. I’m never going to be disappointed if I produced what I want and released what I want. If you don’t like it, it doesn’t bother me as much. Now if I hate it! That’s the only time I’m bothered.” 

“When I release something that I don’t like, and I don’t believe in, that’s the only time I cringe. I don’t care if the whole world says this song sucks. I’ll be like, okay, well, there’s 25 more. Don’t worry about that song. You know, if I made one bad shirt, don’t worry about that bad shirt, there’s 25 more where that came from.” What he really had to teach himself this time around was that there’s no wrong or right. “This is my first time doing this. If I want to sing on this song, sing, there’s no reason why I shouldn’t there’s no reason why I should. I still don’t think I’m going to learn the full lesson from this until I perform this music live probably, or see how it affects other people. Then I really get to know the difference between what I’ve been doing before and what I’m doing now.”

He’s been an active member of Flatbush Zombies since its formation back in 2010. Sometimes when we learn to tread ground with our people, the same spaces can become nerve-wracking when faced down by yourself. I’m curious to know how he experienced that shift in his process. Meechy says he’s never spent this much time on himself. “Even being in the studio alone. Knowing for sure when you get on the beat no one else is gonna be on this, this is all you. This is the most time I’ve ever spent creating anything alone, being alone, all the ideas, the name of the tour, everything comes from my head. So it’s very beautiful, but it’s also sometimes I do miss looking at the person next to me and having a little reassurance. I can reassure myself, that’s fine. But, you know, it did take a while to get used to.”

He’s incredibly confident about his creative process, or at least that’s how it comes across. A principle that is entirely understandable when you hear about how the project came to be. “The universe kind of made it happen. Being in a group for so long, everybody just knows, eventually, you’re going to do something solo. If you were in the group for 50 years, you eventually got to have some spin-off, EP, or do something alone. It’s just the way it fell into place. COVID happened, there was no touring for a while. So what the hell are you gonna do for a little bit, Erick was already working on some stuff.” 

“I just had stuff to say, but then I didn’t for so long. You know I had a mental block in the beginning, so much was going on that it was hard to process everything and then write straight write music about it. It was the universe, it wasn’t really me. I didn’t just wake up and say, solo time baby! It was more like this domino fell, this domino fell, this domino fell. And I was like, I don’t want to be the next domino to fall. I’m watching everything that’s going on and I gotta make a move. Or else I would have just been sitting there healing for two years.”

The past two years have been a source of massive upheaval for countless reasons. Meechy tells me what felt the most absent from his creative process during this time. “I mean, touring was one of my favourite things,” he says. “You’re in perpetual motion, you’re always going, going, going, going, going, I get to still address the problems in my life but I also get to plant new seeds. I like to plant seeds around and come back and visit that garden a year later. I don’t like to be in this one big Asgard. I like to be like, there’s one in London, there’s something here in Jamaica, there’s something here in Thailand.”

“COVID fucked me up with just being stuck like this, my spirit needs to travel. That’s probably why I had a block because I didn’t get to touch people.”

“For The First Time Ever I See The Power In What I Say” Meechy Darko On His Solo Debut

It’s clear the collective creativity Flatbush Zombies presented him forms part of a bigger narrative for Meechy, one that reveals a man closely connected to his people and those around him. “Most things that I do in my life is with people around me. I try to do everything with my friends, my family, loved ones, whoever is around me. I tend to be a controlling human being but this is the most control I’ve ever had. It’s funny trying to control myself, I guess that was the biggest challenge. Just trying to control myself and figure out where I wanted to go exactly. I have a lot to say, too much to say sometimes. That’s really what it was. How do I stop myself? How do I start myself? What is too much? What’s too little?”

He explains: “Usually, when you’re in a group, I can look next to me and be like, okay, I know I’m going crazy on this verse because Erick and Juice approached it this way. I know that maybe my approach might be a little too much. When you’re just alone. There’s no one to bounce it off of. So it’s beautiful, but it’s also very scary at the same time.”

We turn from introspection to visual conception as the conversation moves on to the visuals for his new project, most specifically the music videos. The two he’s released alongside his recent singles are both incredibly powerful, visually and conceptually. The gritty black and white video for ‘Get Lit Or Die Trying’ was directed by Meechy Darko and Ancillary Fund, and contains a palpable dark energy that matches Meechy’s raspy vocals perfectly. Despite its name ‘Kill Us All’ was accompanied by a more animated video, as he acts out different characters while baring open the issues still faced by Black Americans.

“Imagery is extremely important to me. I’m a cinephile. All zombie albums are themed around movies, everything I do is mostly themed around a movie. A lot of my inspiration comes from that. I really do want to show that in the music videos. My problem is that I have a vision of Steven Spielberg but I got the budget of Dolomite. So it’s a little different. You don’t always need money to get great stuff, I’m always learning how less is more sometimes. I’ve done videos that cost $120,000 and I’ve done videos that cost $1,500. The ones that cost $1500 have more views and people love them more. Sometimes it’s not about that.”  

Authenticity is a powerful commodity to have as an artist. A lack of it tends to stem from a need to please people; however, I think it’s fair to say people pleasing is not very high on Meechy’s list of concerns. Unsurprisingly given both the life he has lived and the turmoil of the past couple of years since 2020, when his father was shot and killed at the hands of a Miami police officer. He opens up in a sincere tone, touching on how his father’s passing sits in the scope of his upcoming album.

“That was probably one of my main obstacles,” he says. “I know everything I went through recently, a lot of people want a heavy, emotional, dark, depressing album for me. And I was like, brah, just, I’m living in it, I don’t want to rap about it, too! That’s a lot to do. Then I gotta go tour it, and then I gotta do interviews about it?! Then it’s like I’m extending my pain. I’d rather use this to heal and then maybe next album, I’ll talk about it. Hopefully, by then I will learn more about how to express how I really feel too and sit with those feelings a little bit more. Because I know people are going to be knowing what I went through. If a rapper gets shot, and they don’t make a song about getting shot. You’re kind of like, bro, what happened, where’s the song about you getting shot. I feel like people are expecting certain things from me that, I just refuse to give them”

“Sometimes what we forget is that Picasso’s paintings didn’t just affect Picasso, it affected his family too. Me making a song about my father’s death or how I feel about what’s going on with the police, that affects my whole family, believe it or not, that affects everyone around me. Sometimes it’s just not the right time. I make the song I got to deal with calls from my grandma, my auntie, my uncle. I’m reopening wounds. Things they probably don’t want to think about or shit that they never even thought about. You got to be strategic. I’ve said things in songs, one two bars that has literally ruined relationships with family members. And I don’t even mean to do it.”

He finishes up with an easy demeanour and a point that clearly came about after years of reflection alongside a deep understanding of his music. “I see the power in what I say. I gotta make sure to do it the right way when I’m touching certain topics.”

‘Gothic Luxury’ will be released on August 26th.

Words: Naima Sutton

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