Erick The Architect – I’ve Never Been Here Before

A full-length solo debut that thrives on neoteric individualism...

Erick Arc Elliott doesn’t just compose music, he feels shit. The Flatbush Zombies sample-head turned new age psychonaut has a RIAA gold record for ‘Bounce’, amassed over 900M streams, and elevated Jungle’s ‘Candle Flame‘ to being a microdose of retro soul that will headline every blonde’s UK rave moment for summers to come – but he never treats art like it’s tourism. In fact, he romanticises it; dialling up self made flows, ‘Stillmatic’ drums, punch-drunk synth bubbles, and free-form bursts of ‘Maggot Brain’ and ‘One In A Million’ to revolutionise his aura. If 2021’s ‘Future Proof’ EP recited poems for the soul, then Erick’s solo debut, ‘I’ve Never Been Here Before’, is a Polaroid of a rapper’s rapper canvasing their neoteric individualism to inspire a new flow state. 

Inherently, ‘I’ve Never Been Here Before’ is an open mic confession. The 16-track effort, recorded in Elliott’s home studio in Los Angeles and produced by Linden Jay, Loyle Carner, and Matt Zara, uses its shapeshifting escapism to visualize themes of unity, fearlessness, Black resilience, and beauty in darkness. It also pays homage to his late mother, who helped him afford his first piano and drum machine and encouraged an experimental approach that was ‘A Laced Odyssey’ away from a natural metamorphosis that isn’t floored by empathy. “I think that losing has always had a negative connotation because nobody wants to lose, everybody wants to win,” Elliott admitted in an interview with this month. “But it’s the first time I’m losing stuff and it’s better being lost. Whether it’s a habit or a person in your life, you don’t need to hold [onto] everything.”

Sonically, ‘I’ve Never Been Here’ is Erick The Architect sparking up in his own pocket. ‘Ezekiel’s Wheel’ is a George Clinton assist sipping on Morricone-tinted psychedelia; ‘Breaking Point’ taps into the pop hues of ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ and daydreams in chords like Khruangbin; and ‘Mandevillain’ slides in, grooving a Godfather binge watch into an ode to Greensleeves Records and his Beast Coast days. Erick’s recent bromance with James Blake shows up in a four-pack that theorizes what the CMYK balladeer can do with a Beres Hammond sample (‘Beef Patty’), but it’s also a study of architects encountering a new echelon. ‘Parkour’ loops ‘Overgrown’ and ‘BetterOffDEAD’ with Elliott drifting between flows, coincidences, and self-acceptance before a drum breakdown crashes in, begging for a Cam’ron verse. On ‘2-3 Zone’, he daps up Blake’s orchestral swoops with raw Brooklyn energy – reminding doubters he is still a Black musician who refuses to be scammed into mediocrity: “Get in line, if you gotta give it up / I been drinkin’ white wine with my pinky up / So bougie, but I’ll still eat a two-piece low when a n***a off duty.”

Still, Erick The Architect is at his best when his heart is on his sleeve. He cites Miles Davis and Bonobo’s ‘The North Borders’, will defend Spice Girls’ Spice World, and even a decade in, he isn’t afraid to let his versatility become a domain expansion that colorizes the significances of healing. ‘Jammy Jam‘ is a Sunday dip into neo-soul that recalls how love can be simpler when “shorty’s so gassed, putting gas in the Tesla”. ‘Shook Up’ and ‘Instincts‘ spot verses from Joey Bada$$ and Westside Boogie who critique new interests and external pressures while FARR’s Roméo Testa and Linden Jay obsess over Cosmogramma’s influence on DAMN. And on ‘Ambrosia‘, a house burner that pins love to the dancefloor, Erick imitates Van Gogh while Channel Tres is on his messy high school wave: “This ain’t In-N-Out / You can eat the box here, don’t take it out.”

Similar to 2011’s ‘almost remembered’, ‘Leukemia/AM‘ is a rhythmically complex diagram of how expressionistic love can be. Kimbra reminisces like a 1920s jazz lounge singer patiently waiting to see the moon again, displacing heartsickness with misery and a progressive pop note before warped strings echo in the ether. Here, Erick’s vulnerability speaks volumes. He raps about how faded blue bubbles, “pillow-talking, peace offerings”, and a complicated love can lead to sweeter melodies and a new ‘AM In The AM’. It’s disorientating to see the mind behind ‘S.C.O.S.A.’ and ‘Thug Waffle’ meditate on anxieties and self-belief, but it is also a compelling thesis on its own. ‘I’ve Never Been Here Before’ is Erick The Architect reshaping rap’s loyalties and insecurities to identify his truest self – all in an effort to level you with a vignette of art, self-care, and ambition.


Words: Joshua Khan

Join the Clash mailing list for up to the minute music, fashion and film news.