Published Aug 13, 2019Look! Up in the sky. It's a bird! It's a plane! Nah. It's Joey Bada$$ and the Flatbush Zombies rapping their capes off while soaring, flipping and twisting midair.
If you could have one superpower, what would it be? Well, if you're a member of the hip-hop supergroup Beast Coast, the answer is floating right there overhead: the power of flight. The Brooklyn extended posse's 27-date North American summer swing is elevating the underground to new heights, literally.
Girdled to sturdy cords that stretch all the way to the top of the Echo Beach stage lighting, Joey, Meechy Darko and Zombie Juice leap and float in the humid midsummer Toronto air as they flawlessly run through their verses for appropriate tracks like "Rubberband," "Christ Conscious" and "Bounce."
"I'm not used to performing this song with a harness wrapped around my nuts and shit," Meechy confesses.
But great theatre trumps comfort. And the diverse throng of supporters who rolled the dice with a chance of thunderstorms on the beach (and won) take delight in the Beasties' effort to make their two-hours-plus stage show feel like the event it should be.
Because, really, with so many individual careers that need tending to, who knows when fans will get to see Pro Era, Flatbush Zombies and the Underachievers all share the same stage (and the 20 feet of normally unused space above it).
Share is the operative word. While new dad Joey broke out first (with 2012's excellent 1999 mixtape) and is the most recognizable star of the superfriends, owning centre stage in a black nWo wrestling T-shirt, each MC was given his space to shine.
Following mini sets by the Underachievers (complete with stage dives and trust falls), Nyck Caution and Kirk Knight in front of a gigantic toppled Statue of Liberty inflatable, the Escape From New York Tour climax set kicked off under dark clouds with the rabble-rousing single "Left Hand," a dizzying posse jam that flooded the stage with ten artists by song's end.
Combinations of artists would come and go, allowing the Zombies or Joey or the Underachievers to get a couple songs off on their lonesome.
The frequent changes in personnel inject the night with an electric sense of spontaneity and eliminate any chance of a lull. The format also blesses the MCs with time to rest their vocal chords and organically created a world of friendly one-upmanship that New York hip-hop was built upon in the first place. Each song operates like its own performance while adding to the whole.
Refreshingly, no one uses a backing vocal track. With personalities and voices this strong, there's no need.
Zombie murders an a cappella verse while wearing a pair of full-length wrestling tights. Joey wins the crowd with a lighters-up rendition of "Devastated." And the energy of standouts like "Vacation" sound better live than on record.
Unspoken, there is also a sense of relief at play Monday. Beast Coast's Sunday show, slated for Sterling Heights, MI, had been cancelled in the wake of a shooting threat, and Joey heaps praise on Canada (except for our customs officers), calling our health care "lit" and proclaiming, "Everyone in here cute as fuck."
Both the Zombies and Joey, who hasn't released a solo album since 2017's All-Amerikkkan Bada$$, treat fans to untitled new songs (the Zombies' is a banger; Joey's is decidedly mellow), and everyone joins in serenading Eric Arc Elliott with "Happy Birthday" before the Zombie gets sabotaged with a piece of cake smack in the face.
"I got cake in all my dreads," Eric says. "Fuck it."
And the next beat thunders in, and the rapper keeps rapping through a face coated thick with sweet icing.