In an era of boundary-pushing musical innovation, the Beast Coast thrives on tradition. Comprised of Pro Era, Flatbush Zombies, and The Underachievers, the New York supergroup initially broke bread over breakbeats in the early 2010s with a style which harkens back to rap luminaries of the '90s, but separately, they have each garnered critical acclaim and loyal fan bases, all while maintaining collective energy to keep their Beast Coast Voltron running smoothly.
In other words, Beast Coast is the type of group to announce their long-awaited album Escape From New York by staging an earnest revival of the classic BET series Rap City—complete with host Big Tigger and grainy cypher footage. The video is goofy and nostalgic in all the right ways, but it also made one thing clear: Beast Coast wants to introduce an entirely new generation of listeners to the essence of hip-hop.
While each group’s legacy has been etched in blacktop over the past 10 years, it’s time to finally see if the bigger monster will debut with the roar of The Hulk or an Ant-Man sized whimper.
In typical 1-Listen fashion, the rules are the same: no fast-forwarding, no rewinding, and no stopping. Each song will receive my gut reaction from start to finish. Beast Coast szn has begun.
1. "It Aint’ Easy, It Ain’t Easy"
A pretty standard beat build. This sounds like grey skies descending on the Brooklyn Bridge. Zombie Juice just barreled his way onto this beat. “Used to be my ace boon coon, now you coon on TV.” Is that Erick The Architect? Who hurt him? Ahh, and THERE’S Meechy. That rasp can scare off the Boogie Man. The tag-team energy on this track is Tekken worthy. CJ Fly with a nice bar about matching rings “like the Wonder Twins.” The group dynamic is present. A solid start.
2. "Left Hand"
A distorted call for brotherhood. Only a group from New York would think to make a song dedicated to the art of dapping. This beat sounds like it was banged out on a skeleton’s rib cage. Two tracks in and it’s already hard to keep track of who’s handling what verse. Well, unless we’re talking about Meech, whose voice slashes through beats with the weight of Wolverine’s adamantium claws. The energy on "Left Hand" guarantees all the white college students attending festivals this summer will leave happy campers, but there are way too many cooks in this kitchen. A workout playlist entry, if I ever heard one.
Erick The Architect has one of my favorite beat tags. These keys and drums are BOUNCING. A lot of platitudes about putting in work and grabbing that bag. The deliveries are hitting more than anything that’s actually being said. This beat sounds like a frantic mind finding some kind of peace. I’m lost in my brain. “Some problems can’t get solved” is one way to reach enlightenment, I guess. I’ll be back for this beat but not much else. I wonder if they’d consider dropping an instrumental version of Escape From New York? Erick is COOKING.
4. "Far Away"
The 2000s R&B vibes are STRONG. Makes me miss the days of Bobby V. and Weezy collabs. “Pussy so good, I might tattoo her name on my dick” is BIG love talk. It's just dirty enough to be romantic. Eww, this breathy vocal killed the vibe quicker than a Netflix autoplay in the heat of the bedroom. I legit want to call an Uber and head home. Ying Yang Twins, this is not. Is this the first Joey verse on the album? He’s been missing. Four tracks in and Escape feels more like a sparring match than a statement of purpose.
5. "Snow In The Stadium"
Nothing says “East Coast winter” like the phrase "snow in the stadium." This hook is giving me Wyclef Jean vibes, and not necessarily in a good way. This is a hodge-podge of patois and Travis Scott-like vocal touch-ups that just don’t mesh with this production. It’s great to hear the love for the islands, but this sounds like a leftover session from DJ Khaled's new album. The attempts to add flavor only spoiled the pot here. I won’t be returning.
“I really hope you get what you’re praying for / Even if that thing is my downfall.” Don’t wish that kinda death on yourself, Meech. We need you here on Earth. The only rubberband man I recognize is T.I., but every flow on "Rubberband" has, thus far, proven very elastic. A Megan Thee Stallion shoutout! It's exciting to hear how far her reach has extended in the past year. These sung hooks aren’t it. Completely indistinct. At least it sounds like they’re having fun. Halfway through and I’m still waiting for a record that will grab me.
This keyboard has Erick rapping in the POCKET. The beats are stealing the show. They’re dynamic and fun in ways that most of the bars haven’t been able to match up with yet. I can imagine Offset or Playboi Carti tearing this beat to shreds. Having upwards of six different voices on a single track hasn’t done the individual participants any favors.
Juice's voice is pinballing off of the walls. WOW. The Beast Coast are trapezing their ways between each other’s verses with Cirque Du Soleil like precision. These drums are keeping the momentum going. Some of these verses are so short that they don’t really have time to sink in. So far, our emcee power rankings are as follows: Nyck, Erick, Meech, and CJ Fly.
“Puke” is exactly what my brain wants to my body to do in trying to keep up with all these voices. Forward momentum is hard to love when it’s this disorienting. Nice Biggie homage in “I grew up a fuckin’ screw-up.” Meech needs to drop a solo project. He should call the Griselda gang and hop on a Daringer beat. This song makes puking out the side of the whip sound as glamorous and relaxing as a smoke session in space. That’s funny. This song hits the brakes and allows for a breather. Bless up.
I need to hear lyrical precision to rival Erron Black on a song called “Desperado.” This guitar sample is super smooth. Add that one to my Spotify playlist. This entire album has a reliable bounce that’s super comforting. A solid verse about snakes in the industry and not meeting your idols. This sounds like a spaghetti western topped with Hennessey-infused tomato sauce. “Back when a nigga really had no options / Back when I would take anybody wallet.” AND NOW YOU’RE HERE, SO TALK YOUR TALK. This hook might be my favorite on the album so far. The whir of a revolver clip is a nice touch. This one’s a keeper.
11. "One More Round"
It’s almost closing time at the Beast Coast bar. Tabs are coming in. A nice strobing beat. I don’t know if it’s the guitar but this is giving me... “Old Town Road” vibes? Every voice on here has that twang. Can’t tell me nothin’. This is the stop off at a bar before you catch your next flight. "One More Round" will get you nice and loaded. Soothing but I’ll forget all about it by morning.
The pace ran back up again. The atmosphere sounds tailor-made for Juice WRLD. Every emcee is hitting the sing-song flow. Silky smooth. It’s wild just how well-suited the Beast Coast is to the Death Race For Love motif. You get the feeling these are brothers rapping together, not just a bunch of rappers sharing studio space. Hardcore Beast Coast fans will feel the love on "Coast/Clear."
13. "Last Choir"
Here comes the choir to bring us home. We made it to the end! Meech’s singing voice is by far the best surprise on this entire album. Getting early Just Blaze/Kanye chipmunk soul vibes. This is an imperceptible ending for an album that sounds this spacious. Escape proves there’s a hierarchy among the group. Some of these boys (CJ Fly, Erick Arc Elliott) are just much more colorful than the others. A fade out on the choir. I feel less like I’ve escaped New York and more like I came back from the bodega with the wrong bottle of Snapple. I’ll drink it, though.
Final (First Listen) Thoughts on Beast Coast's Escape From New York:
The energy pulsating from Escape From New York is undeniable. The members of Beast Coast enjoy the art of rapping, and they really enjoy rapping with one another.
While the group's chemistry and interplay are top-notch, often the bars cruise on autopilot when they should soar. With so many voices and so little bar space, you have to make an impression, and only Meechy Darko, Nyck Caution and CJ Fly could consistently leave a lasting one.
Behind the boards, the production on Escape rarely sags. Erick Arc Elliott, a member of Flatbush Zombies, carries over the lessons he learned while crafting the group's 2018 album Vacation In Hell, and along with Powers Pleasant and Tyler Dopps, among others, crafts beats as psychedelic as they are propulsive. The bouncing flutes of “Far Away” and haunting keys of “Distance” are flourishes that play well against the booming drums and hazy atmosphere.
I came into Escape From New York expecting a siege worthy of the group’s immense buildup; I left having experienced a fun, but low stakes, sparring match. Their energy will entertain hundreds of thousands of festival goers for the next three months, but the collective has yet to touch the ceiling they revived in Big Tigger’s basement.