The Underachievers are two rappers, Issa Dash and AK, from Brooklyn, New York. They’re a part of the Beast Coast crew, which includes a guy named Joey Bada$$ who’s apparently worth way more than half a damn. Indigoism is their first release, and off the strength of some great Youtube groundwork, it’s backed by Flying Lotus’ Brainfeeder label. But don’t get too excited yet, he didn’t produce anything here.
Of course that’s a sorely missed opportunity, but Lotus won’t be missed too much because Dash and AK exercised superb beat selection on the vast majority of these songs. The beats range from head-knodders that could have easily been heard on the best 90s NY-rap albums to slower drug-addled instrumentals that could have been A$AP Rocky tracks. The Underachievers’ sound has a strong 90s New York hip-hop influence but takes some of the best that this era has to offer as well.
As for the flows, there are many many things to love but a few glaring negatives stop The Underachievers from being great emcees. Don’t get it twisted, these guys clearly can rap well. They have no issues with switching flows mid-verse, changing tempo at will, and knowing exactly when to break up dense verses with easier to digest sections. Land of the Lords especially shows these skills (on the same sample that Madlib used in that Skyzoo song, Phone Calls, that I posted a few weeks ago). The song has no hook, they just assault the beat for 3 minutes, but it never gets monotonous because they switch flows and and pass the mic often. It’s nice to see a rap group who knows how to rap like a group, with shorter verses and interesting hand-offs.
On top of this great ability to put words together, these guys are conscious! Santa came back 10 months early! The UA message seems to be a mixture of promoting knowledge of self, ending self-destructive behavior, and questioning religions (Christianity especially). The effort to touch such intellectual topics is very refreshing.
Unfortunately, the handling of this content lacks depth, a shortcoming that likely results from The Underachievers’ age (21 and 22) or their lack of research. Instead of well-reasoned treatises on these topics, they deal in generalities about their beliefs and complaints about the unenlightened masses. Some listeners won’t mind this shallowness but others will be expecting more.
Another unfortunate possible sign of their age is the Underachievers’ poor word choice. Expect to hear “nigga”, “bitch” and words derived from “motherfucker” a lot. In particular, “motherfucking” is used as if Issa Dash and AK were first-time freestylers, filling space in bars that need more syllables when apparently no other word comes to mind fast enough. This happens a lot during their faster flowing, making the speed a little less impressive. Similarly, their consciousness is less impressive because the word “bitch” is disappointing to hear so often from people whose insight elsewhere shows that they could rise above misogyny. Whether the audience resents these words or not, their gratuitous usage becomes annoying throughout the 17 tracks presented.
Despite what may seem like ambivalence, I really like Indigoism and I think that only the most high-brow hip-hop heads won’t be able to find some enjoyment in it. The lyrical shortcomings here are far outweighed by the artists’ potential, their dexterity in rhyming, and the great beats. In conclusion, go download it!
The Underachievers – Herb Shuttles: