the underachievers are the philosophical punks redefining rap
As they release their new album 'Evermore: The Art of Duality,' we catch up with the Brooklyn beasts about all things spiritual. You won’t fool the (Indigo) Children of the revolution!
In 2012, Brooklyn's Beast Coast movement properly popped off when a then 17-year-old Joey Bada$$ rode Waves all the way from Bed-Stuy to MTV. The sounds were hip-hop, but the energy felt punk. It seemed like every night that summer was spent in someone's Bushwick basement at a free gig that two of the borough's most explosive rap outfits -- the Flatbush Zombies and The Underachievers -- decided to throw on a whim. As blunts circulated, the latter duo spat spiritually-minded lyrics-- early versions of the philosophic, psychedelic tracks that would later comprise their debut mixtape, Indigoism.
Flash forward three years and the Underachievers still find themselves on the honor roll. 25-year-old Issa Gold and 24-year-old AK haven't abandoned the Indigo-bent of their early efforts, rather, they've refined that message to speak to a wider spectrum of disaffected youth. Evermore: The Art of Duality, the full-length record released today via Flying Lotus' imprint Brainfeeder, is comprised of two distinct phases. The first is a collection of mellow musings, while the second includes more darkly aggressive cuts -- the standout of which, Generation Z, touches on the politically personal issues resonating with today's basement moshing youth. We caught up with Issa, one half of the rap-redefining duo to talk all things Indigo.
Tell us about the starting points for this album. What influenced the vibe?
I was listening to Led Zeppelin's fourth album and there's a song on it called Death to Evermore. I just love the word "evermore," and when I heard the name, it correlated to a concept I'd been thinking a lot about -- the idea of living forever. We also wanted to make something that had to do with forever because we felt this project was about solidifying a piece inside of our discography that shows we're going to last forever. It's an album we believe in.
Willow Smith spoke in her cover interview about being an Indigo Child. You guys have been on that wave for a while; how did you come to those ideas?
I found out about Indigo Children around 10 years ago, so I was maybe 14-years-old. It was a crucial time; I was very mischievous in school but I was smart, so the teachers made me go to a psychologist. I wanted to find out more about the roots of psychological problems like bipolar disorder or ADHD, so I started looking online and I found Indigo Children -- and it seemed like a different perspective on some of these disorders and issues I was dealing with. I took a test and it said, "You're an Indigo Child!" I was young, but it really resonated with me and made me feel really special, so from that time on, I became an advocate for it.
As I found out about the Indigo Children, I started to do more research into different esoteric philosophy. My whole family was religious and I didn't believe in their religion, so I became atheist and went on this quest to find my own relationship with god. In looking through so many different things -- philosophies and belief systems from Judaism to the Hermetics to Krishna and Christianity, which I don't like, but studied anyway -- I started to find that there was a universal message that was inside of all these walks of life, all saying the same thing in different ways. They all prophesied that there would come a time when consciousness would sweep over the world. To me, that correlated with the Indigo Children. It was like hold up, maybe our generation is this new wave of consciousness that people are talking about.
How does it inspire the music you make?
I started making music in 2012 because I knew that that was the universal language for young people. The Indigo Children is the only reason why I make music -- trying to spread that message and unite our generation under this one consciousness. I feel like our generation is very confused because the education system is terrible and needs to be reformed. When we're labeling so many kids with ADD or hyperactive disorders, we need a new system. It's about giving kids that motivation and hope to move forward -- people who thought they were different, loners, introverts, or that no one would like them. We're trying to create this whole network where all of us unite and move to one peace. We grew up in an Internet age and just seeing the culture of diversity through the internet and how it connects people has been so inspiring. Inside the whole world, we're really not that different. We hope for the same things.
You've also been working on a side project, Clockwork Indigo, with fellow Brooklynites Flatbush Zombies. What motivated you all to come together?
When I was exploring and learning all that stuff, Juice and Meech [of Flatbush Zombies] were with me the whole time and we were all learning together as a mini version of the network we're trying to build now. We have each other to talk about dreams and inner emotions -- things that other people aren't comfortable talking about -- and we move forward together. We knew each other long before we started making music, but after we separated into two different groups, it only made sense to come together as a family. They're on the same thing we are. But that was sort of a teaser project -- we're going to come out with a longer one, maybe in like five years.
What do you hope people take from this album?
We wanted to deliver that universal message we've spoken about in other albums, but in a way that's easier to digest. We hope this album can touch a wider demographic of people that can relate to the consciousness we're speaking about, but might not want to hear it said in explicitly philosophical terms like "Indigo." We really approached this album from a more realistic, personal standpoint rather than a judgemental perspective. We want to widen the web to people, because the concept we're speaking about is simple, even if it's sometimes phrased in a complex way.
Text Emily Manning