It was only a matter of time before rap duo the Underachievers got together with fellow Brooklyn hip-hop trio Flatbush Zombies and formed a supergroup. After all, these guys have known each other for a long time.
“We’ve been friends, like, since we were younger,” says AK, one-half of the Underachievers, calling from Austin. “We all grew up in the same neighborhood.”
AK (aka Akeem Joseph, 23) lived two blocks from his partner Issa Gold (Marlon Fung, 24). Also not too far away were the Zombies. Heck, Gold and Zombies member Zombie Juice lived in the same apartment building. “They were like big brothers in the industry to us – they blew up first,” AK says of the Zombies.
The groups are currently touring the country as Clockwork Indigo. (They will make a stop at the Lincoln Theatre in Raleigh on Tuesday.) They’re on the road letting their fans know they’ve also collaborated on a five-track EP, which is available for free download on Clockwork Indigo’s Soundcloud page ( soundcloud.com/clockwork-indigo-fbz-ua).
“All our fans have been waiting for us to collab,” says AK. “So, we finally decided to do this Clockwork thing, to do that project for the fans.”
While both groups go back like carseats, they each have such a unique hip-hop sensibility: The Underachivers are known for their dense rhymes and machine-gun wordplay, while the Zombies are laid-back yet psychedelic and nihilistic with their flow – even their fans have to wonder if they could jibe with each other.
Well, if you ask AK, they jibed quite well, not only playing off each other’s style but also co-opting them. “I feel like it gave us a chance to, like, actually branch off from what we really, normally talk about, and actually talk about more what the Zombies talk about,” he says. “They talked more about more conscious stuff on this project. And it just gave us an opportunity to experiment with our styles and just collaborate.”
If anything, working with the Zombies made AK and Issa come with their A-game. “It was more motivation to, like, do my best on this project, because we’re working with such great people,” says AK. “But even though they’re friends, I still respect them as artists, as great artists. So, going into the project, I did step my (expletive) up, of course, but it was more motivation.”
Ever the modest MC, AK underplays just how far he and Issa have gotten as a rap group. In 2012, after releasing several popular videos on YouTube (including “Herb Shuttles,” with 8 million views and counting), the duo caught the attention of experimental artist/producer Flying Lotus. Lotus was so taken by the boys (the legend goes that Lotus wanted to sign them after hearing 20 seconds of their music), he immediately signed them to his Brainfeeder label.
But even though the Underachievers released a couple of mixtapes while on Brainfeeder, their debut album, “Cellar Door: Terminus Ut Exordium” (which dropped in August), was distributed on another label. Says AK, “Our manager had the label, so we released it through his label, because they had the money to support us and distribute our tracks.”
The Underachievers will do a full-length on Brainfeeder next year. But, at the moment, they’re touring with their boys from Flatbush, making sure everyone who sees them knows that Brooklyn is more than just Williamsburg hipsters.
“We all started from the bottom and we all were once broke, once, like, just dreaming,” he says. “And now, we’re (expletive) creating our reality, and I want people to see us doing that and know that they can do the same thing – because we’re all the same.”