“Zombie Juice stands out for his rapid-fire rap style as well as his ever-changing hair color.” – The New York Times
“Erick ‘The Architect’ Elliott (Arc for short), Meechy Darko and Zombie Juice look like people who you should recognize” – GQ
“I’m like a camel. I carry so much stuff on my back and I need to replenish and drink some water cause it’s hot out here in the desert.”
Flatbush Zombies’ Zombie Juice has spent a lot of time recently reflecting on both his past and present and how that plays into being an artist. For nearly a decade, the chameleonic trio has made some of the most innovative and critically acclaimed hip-hop on the planet. They still will, of course – “We spent a lot of time recently working on solo projects so we can grow and bring more of a body of work to the group,” Juice says – but on his debut solo album Love Without Conditions (Terp World, Feb ‘22), the rapper delivers his most personal and introspective work of his career.
In characteristic fashion, Juice remains unafraid in tackling difficult subjects. The brutally candid, autobiographical album details various points in the rapper’s life in which finding “love without conditions” did not come easy. Abuse, being broke, staying in shelters and tragic family deaths all became formative experiences in which Juice has spent years learning to find empathy and forgiveness for those closest to him.
“At some point, you have to learn to accept and love everyone around for who they are. You can’t control it. You can’t force it. You just gotta let it roll, learn and grow,” he says. “You don’t have to judge the people that you love or try to destroy them or tear them down. You try to put yourself in their shoes and realize you don’t really control anything except for yourself. Love without conditions.”
The album’s woozy first single “Alto” – written while Juice walked the streets of Paris one morning – slinks by in a haze as Juice examines a life that went from nothing to “Ten thousand in the stands.” Throughout the album, the rapper dissects a wide swath of his life, from being in love with a woman who has a boyfriend to sending a heartfelt message to his son.
“Growing up, I wasn’t always secure with the love that I had for [my family]. I didn’t tell my family ‘I love you’ until my twenties because I was just so confused and hurt,” he says. “Growing up not knowing what it’s like to feel motherly love from a woman conflicts with how you interact in your adult life. I can be mad at certain family members for certain things or I can stop holding on to all the pain and animosity and the judgments and love these people for who they are and try to move on.”
The album was started in earnest a few years ago but picked up over the past year. “I’ve been doing it for so long and I didn’t have anything for myself,” Juice says. A few “more aggressive, bragging songs” were recorded but later shelved, with Love Without Conditions musically taking on a more subdued, blurry vibe. “I’m pulling all these things from real-life experiences,” he says. “I’m not the only one feeling these things so I know it’s gonna help other people.”
For Zombie Juice, the past two years have been the subject of intense emotional growth; a hard, unflinching look at the people and factors that shaped him. What could have been an opaque stone turned into a prism, as Juice absorbed these life experiences and reflected them back via Life Without Limitations.
“You have to be mindful of everything you say and everything you think because manifestation and putting the energy and effort into what you believe in can happen and can happen fast,” he says. “We’re all sharing the same thoughts and experiences. Some people think we’re superheroes, but we’re just humans who are open and vulnerable. ”