I met this week’s subject, Erick the Architect, deep in Brooklyn, in East Flatbush, not far from where I grew up. It’s precisely where he grew up, and where his family still resides. Erick now lives in Los Angeles, having moved for a host of reasons we’ll dive in to shortly, but stays with family when he’s back in New York. My grandma lived in Flatbush, and one of the things I remember distinctly is the strong sense of community that was present in walking around the neighborhood, which probably sounds like fluttery bullshit, but everyone knows everyone in real Brooklyn. People really cared for my grandma, and I can see people really care about Erick, and he cares about catching up with them equally—which is endearing considering he is a celebrity on the rise.
You might know him from the group that he founded, Flatbush Zombies, a project in which he is known for his music production. He’s also taken to making music individually under his own name to showcase his ability to rap, sing, and display a broad array of influences and styles that have guided him over the course of his musical journey. Erick is more than just a producer or a rapper, and he’s keen for people to find it out by listening to his music. He’s currently working on an album he thinks will be the tipping point of his career.
Read on to learn more about Erick’s musical journey, the joy and pain of difficult video games like Elden Ring, meeting Quincy Jones while wearing Raf Simons, and more.
Where are you from? How did you get into music?
I’m from Brooklyn, New York. Flatbush. East Flatbush, Brooklyn College, Church Ave, Nostrand Ave. I got into making music in high school. I wanted to make music since I was a kid, but I was really intimidated because all the people I like were Michael Jackson and Prince and Herby Hancock and Isaac Hayes and George Clinton. I didn’t have normal idols. I was idolizing the best of all time. My mom, my dad and my brothers played music all the time. I wanted to be somebody to be on the other side of that and have people listen to my shit.
How did the Flatbush Zombies become a group?
I’ve seen a lot of people say things like, “They met over anime.” No, we did not. I hate that. It’s not why we met. Meech[y Darko] and I grew up on the same block. I’ve known Meech since I was five years old. We were best friends growing up, loving music, looking into DMX. He had an uncle that would always put him on to music. My brothers put me on to music. We’d always exchange toys and music and video games. And then when he became maybe, I don’t know, 11 or 12, we went to junior high school and he met [Zombie] Juice. They went to school together. I started to make music as a 14- or 15-year-old. By the time I graduated from high school, they would come over and I’d already make music. Just happened like that. They had natural talent. I knew how to record and make beats and rap. They were willing. They were always articulate in music, so they just naturally picked it up. I didn’t really have to teach them shit.
Have you always made music outside of the group? How do you the separate new material between projects?
I always made music by myself. My music by myself is a lot more insular and it’s an individual story. I think all three of us have sacrificed a bit of our individual stories to tell our story as a group. I feel like we became the Avengers—we were all fighting for the same thing. Why don’t we all just put our superpowers together to tell this story of saving the world one day at a time? Once I moved to Los Angeles, I snapped into a different head space where I’ve understood the importance of my narrative being told now. I think that if I had started any sooner, I think it might have been overlooked because the group was so impactful. Now, I think working with other artists, it brings something out of me. Singing and writing music and producing for other people made me connected to music in a way that was different from being in the group, where I was maybe playing the same role, because it’s like the founder/producer. Now I’m just able to bounce back and forth, being the producer, or the rapper, or the singer, or the songwriter, or the engineer. Wearing all those hats makes it easier to kind of separate it, because then somebody else can pick up where I might have had to do those jobs before.
Why did you move to L.A.?
I moved to L.A. because I wanted a change of pace from what was going on. My mom had passed away and I had a lot of hovering thoughts. I think New York reminded me too much of the memories, so I wanted to change speed. New York is a really competitive, fast-paced place, and L.A. just seemed like a place where I could unwind. I would go there constantly to work with artists and sleep on their couches and shit, and I got tired of spending all that money on Ubers and hotels. I thought, “I might as well just fucking stay here. Let me just see if I could figure out a way to be here permanently.” So I made that shift four years ago and it’s changed my life.
When you’re not making music, what are you doing in your downtime?
Drawing, a lot of video games, especially games that are extremely hard and people can’t beat them. Those are the games…
Of course. Dark Souls, Bloodborne. The games that people break their TVs on TikTok and shit, those are the games I want to play. Any games that a nerd is like, “Wow, bro, you did that?” Yeah, bro, I did that. I’m a nerd too, bro. I literally started collecting VHS tapes of all my favorite movies and Japanese dubs. I’m a big fan of Japanese culture. I’m all over the place. I have too many interests. It’s almost like I’ll be really hooked on something for three or four months and then I’ll move on to something else. But I’ll really excel for those four months. So if you ask me this question in four months, I’ll probably tell you something else. But right now, that’s what I’m on. I’m on reading and Japanese magazines, movies, sports. Knicks lost last night to the Lakers. I’m still upset.
What does personal style mean to you? And then how does your style tie into your presence as an artist?
It means everything. First of all, growing up in New York, out of anywhere else that I’ve been to, you can try anything. Your style is incorporated with it every day because it’s going to be hot as fuck in the summer. It’s so hot that it’s like you can’t wear too much but you have to still make it look good. You’re going to sweat a lot. It’s humid, too. Then you go through six to eight months of freezing so you can wear vests, hoodies, hats, and jackets. You go most places they have one of those type of temperatures the whole year. New York is the most pivotal in style and weather. So as much as you want to say that New York is just a bunch of loud people, a bunch of chaos… Your style is your self-expression. You have an airport fit, you go to school, you come home, your parents tell you to take off your school clothes and put on your house clothes, and you have clothes to play outside. The colors and the patterns you choose really reflected who you were.
I think it’s so integral to who I am because somebody may notice me because I’m 6’3”, but it’s like, “That dude looks dope,” or, “He has an aura about him.” Your self-expression ties so much into what you wear. I think when people say it doesn’t, that’s crap. One of the most memorable moments of my life is when I met Quincy Jones. I wore a Raf Simons jacket and I put it on because I was going to meet him. I felt like I was going to meet him. I went to his house and he said to me, “It’s a nice jacket.” He didn’t say, “I love your music.” He didn’t say that yet. We didn’t get to any of that. He said, “That’s a nice jacket.” So it really does get you far when you consciously do something where you feel like it’s tied to where you are, especially when it comes to fashion.
What are some of your favorite brands and why? All-time and current?
Junya Watanabe, Snow Peak, Prada, Nike. Come on, right? Issey Miyake, Comme des Garcons. So many. Of all time though, I would go further back: Iceberg, Guess, FUBU, Akademiks, Sean John. Anything velour. Any velour suit. I don’t give a fuck what brand that was for. A big chunk of my life as a kid, that was like everything.
What are some recent purchases you made, and what are some things you’re currently on the hunt for?
Trying to go back and get a bunch of sneakers that I couldn’t get: mostly Nike SBs. I found some Stussy SB Dunks. I was fiending for those. I wanted them so bad. I used to have them when I was a freshman in college maybe. I just got the Bucks SBs. Man, I’m on the hunt for all the classic Air Force 1s. Some classic New York shit. There was a time when they were putting out the Brazils and so many flavors… the Easter ones. I usually buy in pairs when I know I’m going to beat one down. Some people think that’s gluttonous, but …
One to rock, one to stock. I was checking out your merch and you have some incredible designs and sketches on your gear. Where do you find inspiration for it all? And do you have a specific artistic process for all your ventures?
I’m a designer, man. I went to school for graphic design, so it always went hand-in-hand with style. Not only was I obsessed with the itself, I knew about how to render them so I could draw something and scale it to be on the computer. I cared about the fabric. I thought about how it would look, the sublimation, or if it’s direct to garment or just screen printed. I was so infatuated with clothing before I even understood how to apply it to myself. I just wondered, “Why did this shirt look like this?” A lot of inspiration comes from the early 2000s, from old music videos. I go back and just look at the old Carhartt shit. Carhartt is probably my all-time favorite brand.
It just has so much nostalgia. It reminds me of New York. You got Raekwon. It was so synonymous with what I was saying earlier about it being cold all the time and always being kind of in a workforce, but fashion-wise, too. There was always this duality that had to make sense, but to also look good, and Carhartt is one of those brands. They understand that this is going to get dirty and that’s what makes it look good. It’s not a brand where if you rip the fabric it’s done and you got to go get it patched and it’s going to take six months to get it back. You didn’t put a Sharpie on something you can’t fix. You customize it. You get your name tag. You get it embroidered. It’s one of my favorite brands, mostly because it has something for everybody. I feel like they are a high fashion brand. The WIP stuff is really quality shit.
So, a lot of it comes from research, and just my own individual style came from seeking no logos. I don’t really fuck with that. I’m wearing an Oasis hoodie right now, but that’s because I like this band. But if it wasn’t merch, it would just be a black sweater. I was never into being easily able to tell what brand something is. For me it has always been about color blocking and finding the right palette, and also comfort. I had surgery on a hernia years ago and it changed my style because I was really into wearing tight clothes. Then I just decided I was going to wear baggier stuff. I realized I should always dress like that. It made me buy more flowy jackets and pants. It made me realize that I’m a skinny dude and I can really wear what I want.
Christopher Fenimore is a writer and photographer living in New York. Working with clients ranging from clothiers to vineyards, he’s also covered street style for a number of outlets. Follow him on Instagram at @c.fenimore.
Source : Esquire