Meet the Underachievers, the Duo Flying Lotus Signed On First Listen

Photo: Theo Jemison

Issa Dash, one half of the Brooklyn rap duo the Underachievers, believes he can fly. “I’m not a master at it, but I’ve dabbled,” says the 22-year-old Dash as he sits next to a retro Pac-Man arcade machine and explains his past astral travels. To this, his junior Underachievers partner, Ak, sits and nods his head in a languid approval. Dash then runs his fingers over the sprites on the screen and begins to delve into theories about repressive imagery and lucid dreaming; you can have Pac-Man pixels pop up in your subconscious with the right mind control.

This line of spiritual, other-worldly thinking runs through the heart of the Underachievers’ Indigoism mixtape, which dropped at the start of the month via Los Angeles beat radical Flying Lotus’s Brainfeeder label. Over 17 songs, the duo define themselves as “psychedelic renegades” tapping into a pharmaceutical cabinet stocked with DMT, THC. and LSD and expel verses that are heavy on references to seeking a state of heightened consciousness via the mind’s third eye. As befits the Underachievers’ Flatbush heritage, this all happens over beats that err on the gruff side, creating a convincing marriage of lyrics and music that shoot for the solar while managing to stay grounded.

So with the buzz from Indigoism continuing to bloom, Hive got Issa and Ak to open up about early days hanging with their fellow Beast Coast collective members Joey Bada$$ and the Flatbush Zombies, inadvertently homaging a Souls of Mischief classic, and the dynamics of rap music that veers towards the psyche side.

What’s the strangest piece of feedback you’ve heard about Indigoism?

Issa Dash: That we say third eye too much! Or that we talk about LSD a lot. People like when we go for the lyrical approach to songs, but with this project we actually tried to go with a lot of heavy performance songs ’cause that’s so important today. So I think a lot of people expected more like Flying Lotus trippy stuff.

Are you worried that you might get typecast early on as only making trippy-sounding hip-hop?

Issa Dash: Nah, because trippy is the wrong word to use. I mean, they want us to expand more into the experimental hip-hop scene and since we’re on a label with all these experimental hip-hop makers we can really take advantage of that and attack those beats. [Pauses.] I keep saying trippy when talking about the music, but I mean more experimental producers like Lapalux, TOKiMONSTA, Jeremiah [Jae] and Martyn. But it’s imperative to be versatile. We want to make sure that we have the classical bangers, that we have the good time songs for the females. This mixtape was catered specifically to our youth that like to go to concerts but there’s still other types of songs. The next project will be more trippy and lyrical.

How did you end up signing to Flying Lotus’s Brainfeeder label?

Issa Dash: I met this lady on Twitter randomly.

Were you flirting with her?

Issa Dash: Nah, not at all! She just followed me; she was sweet to me. In all honesty, I followed her ’cause the name of her agency is 11-11 Agency — it’s a management agency for upcoming talent — and 11-11 is my favorite number for a lot of reasons. She said, “I’m gonna send your music to my friend Steve.” Steve turned out to be Flying Lotus. The next day he called me: “Yo, It’s Flying Lotus, what’s up?” He flew us out to L.A. the next day.

First class?

Issa Dash: Nah, not first class!

What were your first impressions of Flying Lotus?

Issa Dash: It was cool, he’s a down to earth guy. He’s got that mysterious, nobody-knows-about-him image, but he’s cool.

Is it true “Gold Soul Theory” was the song that made him want to sign you?

Issa Dash: Yeah, I think that’s the one.

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