With their own special blend of psychedelic rap AK and Issa Dash, aka The Underachievers, are currently doing more than enough to cement their place firmly as an integral part of the recent Beast Coast movement that has had the eyes of the hip hop world staring intently and enviously at the east coast of America where it began.
With the main focus being on New York, alongside JoeyBada$$, Flatbush Zombies and Pro Era, The Underachievers find themselves part of a tight hip hop family all pushing for each other’s success in a close knit collection of rappers. The like that hasn't been seen since Afrika Bambaataa's Zulu Nation. Hot on the heels of their first mixtape "Indigoism" being released, Issa and AK are busy setting about making a name for themselves in the ever changing and unforgiving hip hop game, at a faster rate than their unmistakable machine gun style deliveries.
Not bad for a pair of friends who up to a year ago had absolutely no intention of becoming the hottest rap duo on the face of planet hip hop!
What sets The Underachievers apart from the rest of their contemporaries within the Beast Coast movement and hip hop in general is their passion for psychedelic drug use, in addition to their unique musical influences which has led them to this point in their relatively short careers.
With Issa and AK you’d be more likely to find them lying in a field on their backs laughing their talented asses off over the fact that the big cloud in the sky has morphed into Groundskeeper Willie. Or sitting discussing how to smash down the doors of perception whilst they listen to left field musical acts such as Local Natives, Fleet Foxes or John Mayer, than you would possibly find them sitting in the VIP section of a club sipping Cristal whilst planning on launching a clothes company.
That though is what defines them as artists. Despite completely blowing up the hip hop scene at this moment in time, the pair do not have much in the way of musical influences from within the industry, so it’s hardly a surprise that they don’t think, act or choose content to rap about like any of their compatriots on the east coast and beyond.
Brought up in multicultural Flatbush Brooklyn only a couple of blocks away from each other, they were introduced to when Issa was brought around to AK’s house to smoke some pot by a mutual friend. Discovering that they both had a shared interest in psychedelic drugs such as magic mushrooms and acid, they hit it off instantly.
Developing a fascination for "being able to see shit that’s not there" at an early age, Issa knew that he’d get into that side of things sooner rather than later, and at 14 years of age along with Juice (who was to go on to form part of Flatbush Zombies) started to use hallucinogenics.
Meech, also from the zombies, joined them in their alternate dimension a few months later, closely followed by AK. From that point on, enthused and excited about the possibilities this could bring about they went about promoting the mind altering substances with a work ethic that would’ve put an all star promotions team of Don King, Frank Warren & Don Draper to shame!
"We started doing psychedelics, and then Meech came on afterwards, maybe two months later. Then we met AK and he came on, and we just put on hundreds of kids from Flatbush. So if you come to our neighborhood, everyone’s on psychedelics. Kids that shoot guns and do goon shit. They’re on psychedelics, happy into spirituality" - Issa Dash
At this point the tale of a young hip hop duo making their mark in the industry normally then reads as the following years then being a combination of them putting all of their blood sweat and tears into writing rhymes, creating a buzz around their look, lyrics and rapping style and ultimately capturing the attention of record labels and producers.
With a completely different viewpoint compared to the majority of rappers out there however, Issa and AK had a slightly different approach to how to make it in the rap game. When I say slightly, please use that term loosely because even as recently as a year ago hip hop's answer to Timothy Leary and Ken Kesey hadn’t even intended on becoming a rap duo, never mind single handily creating a new sub-genre of hip hop.
To give a little perspective on this, whilst AK (now 21) started rapping when he was 10 years old, his partner in crime who’s one year older only started rapping for the first time last year! Issa embarked upon this more just to help out AK (who was struggling to catch any hype on his own) than to do with any real personal dream of making it as a rapper.
With the Flatbush Zombies rapping together, Issa noticed that it was so much harder for a solo artist to really do something, so offered to "have a crack at this rapping stuff" to help get the ball rolling for AK. And thus, one of the most game changing and important new hip hop duos had arrived.
A slight adjustment later from the name The Underachiever (the name that AK was going by at the time) to the plural version to encompass both rappers occurred. Word of mouth soon spread, leading them to be meeting a producer who gave them the motivation that they really did have "something" to take on further.
Soon after came So Devilish in May 2012 which was their first official release with accompanying video on YouTube. Through the reaction to their first release both Issa and AK found the Twitter followers adding up by the hundreds to the thousands and it was through one of Issa's new followers and his fascination of numbers that The Underachievers were brought to the attention of a multi talented artist: Flying Lotus.
Due to a new follower having a combination of numbers in their twitter name Issa followed her back which saw direct messages exchanged between them, which led to his follower showing the So Devilish video to contacts at BBC Radio and her friend "Steve" who turned out to be the legendary Flying Lotus.
“She showed it to Steve, and people at BBC Radio. We got played on BBC Radio mad early, like in August. I had the tweet: BBC Radio, The Underachievers, Gold Soul Theory. And then a day later she told me Steve was Flying Lotus and I was like 'oh shit'," - Issa Dash
Despite flying out to LA to meet Flying Lotus and doing a show for him, no recording contract was offered at that point, with them being urged by Lotus to send him few more songs. Liking what he’d heard so far he wanted to hear more from them before making the move to sign the pair. This in itself didn't deter them and saw The Underachievers move onto releasing their second track "Gold Soul Theory", which as Issa explained at the time was basically about detaching yourself from what society tells you is the norm, or what superficial things we normally might want to be into and realising that all you really need is inside of you. They had subject matter that was way more diverse, intelligent and the complete polar opposite of what you may come to expect from a hip hop crew out of Brooklyn, out of anywhere.
The defining moment for them was Herb Shuttles being released as their third track and coincidence or not, the papers from Brainfeeder records arrived a day after Herb came out. The combination of the song being a banger in its own right mixed with the ridiculously cool video directed and edited by the brilliant "Thisisbutta" more than likely being the poke in the ribs for Flying Lotus & Brainfeeder that if they didn’t move to get the contract signed soon others were going to be knocking on their doors purely on the strength of Herb Shuttles. The video was the first from them to attract over 1 million hits on YouTube, due to the blatant drug use contained throughout the 3 minutes 12 seconds, it would be fair to say that some of those hits might have been accounted for by American law enforcement !
Since making the move to Brainfeeder, Issa & AK have since came out with their free to download mixtape titled "Indigoism". Their first long player did not come without it’s criticisms as some critics and fans felt that there was too much in the way of lyrics orientated towards LSD and the whole mystical and esoteric concept of the third eye that The Underachievers subscribe to, and that due to this the mixtape was a touch repetitive for some. Pragmatically Issa accepted the comments, reasoning that they weren’t trying to please everyone when writing Indigoism and that they were purely catering for their demographic, but that the next project they’d be taking the criticisms on board and that they intended to impress on a wider scale next time around.
With the minds and the lyrical skills of both Issa and AK, there’s not a single fan or critic who would bet against them pulling it off and this saboteur isn't tripping or seeing shit when he gives you that prediction! For now though they're touring with Joey Bada$$ and The Flatbush Zombies in America and Australia. Plans also include spreading the beast coast love by collaborating with their undead friends on a joint album as well as an experimental EP for brainfeeder.
It looks like their trip is just beginning...