Erick the Architect, member of Flatbush Zombies is released his first solo album. With distinctly rap undertones, the album borrows from soul, funk and the past of black American music.

I’ve Never Been Here Before may be Erick The Architect’s debut album, but at 35 the protean American rapper has already built up a fascinating discography as part of the group Flatbush Zombies, a worthy representative of Brooklyn’s alternative rap scene and a rising star in the genre for nearly fifteen years. In the early 2010s, Erick Elliott (real name) sent out a raft of mixtapes, followed by a series of acclaimed instrumental projects, ARCstrumentals: Vol. 1 and ARCstrumentals: Vol. 2, on which he showcased his beat-making talents, before his most accomplished solo project, Future Proof, an EP released in 2021 that synthesised his skills and his desire to escape academia. But with I’ve Never Been Here Before, Erick has moved up a gear with his impact and musical audacity.

Brooklyn crew Flatbush Zombies were one of the archetypal semi-outsider cult hip-hop squads of the 2010s, riding off a vision that simultaneously represented classic East Coast tradition while leaning hard into the trippier, gloomier vibes of the era’s psychedelic horrorcore-adjacent outliers. Now, after a decade spent honing his group’s eccentric sound at the expense of wider mainstream acceptance, rapper and primary Zombies producer Erick Arc Elliott embarked on a solo outing that greatly expands how many kinds of idiosyncrasy he’s capable of translating into relatability.

I’ve Never Been Here Before is the culmination of a shift both geographically (he relocated to Los Angeles in 2019) and thematically. The latter transformation comes through a maturing reflection that confronts his vulnerability and his need for a greater legacy head-on. The eclectic production shows off this adventurous stock-taking: there’s Laurel Canyon-inspired country rock soaring through “Breaking Point,” surrealist ambient Kimbra-laced gospel driving “Leukemia / AM,” and some of James Blake’s most intensely pretty beats (“Beef Patty”; “Too Much Talkin”) to join the wheelhouse of distorted psychedelic soul that brings out the unsettled intensity in his dozen-flows voice (“Mandevillain”; George Clinton feature “Ezekiel’s Wheel”).

In an album where he seems intent on figuring out where he stands by confronting familiar truths (self-big-up “Parkour”) with the ambitions he needs to face the unknown to fulfil (“Instincts”), Erick sounds visionary even when he’s fighting his own ambivalence.