Who Is Erick the Architect?

Hot off his debut solo album ‘I’ve Never Been Here Before’, the producer, rapper and all-around creative force is formally reintroducing himself.

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Erick the Architect recorded the chorus for “Mandevillian,” a track off his recently released solo debut I’ve Never Been Here Before while chewing on ice.

“When I started playing the song for people they were like ‘Yo, who is that? and I was like ‘This is me,’” he recounts to Hypebeast. “It was a little hard to understand what I was saying, so I re-recorded the same part without the ice in my mouth but with the same sentiment in mind.”

This type of method acting isn’t uncommon for Erick, who constantly seeks to explore his mind’s pursuits without leaning heavily on technology: instead, he prefers a DIY approach.

Erick also watched The Godfather on repeat when he wrote the track – well, watching on mute. He always has something playing while working in the studio. “I like to have something moving that I can pull inspiration from.”

Adamant about not using Auto-Tune but determined to embody many different alter egos throughout his debut solo album (hence the ice and The Godfather on VHS), the 35-year-old Brooklyn native tapped into his archive of life experiences to inform the audiovisual experience that is I’ve Never Been Here Before. “The characters I was creating for this album, I didn’t want them to sound like me all the time,” he explains. “I wanted people to be a bit confused.”

An industry vet most known for his production work with Flatbush Zombies, Erick is more than ready to invite us into the expansive universe he’s built and reintroduce himself as the contemporary Renaissance Man he is – just removed from the Zombies’ signature psychedelic vibe.

“That’s not my singular aesthetic. I was never that trippy,” he laughs, citing Annie Leibovitz and Keith Haring as inspirations. “I’m less psychedelic in my design style. I’m more clean and literal.”

“I remember I even threw my bed out because I had no space in my room. People thought I was crazy but I needed to make space for the Juno 106 and the Yamaha Dx7.”

Music was also a constant for Erick growing up. He was surrounded by soul and reggae from his parents, R&B and hip-hop from his brothers and gospel music at church on Sundays. He’s found solace in writing rhymes since his early high school days. “Then I wanted to produce,” he recounts. “I spent all of my money from selling sneakers – [fellow Flatbush Zombies member] Meechy Darko and I worked at Foot Locker together at some point – to fund my equipment. I remember I even threw my bed out because I had no space in my room. People thought I was crazy but I needed to make space for the Juno 106 and the Yamaha Dx7.”

Erick’s sonic versatility may well come from the wealth of creative pursuits he explored in his youth. After majoring in graphic design at the City College of New York, he dabbled across many different disciplines, suiting up for jobs at record labels like Sony and Mexican Summer, and flexing his design muscles curating press kits, step and repeats and websites. “I was always integrating music and design, and all of that is finally coming to a front right now,” he says.

He’s been rapping and producing since he was 15, dropping off his first self-produced project almost remembered. under the name Erick Arc Elliot back in 2011. That arrived ahead of Flatbush Zombies’ debut mixtape D.R.U.G.S. in 2012, when he fully stepped into his “the Architect” persona, inspired by The Matrix antagonist of the same name, and his solo pursuits took a backseat to the success of the crew.

Drenched in psychedelics and backed by head-banging beats, Erick and his Flatbush Zombie compatriots Meechy Darko and Zombie Juice unveiled their sophomore mixtape BetterOffDEAD in 2013, their first EP Clockwork Indigo the following year, and even landed a feature on RZA’s “Just Blowin’ in the Wind” all before dropping their debut album 3001: A Laced Odyssey in 2016. And though the group took up a lion’s share of Erick’s time, his solo endeavors remained in the back of his always-moving mind.

Erick dropped Future Proof, a feature-heavy six-track EP that served as his first solo compilation in 2021. “People knew me so much for my production. I still wanted to produce for other people, but managing both was hard,” he shares. His other recent credits include contributing to Joey Bada$$’ 2022 album 2000, and scoring the J Dilla and Black Sheep The Choice is Yours documentary.

Now, his debut solo project is serving as a culmination of his experiences, fears and hardships. Erick describes I’ve Never Been Here Before as an unintentional audiovisual archive of his life – one that explores community, identity and finding beauty in darkness.

The 16-track album melds hip-hop and house, soul and a little psych, immersing listeners in the sounds of his upbringing. His Jamaican heritage heavily influenced the album along with his Brooklyn adolescence and adulthood. “Beef Patty” pulls from dancehall sounds, while “Breaking Point” includes spoken word – something he discovered in church and grew more connected to during his college days in Harlem spent listening to the Last Poets and slam poetry.

Community energizes Erick, so he naturally found himself pairing up with pastime collaborators for the project, with longtime friend James Blake contributing production to a handful of tracks. Joey Bada$$ is another. “I’ve known Joey since he was sixteen and we’ve worked together so many times but never put out a track,” he said of “Shook Up” which also features FARR. The full slate of featured artists also includes first-time collaborators George Clinton, WESTSIDE BOOGIE, Kimbra and Lalah Hathaway.

As far as its art direction, I’ve Never Been Here Before takes a clean black-and-white aesthetic in album art and music videos alike. “I’m not 25 anymore, and I wanted to do something that represented where I am in my life now,” he says. That’s not to say the album’s visuals are entirely devoid of color: he infuses pops of pink throughout, which he believes evoke a sense of futurism. “I design in tandem with creating the music,” he says. “I create with the idea of what it’ll look like because that affects how it makes people feel, too.”

Erick had to make one more big move before releasing the record – a physical one, out of his Brooklyn hometown and across the country to Los Angeles. “I felt like I got to a point where I stopped growing as a person,” he explains. In LA, the surrounding nature and greenery give him a sense of freedom and the ability to detach. “I don’t hike every day but the fact that I can see the world outside of my window and have it in my reach is beautiful,” he reflects. “In New York, you have to drive so far just to see some shrubs.”

He even built a studio in his new LA home — something nearly impossible in New York City. “I recorded a lot of the album in my basement, and then I moved it up to the living room, so all of the featured artists pulled up to my living room to record.”

Most of the songs were written before he moved out west, however. He estimated a good portion of the album – approximately 40%,– he’s been sitting with for over five years. “The album really took me all 35 years of my life, though,” he says. “I’ve done a lot of little things to prepare for this moment.”

“Even though this is a new frontier for me, there have been so many stops along the way that I almost feel like I have been here before, he says. “This album is me as the best, most evolved version of myself as a musician and a person.”


Stream Erick the Architect’s debut album, ‘I’ve Never Been Here Before’, everywhere now.

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