Flying Lotus Pushes Visual Arts, Jazz, and Hip-Hop Forward

It’s hard trying to describe Flying Lotus to people who have never heard his music. He’s the kind of artist that is better to merely suggest, and then let the other person make up their mind about him on their own. The music that the L.A. native strings together is a meshing of Hip Hop, Electronica, and Jazz, but in a way that is both unorthodox and curious. With the release of You’re Dead!, his fifth studio album, FlyLo digs even deeper, delivering one of the most liquid, progressive, and morbid albums in recent memory. It’s like a post-quietus dance party, if anyone ever tried to imagine what such a thing would be like.

FlyLo, or Steven Ellison, is like the Miles Davis of hip hop. When Miles was putting out his later songs, he received an abundance of negative criticism. He was too weird for listeners. They were accustomed to traditional jazz still, even though that idea was beginning to fade. Miles was stuck in a dark place between worlds, but instead of rehashing or revisiting, he moved forward. Ellison is doing exactly that with the new album, and his recent stop at the Tower Theater was an exhibition of how far into the human consciousness he has gone.

With a flickering, beaming lighting set-up accompanied with abstract visuals taken from the album art (and a host of other places, surely), Ellison stood in a cocoon of sorts. The three-dimensional encasing with a vast muslin backdrop created an elaborate illusion of winding space. He drank from what looked like a wine bottle and occasionally stepped out with a microphone and recited his lyrics from his rap alter-ego Captain Murphy. Ellison fed off the robust energy of the crowd, which was predicated from his arrangement of tracks old and new, live sampling, stimulating visuals, charismatic chants, and the steady build of momentum ’til the end.

You’re Dead! is a title that came off as a joke with Thundercat, a frequent collaborator who opened for him. What was initially an assortment of beats in its infancy became something more vivid and more evolved. With collaborations with Herbie Hancock, Gene Coye, Snoop Dogg, Angel Deradoorian (Dirty Projectors), and Kendrick Lamar, Ellison has become what he called Miles Davis: a seeker. The experience was invigorating. His live music moved effortlessly, much like the new album.

Watch Flying Lotus’ new music video for the single “Never Catch Me,” featuring Kendrick Lamar.

Photo by Timothy Saccenti

1 Comment

  1. Lauren S

    October 17, 2014 at 10:09 pm

    This is a killer review an just made me want to check out Flying Lotus’ entire catalog. This music video “Never Catch Me” is so bizarre but in a good way.

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