Discography Dive: Flying Lotus distorts genres
Emerald writers love a deep dive. In the Discography Dive series, Emerald A&C staffers write in-depth about their favorite groups. This week, music writer Jordan Montero looks into avant-garde hip-hop artist Flying Lotus’ varied works.
“1983” is Flying Lotus’ most straight-forward album. His simple formula of spacey, electric themes laid over sample-heavy, J. Dilla-inspired beats allowed for stimulating listening to happen within seconds. The disciplines of brevity and forward-thinking tastefulness found in his Adult Swim bumps were applied to his debut; “1983” is a playlist of diverse, bite-sized beats.
In essence, “1983” is hip-hop, rooted deeper in the genre than any of his later works, complete with an impressive sample catalog. But simultaneously, Lotus’ aptitude to innovate caused the album to have many sounds and influences. His avant-garde instincts, which would shine later in his career, were foreshadowed on the record in his eclectic motifs and excellent beat command, eventually landing him a deal with Warp Records.
“Los Angeles” (2008)
“Los Angeles,” released under Warp, pushed Flying Lotus to critical acclaim, being a continuation and expansion on the foundation laid by “1983.” His once-trusty formula no longer satisfied him, making “Los Angeles” more dynamic in character. The beats remained hip-hop inspired, but the music as a whole grew into its own identity. Lotus started spilling over to other genres, and, consequently, his compositions grew more refined and immersive.
On the surface, “Los Angeles” is groovier and more intricate than its predecessor. Most songs on the record play like club hits with high-end appeal. Lotus’ ear for drum patterns and his ability to create them is exceptional, even since “1983.” Using his imagination, he executes sweet licks sampling the world’s mundane sounds. Although still progressing, FlyLo would make his furthest leap as an artist with the release of his next album.
After “Los Angeles,” in between releasing numerous remixes and EPs, Flying Lotus was faced with the death of his mother. The creation of “Cosmogramma” coincided with his grieving, and would play a role in ascending the record to universal praise. On the album, Lotus channelled the delicacy that naturally comes out through the death of a loved one. Lotus even sampled the respirator in his mother’s hospital room and flipped it on the track “Galaxy in Janaki.”
Wanting something more personal than mere laptop beats, Lotus introduced live instrumentation to his repertoire. As his cathartic, electronic impulses rip and splash throughout the 46-minute album, “Cosmogramma’s” unbound character offers its innovation in the realms of hip-hop, soul, techno, afro, jazz and orchestral conventions. To this day, “Cosmogramma” is the producer’s most inspired, groundbreaking work.
“Until The Quiet Comes” (2012)
After the maximalist “Cosmogramma”, Lotus turned inward for the direction of his new album. Dwelling on the concept of dreams, a fluctuating subconscious and astral projection, “Until The Quiet Comes” is defined by FlyLo’s philosophical mental state at the time of production. It’s wistful vocal stylings and ambient textures fit the surreal standing of Flying Lotus’ mind.
“Until The Quiet Comes” plays with a psychedelic filter over Lotus’ inventive ideas. Maintaining the live instrumentation from his previous album, Lotus shifted more attention to detail than usual to the mixing and arranging of sounds, rather than the compositions themselves. The product is a self-contained dreamworld presented in oscillating drum and synth, and unlike the expansive “Cosmogramma,” “Until The Quiet Comes” allows the listener to approach it, rather than the other way around.
“You’re Dead” (2014)
“You’re Dead” doesn’t have the traumatic events or the entranced mind to fuel its execution. Instead, the album is grounded by uniform hip-hop and jazz, whereas his previous works liberally bounced around to different genres. Again aided by friend and labelmate, Thundercat, on the bass, FlyLo’s ancestral impressions free themselves on “You’re Dead.”
The album features developed techniques like syncopation and instances of walking bass alongside the swirling mantras of Louts, and has a heavier reliance on guest vocal performances. Through this, “You’re Dead” becomes a surreal take on jazz while entertaining the ominous contemplations of life and death — of which Flying Lotus finds nothing to be afraid of.
Flying Lotus received more acclaim for his work on the groundbreaking Kendrick Lamar album, “To Pimp A Butterfly,” following the release of “You’re Dead.” He also made his film directorial debut with his 2017 film “Kuso,” which he also scores. According to Pitchfork, Flying Lotus is in the process of finishing up his next album.
Listen to the Emerald’s Flying Lotus playlist below:
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