Words About Music
Flying Lotus “You’re Dead!”
Flying Lotus is not the first musical artist to combine hip-hop and jazz. A Tribe Called Quest, The Roots, and J Dilla all beat him to the punch. But FlyLo is one of the most vital, creative, and connected producers in hip-hop culture. He’s the nephew of John and Alice Coltrane, two names any jazz fan should know, and with every album he delves further into that style. Flying Lotus effortlessly fuses hip-hop and jazz with electronic dance music, techno, IDM, and psychedelic music, and never has that been more evident than on this album. “You’re Dead!” is the fifth album from Flying Lotus, a.k.a Steven Ellison, and it presents a common theme much like all of his other albums. This album is presented in much the same format as his previous albums, using loosely related short songs to create what feels like one multi-faceted long-form composition. This is especially true on “You’re Dead!,” which features 19 songs and clocks in at about 39 minutes. It’s his shortest album since his 2006 debut, but FlyLo makes the absolute most of it. “You’re Dead!” is a beautiful psychological experience that really ties into Ellison’s jazz background.
One of the most notable aspects of this album is its impressive list of guest contributors. We’ve seen Flying Lotus work with Thom Yorke and Erykah Badu in the past, but “You’re Dead!” sports even bigger names. Featured on this album are jazz legend Herbie Hancock, Kendrick Lamar, Snoop Dogg, frequent collaborator Thundercat, and former Dirty Projectors vocalist Angel Deradoorian. This is also his first album since he debuted his DOOM-esque rap alter-ego Captain Murphy, who also makes a few appearances on this album. With the excitement of the big names, though, can come disappointment. Fortunately, it’s very rare that Flying Lotus disappoints on this album. If you don’t focus on the length of the tracks and let the album as a whole speak for itself, then “You’re Dead!” can be a moving and hypnotic experience.
Some of the best moments for me are the bonkers periods of free jazz that give the album a severe human quality. There’s even a moment or two that reminds me of a math rock or noise rock band like HELLA or Don Caballero. It’s one of the most energetic and full albums Flying Lotus has ever released. It’s highly accomplished and incorporates the old and the new in ways that haven’t been done this creatively since Dilla’s heyday. It’s a concise record, and FlyLo could have probably afforded to make it a bit longer, but it accomplishes what it means to in a reasonable amount of time.
The music on this album is highly intriguing. While the first half promises a level of excitement that it doesn’t really stick with towards the end, the actual quality of the music is very top notch. I can hardly imagine the amount of work that went into writing and recording this album. It’s a deranged record that surpasses the sum of its parts by a wide margin. Every note, every transition, every sound on this album feels vital. “You’re Dead!” feels like the soundtrack to a Jodorowsky film that will never be released because the public just isn’t ready for it. We’ve seen quite a shift in FlyLo’s sound since 2012’s “Until the Quiet Comes,” and I hope it continues to move in this psychedelic, fast-paced direction. It really is what he appears to do best.
SCORE – 9.4
FAVORITE TRACKS – Theme, Tesla, Cold Dead, Never Catch Me, Dead Man’s Tetris, Turkey Dog Coma, Coronus the Terminator, Siren Song, Eyes Above, Moment of Hesitation, Descent into Madness, The Boys Who Died in their Sleep, Obligatory Cadence, Your Potential/The Beyond, The Protest
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