Do you remember the first time you heard Flying Lotus? I mean, really heard, as in his music finally clicked with you and all you wanted to do was listen to his discography. For me, it was the spring of 2008, when I happened upon the chance to review his sophomore album, Los Angeles, for Pop Matters; go ahead and Google the review so you can laugh at the typo in the first sentence.
While I had heard (and owned) his debut, 1983, FlyLo’s approach to (mostly) instrumental music never really struck me as being the innovative game-changer that everyone made it out to be. I heard the Dilla and Madlib comparisons and shrugged them off like the close-minded backpacker I was (and still can be). “This is Dilla worship?” I thought. Nah. It was just good-ass beat-driven joints that reminded me of dudes like Daedelus, which was fine of course. And honestly, go back and listen to 1983 again; it is a fucking fantastic album.
But it wasn’t until I was walking down the street with the sun beating down on me, Los Angeles blaring into my ears via my then-working iPod that I truly understood FlyLo. The crunchiness of the drums hurt my eardrums, but I loved it. The same goes for the way he manipulated samples into something that just sounded, well, original. He wasn’t just chopping and flipping shit; he was rebuilding it into something completely new and foreign.
It didn’t hurt, of course, that in retrospect the album was my first introduction to a then-unknown Gonjasufi, who mumbled across “Testament” like the yoga-practicing acid-dropping vocalist he is. Also, hearing FlyLo and Laura Darlington team up yet again was a dream, partially because I feel like they need to do a full project together as soon as possible. But above all that, the album sounded like what I imagined L.A. would be like when I visit the City of Angels: loud, noisy, abrasive at times, but above all beautiful and welcoming.
After my obsession with Los Angeles and its accompanying EPs subsided—trust me, it took some time—I anxiously awaited the arrival of Cosmogramma. I didn’t know what to expect when I finally got my hands on the gorgeously crafted album, which I mean both physically and sonically. But that’s the beauty of what FlyLo does: you never know what to expect. And even when you hear his music and feel familiar tones–like the video game-y/Adult Swim bump vibes of the Pattern+Grid World EP–there’s still something new and fresh about it.
As he told me when we spoke for my Complex piece, Flying Lotus doesn’t like to just throw shit out there for the fuck of it. He explained, for example, that he had put together a slew of “trap” bangers for fun, but he would never release them. Why? Because he wants to keep pushing the envelope and not just hop on the bandwagon/sound of the moment. He explained that with Cosmogramma, he felt like he had to prove himself.
With his upcoming fourth full-length, Until The Quiet Comes, he seems like he’s in his most comfortable state yet. That’s a pretty funny thought, given the fact he’s only 28 and that he’s one of the most humble dudes making music on his level. When we talked, I could hear his apprehension turn to straight-up appreciation when I (nervously) confessed that I have been a fan of his for years. He also showed love for my thoughts on the Earl Sweatshirt and Captain Murphy-featured “Between Friends“, which I said sounded like a real collaboration and not just sloppily thrown together e-mail chain.