Steven Ellison (born October 7, 1983), known by his stage name Flying Lotus or sometimes FlyLo, is an experimental multi-genre music producer, electronic musician, DJ and rapper from Los Angeles, California.
Flying Lotus has released five studio albums—1983 (2006), Los Angeles (2008), Cosmogramma (2010), Until the Quiet Comes (2012) and You're Dead! (2014)—to increasing critical acclaim. He has produced much of the bumper music on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim programming block. He also contributed remixes for fellow Plug Research artists including Mia Doi Todd.
In 2012, Ellison began rapping under the persona Captain Murphy, based on the Sealab 2021 character of the same name. Ellison kept this fact a secret for several months, finally revealing his identity several weeks after the release of his first rap mixtape, Duality.
Flying Lotus was born Steven Ellison on October 7, 1983, in Los Angeles, California. He is the grand-nephew of the late jazz pianist Alice Coltrane, and her husband saxophonist John Coltrane. He is also the first cousin once removed of musician Ravi Coltrane. Additionally, he is the grandson of singer-songwriter Marilyn McLeod, who is notable for having written Diana Ross's "Love Hangover" and Freda Payne's "I Get High (On Your Memory)", and who is the sister of Alice Coltrane. McLeod has been called by one writer "the biggest influence on Ellison's music".
While at the Los Angeles Film School, filmmaking taught Ellison to make albums with a story - and the leisure aspects of his life slowly became entwined with hip-hop (The Chronic, Doggystyle), Nintendo, Marvel comics and Cartoon Network. His experimentation in beat-making began to churn out genuine songs, and when he made a track called "Toilet Paper Nostrils" he realised the possibility of pursuing music. While lying on the couch at his mother's house, he saw an advertisement on Adult Swim/Cartoon Network asking for song submissions. He sent some in, was accepted, and Flying Lotus (a moniker inspired by lucid dreaming) was made. Soon his instrumentals were all over the channel.
Around this time, he was interning at the pioneering hip hop label Stones Throw Records. Days were spent in their offices, and nights were spent at his grandmothers, working on the music that would become his debut album: 1983. The record (released on LA indie label Plug Research) was an early touchstone for Ellison's eclectic creative mission, forging compressed, spacey and Eastern sounding hip-hop beats, that summoned Madlib as much as Dntel, while sampling as far back as 70s Japanese proto-synthpop and 60s jazz harp. It would also feature Laura Darlington, who went on to become a vocal fixture of future albums.
In 2007, Ellison announced on CSU-Fullerton’s Titan Radio that he signed with Warp Records (home to Prefuse 73, Autechre, Squarepusher and Aphex Twin). Following his Warp debut, the six-track Reset EP, he quickly became one of the label's cornerstone artists and released his second studio album, titled Los Angeles, on June 10, 2008.
His first release on Warp, Reset EP, gave his new audience a taster of the steady grooves and darker breaks that had earned him the move. As Ellison's profile rose, he decided to commandeer the limelight by launching his own label, Brainfeeder, to house his friends (Samiyam, Ras G, etc.) and unite a large section of the LA beat scene under one tidy tag. Months later, he dropped the first huge statement of a very loud career; the aptly titled Los Angeles, his second studio album and first for Warp.
In 2008 Flying Lotus released Los Angeles, a 17-track album dedicated to his home city. The album captured the abundant styles of his city in seventeen bullet sized tracks, that harked back to golden era hip hop while innovating in its endeavours to introduce recalibrated shards of bass, techno and soul, plus samples of his own Aunt's harp playing. Telling Quietus on the subject of J Dillas influence on his music: "I love Dilla and who knows where this beat thing would be without him. His work ethic inspired so many producers around the world, but when he moved out to LA, it seemed that his presence here inspired everyone to kick things into overdrive. If I had to describe his music, I'd say it were 'imaginative soul music'. I think it's his imagination that appeals to me, personally. Dilla could flip a boring record and make you feel like you were flying."
2008 saw Ellison enter a stage of hyper-productivity, as he followed up the Los Angeles record with collaborative tracks with Samiyam and Gonjasufi, a limited white label run of remixes ("Camel", "Lightworks", R2-D2 sound effects, "Shadows of Tommorow" and "Promiscuous") called Shhh!, and a series of LA inspired EPs. Each of the La EPs features remixes and unreleased tracks from his Los Angeles Album. The third in that series (titled L.A. EP 3 X 3), marked a new atmospheric style in his sound.
The same year, Flying Lotus also remixed "Reckoner" from Radiohead's album In Rainbows.
His third studio album, Cosmogramma, was released in the UK on May 3, 2010, and in the US on May 4, 2010. In January 2011, Cosmogramma won in the Dance/Electronica Album category in the 10th Annual Independent Music Awards. The multi-award-winning Cosmogramma was a hard-hitting afrofuturistic shrine to soul, hip-hop, jazz and IDM but, with more emphasis on a lyrical message than ever before, it was also a cathartic grieving experience. The album was accompanied by live instrumentation (Thundercat on bass, Miguel Atwood Ferguson on strings, Rebekah Raff on harp) and live vocalists (Thom Yorke, Laura Darlington) - all picked to help communicate the spiritual musical lineage of Ellison’s family (Ravi Coltrane, himself, played tenor sax). Stephen Bruner, aka Thundercat, who is featured extensively on Cosmogramma, would later become a large part of future albums by Flying Lotus.
In 2010, Flying Lotus collaborated with the Ann Arbor Film Festival in the performance of a live scoring of the 1962 avant-garde film Heaven and Earth Magic. In a post-viewing interview with the audience, Flying Lotus said that he was unsure whether or not a recording of the performance (or a recreation of it) would be publicly released, but he would be enthusiastic toward similar projects in the future. He was chosen by Battles to perform at the ATP Nightmare Before Christmas festival that it co-curated in December 2011 in Minehead, England, UK.
In September 2010, Flying Lotus released "Pattern+Grid World", a 8 track EP featuring Thundercat on bass & art by Theo Ellsworth. The Track Camera Day was used in the Killer Mike song Swimming, which was released as part of the Adult Swim Singles Series.
In January 2011, Flying Lotus won the 10th Annual Independent Music Awards for his video "MmmHmm" in the Short-Form Video category.
It was reported in 2011 that Flying Lotus would be collaborating with R&B singer Erykah Badu on new material for her next album, and planned to remix one of Radiohead's songs from The King of Limbs.
With a lifelong fascination for hip hop, but no firm position within it, the likes of Odd Future (also aficionados of Adult Swim), A$AP Mob, Spaceghostpurrp and Shabazz Palaces inspired him to get a bit more direct, and soon he was knocking out production for Odd Future’s Hodgy Beats’ Untitled EP. While with Hodgy, he had a moment of rap enlightenment: "I can recall the moment specifically. I haven’t told anybody this and I am so glad to talk to you about it. I feel like it was such a big deal for me personally. started playing me some of The OF Tape Vol. 2. I asked them, 'Yo, Hodgy, how long did it take you to record this shit? How long did it take you to write this song?' 'Aw, my nigga, it took me like 15 minutes.’ 15 minutes? Are you fucking serious? I was like, 'Nah, nigga. I am gonna do this shit.'" Throughout the summer of 2012, Captain Murphy would make golden-caped appearances, dressed in Luchadore Ensemble, with his true identity masked to the public.
In August 2012, Flying Lotus announced a multimedia project with filmmaker Miwa Matreyek, which is to be titled The Mapping of Countries Yet to Come.
Flying Lotus produced rapper Mac Miller's song "SDS’" for his album Watching Movies with the Sound Off. He also created a song for the Cartoon Network series Adventure Time entitled "About that time//A glitch is a glitch".
Behind closed doors though, the work for his fourth album Until the Quiet Comes was pretty much done. A year prior, Ellison had worked with Ann Arbor Festival to live score a surreal and avant-garde 50s animation Heaven and Earth Magic (pictured below), and a fascination with dreamlike states had continued into this record. Until The Quiet Comes continued his creative relationship with Radiohead's Thom Yorke, as well as Johnny Greenwood, Niki Randa, Erykah Badu, Laura Darlington and, of course, Thundercat, and was cinematically captured in a short film by Kahlil Joseph.
In late 2012, less than two months after the release of his last record, a website started circulating online: www.captainmurphy.xxx. Press speculated who the rapper was, with guessing being centered around the Odd Future Crew. The site hosted Duality, a 34-minute short film mixtape, that comprised both new material and tracks that had been leaking all summer.
In April 2013, Flying Lotus announced that he has his own radio station in the video game Grand Theft Auto V, saying there would be "a ton of new songs and information, including rapping a new Captain Murphy song produced by Hudson Mohawke".
On July 17, 2013, Flying Lotus announced on Twitter that he had been nominated for a VMA for the song "Tiny Tortures".
On July 15, 2014, Flying Lotus posted on Instagram a photo of vinyl test pressings labeled "LP #5". On July 22, he announced that his fifth studio album, You're Dead!, would be released in the UK on October 6, 2014, and in the US on October 7, 2014. The album features guest appearances by Kendrick Lamar, Snoop Dogg and Herbie Hancock.
On August 15, 2014, Flying Lotus released a new song called "Cosplay" with his alias Captain Murphy.
On September 30, 2014, Flying Lotus scored the short film A Portrait of Noomi Rapace, starring actress Noomi Rapace and directed by Aitor Throup.
During the summer of 2015, Flying Lotus appeared at many summer music festivals including the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival, the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, the Governors Ball Music Festival and the Glastonbury Festival. His performances received critical acclaim, with many guest appearances from artists such as Thundercat, Kendrick Lamar and George Clinton.
He appeared alongside Thundercat, on Kendrick Lamar's album To Pimp a Butterfly. In July 2015, Flying Lotus, made his national television debut on Why? with Hannibal Buress, as the show's in-studio disc jockey.
Lotus received two Grammy Award nominations at the 58th ceremony: Best Dance Recording for his song "Never Catch Me" and Album of the Year for his credits as producer on Kendrick Lamar's To Pimp a Butterfly.
Flying Lotus' rapper persona is known as the character "Captain Murphy", named after the Sealab 2021 character. Captain Murphy first appeared over the summer of 2012 on the Flying Lotus-produced track "Between Friends" for the 2012 Adult Swim Singles Program. The track also featured Odd Future's Earl Sweatshirt trading verses with Murphy. Speculation began to arise that Murphy was either Tyler, The Creator, Earl Sweatshirt, Flying Lotus, or a combination of the three due to the frequent pitch shifts in vocals. Between July and September 2012, Murphy released several music videos on YouTube that featured animation by lilfuchs. Over the months, Captain Murphy began hinting towards his debut project Duality, which was scheduled to be released in November 2012.
On November 15, 2012, Captain Murphy started a website and posted a 34-minute video titled "Duality" that featured his music as well as archived cult footage and lilfuchs-produced animation. The video album was to be named Du∆lity. He then began hinting at a deluxe version with separated tracks, bonus tracks and instrumentals. On November 28, Murphy released the deluxe version for download, along with the launch of a merch line. The mixtape was released with separate artwork for each track, created by lilfuchs.
On the night of the deluxe version release, Murphy played his first show at the Low End Theory in Los Angeles, California. He performed his set in a cloak to conceal his identity, but towards the end of the show, he revealed himself to be Flying Lotus.
Recently, Captain Murphy has released singles including "Between Villains" with collaborations from other musicians. Flying Lotus has been planning to release a rap album as Captain Murphy but its release has been delayed. So far multiple tracks have been recorded with stars including Kendrick Lamar.
Captain Murphy is a character, usually creating songs within the genres of alternative hip hop and psychedelic. According to a video released by Adult Swim he was created by a young boy's imagination. His friends continue to theorize what his friend's character would act like. At the end of the video Captain Murphy appears to the boys and displays his magic powers. Captain Murphy overtakes the body of the young boy, and his sheer presence drives the other boys to pain.
Captain Murphy is often portrayed as a super villain with mystical powers. He is a black man who often wears golden sunglasses, has gold teeth, and displays a large beard.
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