Is it too early make a nomination for Rap Album of the Year? Maybe, but I’ll do it anyway. Here is Flying Lotus—the most innovative producers on the west coast teaming up with quite possibly one of the best contemporary rappers, Kendrick Lamar, jazz legend Herbie Hancock, and even Snoop Dogg! It does not even approach disappointing. With You’re Dead!, Flying Lotus (Steven Ellison) mixes jazz fusion with modern rap, and it’s nice to hear some smooth beats and heady instrumentation mixed in with modern hip-hop. He broke the mold a while back with albums like Cosmogramma, and has not looked back. What’s so refreshing about Flying Lotus is that he does not just sample old stuff and alter it. He layers his own beats, vocals, and instrumentation in a very complex way that sometimes sounds like that real cool experimental jazz of old.
Did I mention Kendrick Lamar is on this album? The track is “Never Catch Me” and is almost completely off the chain. The intro is long, with jazzy elements that give way to Lamar’s electronically compressed vocals. This treatment really works, giving it an old school yet progressive feel. Kendrick Lamar rapping about life, death, and the afterlife may be more highbrow than the usual, but it’s refreshing to hear some more philosophical themes explored. Smooth bass solos, and tinny high-hats blended with trippy beats finish the song off nicely.
The most impressive track is “Coronus, the Terminator.” It’s definitely one of the most psychedelic songs Flying Lotus offers, with layers of backwards strings, Niki Randa’s alluring vocals, heavy bass lines, and natural sounds that create a beautiful soundscape, filled with light. Herbie Hancock guests on two tracks: the intro, “Tesla,” with his signature quick, ticking drums, and on “Moment of Hesitation.” It’s great to see Ellison going back for inspiration from Herbie Hancock, who may only be known to some old enough to remember the “Rockit” video that was all over MTV back in the day—but he has had so much influence on funk and R&B, especially with the use of the synth.
Even if Flying Lotus doesn’t win an award for You’re Dead!, the direction that he has taken rap music with his unique production method is groundbreaking. He’s really changed the game, much like Miles Davis and John Coltrane did to jazz back in the sixties. This album is for anyone who appreciates music and is willing to broaden their horizons. »
– Scott McHale
You’re Dead! will be streaming for free for 24 hours starting at 2pm PST this Friday October 3 on the Flying Lotus website.