We should have seen this coming. When Steven Ellison (AKA Flying Lotus) pulled the figurative mask off of Captain Murphy, his rap alter ego, he didn’t just open a new lane for his own music.
As the founder of the Brainfeeder record label, Ellison has spent the last four years carving a well-defined niche out of the center of a three-way Venn diagram of jazz, instrumental hip-hop and electronic music, signing artists that sound very similar to one another and fostering collaborations between like-minded musicians. Although the beats on Murphy’s Duality mixtape fit that mold, the inclusion of actual rap was a first for Brainfeeder’s founder. This Friday, Feb. 1, will see Brainfeeder’s second legitimate hip-hop release: a mixtape by NYC duo The Underachievers.
Issa Dash and AK are skinny kids that live on Flatbush Ave. and usually brandish blunts when they rap. They reference hallucinogens more than the average rapper, and in turn often fixate on souls, third eyes and philosophy. As their home address would suggest, The Underachievers (or “UA”) bear loose affiliation with the Flatbush Zombies and Joey Bada$$’ Pro Era crew, all of whom refer to their little collective as “Beast Coast.” (Side note: someone should tell Bethany Cosentino to start a metal band and call it “Beast Coast.”)
Last summer UA dropped a few videos that caught Ellison’s attention (“Gold Soul Theory” in particular), and he signed them in September. Their debut mixtape, entitled Indigoism has been delayed for a while, but thanks to a few tweets from FlyLo we can almost surely say that Friday is the day.
So let’s see… blunted, oddball rappers from New York team up with equally blunted and oddball producers from L.A…. It sounds almost uncannily like the creative process that went down nine years ago for MF Doom and Madlib’s classic LP Madvillainy. But one play of “Gold Soul Theory” is enough to realize that Issa and AK have flows much more indebted to modern, “swag”-era rappers than to the mumbled free-associations of DOOM, whose personal flair remains an anomaly in the rap world. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, and considering how polarizing UA could be (what with their affinities for weird beats and drugs that aren’t commonly associated with hip-hop), they may need that those “en vogue” flows to secure a fan base.
Whether or not you buy into The Underachievers’ vision of psychedelic hip-hop, the fact that Brainfeeder is releasing rap music is great news for anyone who’s ever enjoyed hip-hop at it’s weirdest.