Several months ago, when electro-hip hop artist Flying Lotus released the fantastic single, “Between Friends,” it featured Odd Future rapper Earl Sweatshirt and a peculiar new artist the music industry had not seen yet — Captain Murphy. Although his rhymes are timed perfectly and help complete “Between Friends” as a whole, I couldn’t help but thinking this guy sounded like a mix between Tyler, the Creator and a deeper-voiced Sweatshirt. Constant questions on the Internet and in the rap industry on who this new rapper was were finally answered when, a few weeks ago, Captain Murphy was revealed to be Flying Lotus himself! This news signified a rare form of Flying Lotus, artistically and personally. It’s also hard to believe how 29-year-old Steven Ellison, the man behind these two artists, released the delightful Until the Quiet Comes, the fourth record as Flying Lotus, AND, after revealing himself as Captain Murphy, Ellison released his debut mixtape Duality. Fortunately, through all this multi-tasking, Ellison has morphed into a more aesthetic producer, juggling between the multi-instrumentalist Flying Lotus and the mysterious alter ego Captain Murphy. As Flying Lotus, he’s Bruce Wayne: a well-respected man esteemed by several others (in this case, critics and listeners alike), his music offering an experimental vibe and serene atmosphere. As Captain Murphy, he’s the Dark Knight: a darker, more sophisticated version of Flying Lotus, adopting several more influences and genres of music, including deep-voiced rapping and fluid sampling. While Until the Quiet Comes was a valiant effort in exploring the extensive roots of R&B, soul, and mixing both with electronica and jazz, Duality is much different, in contrast. Captain Murphy’s debut contains an increasingly unusual yet genius set of old-school influenced hip-hop with slivers of electronica-based beats. Not only does this branch out from Ellison’s public musician side, it also demonstrates the internal balance between his light-hearted, comfortable side (Flying Lotus) and his enigmatic and sometimes wrathful side (Captain Murphy). Nevertheless, Duality indicates the complexity within an artist like Ellison. The great mixtape contains some spooky samples that imply cultish themes (“Disciples,” “El Topo”), hip-hop influenced slow jams (“Between Friends,” “Gone Fishing,” “Immaculation”), and a mix of both (the gospel-turned-self-interview “Hovercrafts and Crows”). The bonus track, “Shake Weight,” actually samples from acclaimed duo TNGHT’s “Bugg’n.”
Distributing music as both Flying Lotus and Captain Murphy sounds like a lot of work for Steve Ellison, but due to both Until the Quiet Comes and Duality being critical successes, I’d say he won’t disappoint.