MONDAY | MAY 30
It's impossible to examine the music of the 2010s without considering Steven Ellison, aka Flying Lotus. A creative of many mediums, Ellison is just as likely to appear at Sundance with an experimental film as he is to headline a music festival. His run of six studio albums, featuring collaborators like Thom Yorke, Erykah Badu, David Lynch, and longtime friend Thundercat, solidified him as one of the decade's driving musical forces. So renowned is his aptitude that everyone from Kendrick Lamar, who recruited Ellison for the landmark To Pimp A Butterfly, to Cartoon Network's Adult Swim turns to him for inspiration. Pitchfork designated the LA-based artist an icon of the past 25 years, while the Recording Academy nominated him as Producer of the Year at the 63rd Grammy Awards.
Growing up in LA, Ellison found himself surrounded by artistic inspiration. His lineage includes relations to musical legends, Marilyn McLeod and Alice Coltrane, and his interests spanned everything from beat-making to anime. By the late 2000s, his ability to incorporate jazz, hip-hop, and nebulous, futuristic elements had established him within LA's famed Low End Theory and beyond. While he himself signed to the famous Warp label, Ellison began a label of his own, Brainfeeder, putting out music by Grammy-recognized artists such as Thundercat, George Clinton, Kamasi Washington, and Hiatus Kaiyote.
Thanks to his passion for animation, experimental films, and the future, Ellion's visual output has been equally as expansive, provocative, and as avant-garde. His live sets draw acclaim for their immersive visuals that engulf him and his machinery, from behind which he'll emerge as his rap alter ego, Captain Murphy. This attention to the visual details of his compositions translates over to the silver screen as well. His music is strongly associated with Adult Swim, one of Ellison's longtime champions and creative partners. More recently, Ellison has delved deeper into the art of visual storytelling. He directed Kuso (2016), a body horror film that premiered at Sundance, and served as an executive producer as well as composer for Netflix's Yasuke, starring Lakeith Stanfield as the titular samurai. In tandem with his musical talents, Ellison's visual artwork solidifies him as one of the foremost creatives of his time.