Captain Murphy: "Mighty Morphin Foreskin"
from Duality (; 2012)
By Brent Ables | 10 December 2012
This is what Steve Ellison does with his free time. Because obliterating the boundaries of jazz and electronic music and still killing it at DJ sets gets old, and sometimes you just have to unwind, light up the bong, and then mic the bong to include on that rap album you’re making. Along with some Sealab 2021 dialogue, and a “Street Fighter II” sample, and production from Just Blaze and…Chilean surrealist filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky?
But wait—Flying Lotus made a rap album! I get this kind of weird visceral thrill from just the concept of the thing. But I wouldn’t have expected the record itself to take hold of my brainstem the way it has over the last week. FlyLo made a rap album…and it’s really good. It’s dense, psychedelic, and probably more or less one big joke—which puts it in a long and wonderful lineage of outre rap stretching from De La Soul to Edan and cLOUDDEAD. Especially cLOUDDEAD: the way song bits often just hover in the proximity of each other without ever cohering; the use of cheeky samples complemented by fiercely personal raps; the dialectic of buoyant joy and total indifference. The fact, also, that none of it makes much sense.
Murphy (née Ellison [née Lo]) employs his impressive cadre of collaborators judiciously on the record. Earl Sweatshirt continues his rising ascent as underground rap’s preeminent surrealist on “Between Friends,” while Madlib’s dusty funk shines on “Children of the Atom.” But on “Mighty Morphin Foreskin,” Murphy shows himself to be more than up to the task of taking on the dual role of emcee and producer. Aged, jazzy samples weave in and out of each other around the periphery of the track, while the thunderous core is just Ellison getting all unhinged over a medievally grand backdrop. He flirts with the nerdcore aspirations of fellow Adult Swim alumnus MC Chris in his choice of pop cultural references—“I’m like periwinkle Blue Manzee, like who the fuck is you, man / I’m like Ken, I punch you Shoryuken or Hadoken”—but has a convincing swagger that easily sells the material. It’s a little shocking, actually, how aggressive and all-around dominating Ellison turns out to be once he has a mic in his hand: the image one takes from an album like Until the Quiet Comes (2012) tends to be that of a careful craftsman, endlessly refining his art. But on tracks like this, we get a different image of Ellison the artist—and he sells it completely. Somehow, this all feels like it should be a lot more surprising.