You can’t write a story of the producer as artist and the evolution of beats without Los Angeles, and, at this point in time, you can’t write about Los Angeles’ place in the story without Flying Lotus. What’s more likely to happen – and does, a lot – is that people will write about the Los Angeles beat scene without mentioning things like Aron’s Records, or Sketchbook, or dublab. And the thing is Flying Lotus wouldn’t be where he is today if it wasn’t for all those places, parties, and people who rarely get a look in.
All of which is a long-winded way to say that, following on from the LuckyMe feature earlier this year, I’ve put together a lengthy profile of Brainfeeder (Flying Lotus’ label) for The FADER magazine. With input from Flying Lotus, Teebs, Thundercat, Kamasi Washington, Adam Stover, Daddy Kev, and Theo Jemison (whose archive photos dot the piece to great effect), it tells the story of how the label came to be, its growth and spirituality, and where it’s headed to next.
This, and much more, will be included in the book’s third act. Fun tidbit: the photo that adorns the top of the feature was one we commissioned from Theo back in 2008 for the Serie B magazine feature that started this entire project.
The context for Brainfeeder’s extended birth can be traced back to the mid-2000s MySpace era, where the beat scene incubated, as well as the communal spaces of the L.A. underground, like dublab and Sketchbook. The latter—a regular party in East Hollywood set up by local DJs Kutmah and Take—provided an early training ground for Ellison and his friends to play beats to fellow heads and build on a common belief that the music was more important than egos. Around that time Ellison was also interning at indie hip-hop label Stones Throw. “I spent a lot of time just observing how a label I respected operates,” he remembers, all the while daydreaming of a platform to push beat music. “What happens if we did stuff and it didn’t matter if there was a rapper on it?” he recalls asking himself with a slight chuckle. The idea stuck and as the momentum of his own career and the beat scene increased he decided it was time to take ownership. “There were all these European labels trying to do our sound, so why don’t we just claim it?” he says, adding after a brief pause, “some Braveheart shit, you know.” Ellison lets out a roaring laugh, the only time his voice rises to a level that could be considered loud.