When FlyLo brushed back the cape at Low End Theory several weeks ago, revealing his enigmatic alter ego of the sludgy beat-trudging rapper Captain Murphy, all you have to say is — of course. Hailing from the Coltrane lineage and at the core a self-proclaimed hip-hop nerd, Steven Ellison is the L.A. beat scene’s chief overachiever. The shift to embodying the Captain Murphy moniker, and a more holistic approach to hip-hop production, is the next logical step in the sonic saga of the lotus that flies.
The fluidity of Ellison’s production work is everywhere throughout Captain Murphy’s first mixtape release, Duality, garnished with the same seamless style of FlyLo’s songs, only with more morphing soundscapes than individual tracks. It possesses the inevitable flow of Donuts, but it’s a different sort of glazed.
A menacing aura creeps throughout the mixtape, with matter-of-fact sampled voices citing indoctrination and the spine-chilling immediacy of fulfilling prophecy. Yet the soul-seeped rhythms of tracks like “Mighty Morphin Foreskin” and the space-age synths of “Hovercrafts and Cows” ooze a jovial lust for life and languid beats. Contributions from fellow Brainfeeder compatriots Jeremiah Jae, Teebs, and Azizi Gibson give Duality a refined edge, as expansive as greater Los Angeles and the counties it engulfs. Particularly with the bossa nova jazz stylings near the end of “Gone Fishing” and the thundering baritone doom of “Gloe”, the mixtape listens like you would read a graphic novel — beats bursting with technicolor imaginings, speech bubbles crackling with cackles.
As 2012 draws to a close, Ellison has already released the lucid Until The Quiet Comes, and as his Twitter account reveals, there’s a Muprhy follow-up planned and another project in the works that “he’s not allowed to talk about.” What could it be? Our money’s on a growling, beat-infused jazz masterpiece — but all bets are off.
Essential Tracks: “Jalapenos”, “The Killing Joke”, and “Immaculation”