Brainfeeder, the tastemaking electronic/jazz/hip-hop label run by beatmaker Steven “Flying Lotus” Ellison, is celebrating it’s 10th year with a massive four-LP retrospective. Titled Brainfeeder X, the 36-track collection of hits and rarities (due November 16th) is a look at the gamechanging catalog of this lateral-minded beat collective.
“I think it’s important because at this point I feel like we’ve gained a lot of new fans who weren’t necessarily around for the beginning. And it’s a good way to kind of educate, I guess, the casuals,” says Ellison with a laugh. “That’s the best way to put it. It’s a good way to lure in the casuals and get everyone up to speed.”
Though the comp reaches across the label’s history — Thundercat, Tokimonsta, Lapalux, Iglooghost, Ross From Friends and Lotus himself are all represented — the 17 tracks on Volume 1 are less a “greatest hits” and more an overview wrangled by Ellison, label manager Adam Stover, PBDY and FlyLo manager Dominic Smith.
“I think more than anything it was just for the cuts that we love in the end,” says Ellison. “The cuts that really resonate with with us and with the fans. … It was the kind of thing where we’re on schedule and we’re like, ‘Yo, who wants to be part of it,’ first off, and then, ‘Who do we beg?'”
Brainfeeder X leans heavily on the more beatcentric end of things, but the label has found some of its biggest recent success by being at the vanguard of a collective rediscovery of jazz — releasing Kamasi Washington’s critically acclaimed three-disc breakthrough The Epic in 2015. Though Washington doesn’t have a track on the comp, bassist Thundercat, keyboardist Brandon Coleman and violinst Miguel Atwood-Ferguson all represent the label’s more freewheeling forays.
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“It’s such important music and I’m very grateful to have been a witness and to have had my own personal experiences of falling in love with this music in a room with like five people in it,” says Ellison.” I’m hearing these crazy-ass solos, you know, like the whole Kamasi Washington band is in there and like there’s nobody in there. I remember those days. I remember that feeling and then going to see him at like a big ass stadium-sized gig and just thinking, ‘Wow, everybody’s feeling that same thing that I felt back then right now like on a massive level.’ And so it’s really amazing, it makes me really happy.
“Early on, I think I just had very humble hopes for all of this stuff,” says Ellison. “I was like, ‘Yo if I could live in a studio apartment and just make my shit, I’ll be the happiest guy alive.’ I have like a Honda Civic, you know what I mean, that was all I wanted. That was it. So every day is a fucking blessing.”