Flying Lotus‘s epic You’re Dead! caused a bit of a stir among jazz heads last year–was it jazz? Was it hip-hop? Was it something else entirely?

At a panel on “the year in jazz” with the New York Times‘ Nate Chinen and the Wall Street Journal‘s Larry Blumenfeld (among others), an audience member (no, it wasn’t me) asked why the album hadn’t appeared on any of their year-end top ten lists. The four journalists present all pretty much agreed that it fit in as a descendant of 70s fusion, but for some reason (cough marketing cough) it just hadn’t been jazzy enough to merit comparison to the year’s other, more traditionally “jazz” records.

One of the reasons that its omission from the jazz conversation is so notable is that the album features not just Brainfeeder stalwarts StephenThundercat” Bruner and Kamasi Washington, but also legendary jazz pianist Herbie Hancock.


Okayplayer contributor Sama’an Ashrawi got the chance to speak with Herbie about his work on the album after Flying Lotus’s You’re Dead! listening party in L.A., and then pursued an interview with Thundercat to get more details on what the trio’s collaboration was like — watch the video of both interviews below.

Sama’an told us the story of how he got the scoop:

There was a small after-party of sorts and Herbie strolled in all nonchalant like he isn’t Herbie F’ing Hancock. We talked jazz for a good 5-7 minutes (he told me about seeing Sun Ra play in NYC in the 70s) and then I asked if he wanted to talk about working on the album on camera, and he said he would.

In the interview, he talks about working with Thundercat on what would eventually become “Tesla” / “Moment of Hesitation,” so I knew I had to get Thundercat’s take. Thundercat is an elusive person, I’m pretty sure he just apparates when he needs to get somewhere. So I also knew getting him to sit down for a few minutes wasn’t going to be easy.

After running into him a few times in LA, emailing him, and so on, we finally ran into each other at breakfast at Roscoe’s off Pico, the morning after his performance on Colbert with Kendrick and Anna Wise and Terrace Martin. He was like “Duuuuude! Come over tonight so we can do this interview.”

So the moral of the story is: if you want to get something done in LA, go for chicken and waffles first.

Listen to “Tesla,” “the spark of the album” according to FlyLo himself, and “Moment of Hesitation” (where he got to “introduce [Herbie] to Dilla’s music/sample flips”) below.


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