Steven Ellison is assembling a remarkable team. Better known as Flying Lotus and Captain Murphy, the figurehead of the label Brainfeeder, which started just five years ago in Los Angeles, has been recruiting a wave of genre-splitting producers and neo hip-hop up-and-comers to his growing base.
Preferably, Ellison looks for acts that mend both of the aforementioned sensibilities. His Captain Murphy project Duality, which came out of nowhere at the end of 2012, gathered from his impossibly deep talent pool, enlisting the help of Brainfeeder alums like Teebs to help out with production, and scoring chances for some of the label’s rappers like Azizi Gibson. What the album brought through was Ellison’s penultimate vision of shattered beats, Earthy samples, and free-falling verses that didn’t flame out in meandering stereotypes, from many voices other than his own.
One of the biggest second hands on the massive release was Chicago producer/rapper Jeremiah Jae. Stopping by his Bandcamp and SoundCloud pages, one can see an enamored workaholic at play. Jae does his due diligence as a producer and rapper, stepping over boundaries and working with a vast array of other under-the-radar acts, including as part of the Black Jungle Squad collective with rappers Kutmah, Jon Wayne, Zeroh, and Ras G. But rarely does he ever seem settled.
With Duality, Jae plays both roles. On “The Ritual,” he splits production duties with frequent Jay-Z helper Just Blaze (who has been making even more noise with Baauer), dripping with swaying soul samples before Jae stars alone on the short mind-shattering back-to-back offerings “Jalapenos” and “Gloe.” Neither scratch the two-minute mark, working well as Part A and B of Ellison’s mulled vocal, slow-drag interlude that bridges both halves of Duality together.
He’s featured again later in the album exclusively rapping, setting himself up with the aforementioned Azizi Gibson on “Immaculation” and with Ellison on “Gone Fishin’.” Each track feels naturally subdued, lacking aggressive unnecessary personal imprint rather letting the loops of soul samples swell. It surmises the suspicion that while Jae can indeed rap, he often stands out more as an exceptional producer.
Whichever way Jae decides to work, it ends up standing on its own merit with subtle experimentalism and being terrifically in tune with the past. Both of those seemingly contradictory forces come together remarkably well on his most recent release, the free Black Castle remix tape. Jae tackles the seemingly impossible sacred cow that is the Beastie Boys, twisting and contorting some of the trio’s more memorable singles into an entirely new vision. It goes without saying all too often that a “remix” is sometimes just the same track just meandering around with a different drum signature and a new sample floating through, but Jae really, genuinely reworks the legendary rap group’s tracks into a completely new form on the mixtape.
Take “Intergalactic,” the standout single from the group’s 1998 album Hello Nasty. Jae rips down the ultra-memorable robot vocal chorus and rhythm, replacing it with a horror-esque bass thump stuffed with vinyl textures and slow jazz cues. When it’s done, it stands so far away from the original that it seems like it could be an untouched alternate version stuck in the Beastie’s unreleased catalog.
Some artists take their time, flirting with new material every year or so, but Brainfeeder seems to look the other way. With Jae and Ellison, the label refuses to languish. Blink and you’ll miss new material, which remains steadily consistent since Brainfeeder’s inception. This production method fits a persona like Jae’s so well, allowing him to flourish and work within his own radically fast pace. It creates more urgency to find newer mind-swelling, distinctly fresh sounds that cater to an experimental atmosphere that’s at its best when constantly moving forward.