2010: "Zodiac Shit" by Flying Lotus

50 Years of Hip-Hop

Roddy Nikpour revisits 2010 with the track "Zodiac Shit" by Flying Lotus.


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Roddy Nikpour revisits 2010 with the track "Zodiac Shit" by Flying Lotus. His short yet spastic instrumentals double down on experimentation with electronic sounds, which defined the sonic brand of the TV network Adult Swim. 

Written and produced by Roddy Nikpour

Edited by Emily Fox

Transcription below.

I was already a fan of instrumentals before I discovered Flying Lotus. For a lot of people, though, the trippy video for “Zodiac Shit” turned them on to his sound. That’s because it was animated by Adult Swim, the branch of Cartoon Network that creates adult-oriented content (including newer shows like Rick and Morty and older shows like Space Ghost). 

FlyLo has been producing beats since at least 2006 with his debut album 1983. It was just a few years after that when he responded to Adult Swim’s open call for musicians to score the network bumpers (the little branded segments in between actual shows). FlyLo submitted his stuff, and he was in. That was the beginning of his ongoing relationship with the network. 

His glitchy wallpaper music helped define the audio aesthetic for Adult Swim. Many of the bumpers don’t have any other sound at all—just some kind of sarcastic joke or text on the screen while you’re jamming along to FlyLo’s beats. His sound became so hypnotic and signature to the network that it spread back to the parent company, Cartoon Network. You can hear his music in the credits of an episode of Adventure Time

FlyLo’s third studio album Cosmogramma came out in May 2010. Later that year, Adult Swim released a music video for “Zodiac Shit.” In so many words: It’s trippy as hell. Big “third eye” vibes. One of the most jarring visuals features a rabbit bursting into flames, revealing its muscly interior. My favorite part is a certain beat drop when a demon starts vomiting sparkles. 

FlyLo’s relationship with Adult Swim doesn’t stop at bumpers and music videos. He’s been working with them for so long now that the artist himself has made cameos in cartoons. 

In 2012, FlyLo created a rap persona called Captain Murphy and released a collaborative mixtape. So, it’s no surprise that Adult Swim released an animated short called “The Birth of Captain Murphy,” composed of the same vivid colors and gross-out energy that you see in their regular programming. 

More recently, FlyLo’s love of animation has made a splash beyond Adult Swim. In 2021, he wrote the music (and even the story) for a Netflix series called Yasuke, a short anime series based on a real African samurai in feudal Japan. FlyLo produced the entire original score, which also features other artists like Thundercat and Denzel Curry. Mind you, this isn’t the first time we’ve seen an anime scored by a hip-hop artist (viz. Samurai Champloo, which features music by Nujabes, who we’ll be covering later in our 50 Years of Hip-Hop series.) 

Ultimately, Flying Lotus has produced music that has pushed Adult Swim toward more experimental visuals and defined an animated aesthetic for a generation of adults who love cartoons. “Zodiac Shit” was a milestone in this legacy. 

And hey, I’d expect no less from someone who’s a descendent of Alice Coltrane, wife of the one and only John Coltrane. I guess innovation and desire for experimentation just run in the family. 

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