L+T: So is that primarily why your label, Brainfeeder, came about—having to operate outside of the machine?
FL: Brainfeeder started because I lived in the same building with a bunch of amazing artists, like Samiyam and Teebs. And it’s like, “Well, shit, all of these other little labels are trying to capitalize off of what we’re doing. Why not just do it ourselves? Build our own thing?” It started that way. It gets bigger every year and it hasn’t stopped. It’s so interesting because every record, every artist is different. The way we do the campaigns and go about everything is always different—having to change the formula of how we operate every time because there’s no rules anymore. There’s no one way because the kids are hungry and they want it.
L+T: Tell me about L.A. From an outsider’s perspective—a New Yorker’s—it seems like the more progressive hip-hop is coming out of L.A. Was it bubbling this whole time and we were just ignoring it?
TC: Yes. Coming from a real broad perspective, I’ve just been watching the same energy just float around. It’s almost like a fog. When you’re there, you just gotta go, “This is a lot of stuff.” There’s been a few times when I’ve said to a couple of my friends, “You come to L.A. to get your change and go.” It’s kind of like L.A. has always been like that. We were talking about the machine earlier—you look at the things that have come out of L.A., so people are expecting the next N.W.A, like, “What ever happened to Eazy E?!” Not hating on my bro, but he’s dead. That happened. Appreciate it for what it was. There’s new stuff.
FL: Also, too, the community thing in L.A. is really interesting because it’s a lot of supportive cats around—a lot of people in different camps working together. It’s something I don’t really see in many places. And I always wonder how come there wasn’t a real strong, supportive community in New York, especially with the beat music thing and a lot of underground hip-hop. You got your little camp here, your little camp there, and no one fucks with nobody.
L+T: Maybe it’s the old “King of New York” thing?
FL: You know what, though? One thing I’ll say about New York is the hustle here is unbelievable. People from New York come out to L.A. and rule. [Laughs] They run shit. Anyone who comes to L.A. can get whatever they want because L.A. people have this “pace.” A New York person is gonna be like, “Hey [claps hands], we’re gonna do it like this.” And then it’s over, like, “Ok, we’ll do that because he knows what he wants.” It’s a really interesting thing seeing the dynamics between the coasts. But yeah, it’s the community thing that makes L.A. super special.
TC: For me, being a guy that comes from a lot of different things, it is as simple as that. Sometimes, there’s a lot of a want to see somebody succeed, like, “Oh, what are you doing? Ok, then don’t let me be a roadblock.” It’s not to say everyone has that mentality but at the same time, it’s like a fog almost—the fact that there’s so much love in what everybody does. If you were to come to L.A., you could immediately grab what you want because it’s right in front of you. There’s a spirit in L.A. that’s pretty awesome.
L+T: How does the geography play into it all? New York is compact yet was so divisive for a long time, while L.A. is spread out.
TC: Man, it’s almost like there’s catacombs.
FL: [To Thundercat] You gotta say, because you’re the driver.
TC: It’s almost to say there’s these underground tunnels and it’s like catching the subway—you can get anywhere you want if you know where you’re going. The community’s real spread out, but it’s almost like it forms like Voltron. [Flying Lotus] does stuff by himself, and by himself, he’s this monstrosity. And then there’s me and him—together, it’s like an atomic explosion. And then there’s me, him, and Ronald—my brother, he’s a drummer. You put us together, we’ll set the stage on fire. And then there’s the whole orchestra. Everything has its little center point. And you can find it. Some people can’t, I guess, because they’re trying too hard to convey their message in whatever way they are. But a lot of times, geography-wise, you can be from Long Beach, you can be from Bakersfield—which Mono/Poly is, he’s from Bakersfield—but it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t even exist a lot of times. Sometimes that drive may be annoying to somebody, like, “Aww man, that’s like $20 in gas.” But it’s a whole agenda…
FL: Visiting a homie out here, picking up some incense, heading to the record store, etc…
L+T: Last thing, Thundercat: the headdress.
TC: The first time that headdress was worn was here in New York at The Roots Live Jam and JAY Z came at the end of the night. It was at Radio City Music Hall [ed note: in 2006]. And Briana [Cartwright] from J*Davey wore it on stage. And after that she gave it to me. And it’s not that I’d wear it everywhere, it would just come out when it was supposed to, basically.
FL: And since the video, man, it’s just part of the character.
TC: It’s been coined. It has its own life. It’s definitely there.