When an album has 27 tracks, like Flying Lotus‘ latest, it’s easy to let one or two gems fly under the radar. It’s even easier to forget about deep cuts when the album features heavyweights like Anderson .Paak, Solange, David Lynch, Toro y Moi, and more. Thus it’s not surprising that we haven’t discussed “Yellow Belly”, the Flamagra track featuring Tierra Whack enough. The Philly icon raps over Flying Lotus’ shimmering and dense production. Her voice almost sounds like another one of Flying Lotus’ production tricks. It is a dazzling song that, like everything Whack does, deserves our full and everlasting attention.
The track opens with a web of claps, snaps, twists, and glittery flourishes. Flying Lotus, real name Steven Ellison, crafts a rich and odd sonic space for Whack to occupy. Like the rest of Flamagra, “Yellow Belly” seems to cast a long shadow, not necessarily in an ominous way though. Rather, the album feels larger than life and grand. By the time Whack appears, eleven tracks into the world of Flamagra, Ellison has already turned the spotlight towards .Paak, George Clinton, and Little Dragon. These guests, as well as Ellison’s solo tracks, create a magical and fiery atmosphere. It makes perfect sense that Whack be a part of this world.
Known for being eccentric and whimsical, Whack brings her characteristic energy to the track. She first appears with a powerful “damn!” and then babies a series of “yeah yeah yeah”s before reaching her first verse. When she gets there, she talks about being told that she’s tripping because her shoes are untied. At one point she seems to stutter on the word “shoes” as if she is tripping over her words. During the chorus Whack repeatedly asks “are you a spy mister?” She asks enough and with enough fervor that you’ll find yourself questioning whether or not you are a spy. In the second verse Whack references Brainfeeder, the label that Ellison founded in 2008. The subtle vocal tricks, references, and the passion which which she delivers them make the song a top tier Tierra Whack song, let alone a Flamagra cut.
The song’s most remarkable moment is perhaps the repetition of the line “titties in his face.” It is silly, but with Whack’s delivery you can’t help but take it somewhat seriously. For an artist as sophisticated as Ellison it seem weird that such a line is featured on his album. That is Whack’s raison d’etre though. She occupies a unique space in the music world that is simultaneously goofy and profound. She turns things on their heads and turns heads while she does it. If you weren’t convinced by last year’s Whack World or the “Whack History Month” singles that Tierra Whack is a singular and necessary figure in the hip hop community, “Yellow Belly” might do the trick.
Listen to “Yellow Belly” below. Flying Lotus will play Franklin Music Hall on Thursday, August 29th. Find tickets and more information on the XPN Concert Calendar.
Flamagra is out now via Warp Records.
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