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Duality by Captain Murphy


Album: Duality

Artist: Captain Murphy

Rating: 4 / 5

by Jason Walsh


In a lot of ways, Captain Murphy’s debut mixtape, Duality, is your typical rap mixtape. It was uploaded to the Internet without very much fanfare. It was posted on DatPiff, the (self-proclaimed) authority in free mixtapes. It’s overly long (over 70 minutes) even though most of the songs are only a minute or two (there are 31 of them).


Practically every song has a guest producer, featured rapper, or both. The sound of water bubbling while plants burn is omnipresent and glues most of the tracks together. It’s stuffed full of half-baked skits and obscure audio samples, including a lot of what we can safely assume are violent scenes from movies which now lack the visuals of violence.


In a lot of other ways, Duality is a supremely peculiar mixtape. It turns out that Captain Murphy is the nom de rap of Flying Lotus, the maven of electronic / experimental / trip-hop / jazz who’s put out four critically lauded albums in the last six years. Reflecting Captain Murphy’s roots (as Flying Lotus) in production, the second half of the mixtape is the first 16 songs again, this time without vocals – another odd trait for a rap mixtape.


While almost half the tracks are produced by Flying Lotus (probably why he gave up trying to keep Captain Murphy’s identity a secret), the guest producers include Just Blaze, Madlib, SAMIYAM, Teebs, and TNGHT – all big names as far as qualified rap goes (where the qualifier can be one or more of experimental, indie, trip, underground, et al).


The overarching theme of the tape also sets Duality off in a strange place of its own. The 43 second opener, which is a vocal sample of someone reading in the tone of a self-help book, starts off by asking “Don’t you want devoted followers?” and ends 30 seconds later with “Don’t you want to become a cult leader? Since the death of God there’s been a vacancy open. You can fill that void. Here’s how,” and the beat of the second track comes in.


This is where we get to actually hear Captain Murphy rap for the first time. He raps in a deep, husky voice with a laid-back flow. Production effects are applied to the vocals, making them deep and distorted or high pitched at times. He switches between speeds and cadences better than most experimental trip-hop producers venturing into rapping for the first time; he also raps better than plenty of dedicated rappers. Vocally and stylistically, comparisons to Earl Sweatshirt and the more laid-back versions of Tyler, The Creator are appropriate.


The most common song structure on the mixtape is to rap dense wordplay non-stop for about a minute, and then bring back the movie samples for a fade out or transition to the next song (if anybody finds a chorus on this thing, please let me know).


After 75 seconds of rapping on “Mighty Morphin Foreskin” we get the same voice from the intro saying “Driven to manipulate. Fueled by egomania. Charismatic. How do cult leaders control the minds of others, and which of them is most evil?” The last six words get pitch-shifted down into a Jigsaw-style voice, just in case we didn’t get the implication that the answer is Captain Murphy.


Then the beat drops out and we get a different sample, saying, “Planet Earth is about to be recycled. Your only chance to survive is to leave with us.” Then the beat comes back and we fade out for a minute and a half. At three minutes and thirty seconds, “Mighty Morphin Foreskin” is one of the longest songs on the mixtape, but it’s completely emblematic of the style and song structure.


Elsewhere we get Captain Murphy rapping a line about virgin sacrifices and then the beat drops out and a sample of what sounds like a 50’s B movie goes “before the moment of death the brand of Satan was burned in her flesh” and then we get to enjoy the audio of a bunch of screams. Repeat ad nauseum.


By which I mean, if you’re into classic rap it’s not ad nauseum at all. Duality is a truly excellent mixtape. Captain Murphy proves himself a surprisingly good rapper and the production is as awesome as you would expect from anything Flying Lotus touches.


The overarching concept of being a cult leader links Duality to a tradition of ridiculous concept hip-hop albums which includes Deltron 3030’s self-titled debut (and only) album (about living in a future where corporations rule the world), Handsome Boy Modeling School’s So…How’s Your Girl? (nominally about attending a male modeling school and peppered with vocal samples about doing just that), and Kool Keith’s Dr. Octagonecologyst (about being an extra-terrestrial, time traveling gynecologist).


If you like any of those albums, if you like Flying Lotus, or if you just like rap and are open to a little bit of weirdness, do yourself a favor and grab Duality.


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