Flying Lotus is probably one of the more prolific artists of our generation. His music, to me anyway, is always fresh and different from a lot of what's played on mainstream radio. But even though I think his music is exceptional, there's something especially gripping about his music videos.
Two in particular stand out, the first being, Until The Quiet Comes (directed by Kahlil Joseph) and the second, Never Catch Me (directed by Hiro Murai). Now even though these videos were directed by two different people, they have one major theme and symbol in common.
They both explore death as an escape from the environment the characters inhabit in their respective videos. Death in these Flying Lotus videos isn't something that's told from the perspective of those who mourn but from the ones who have passed on.
In the video Never Catch Me (feat. Kendrick Lamar), we're presented with a funeral service for two young children*, there's a somber and sad tone throughout the early parts of the video but as soon as they open their eyes (a jarring image, itself), they hop out of the caskets and dance up and down the aisle between the pews.
The children dance all their way out of the church, unnoticed by those attending the funeral and this lets us know that the kids that are dancing aren't the physical children but their spirits leaving this world for another one. The video ends with the children driving a hearse off towards the horizon.
Both of these things are important when comparing them to the second video, Until The Quiet Comes.
Kahlil Joseph's Until The Quiet Comes** is, well, to put it bluntly, arresting and alarming. It's a shock to the system. The first shot of the short sets the tone. Joseph immediately lets the viewer know that the content of the film is going to be challenging and thought provoking.
Joseph gives us images that we need to analyze after we experience them. It's a lot easier to ask questions while watching this short (as well as the previous one) but in reality, Joseph asks the audience the questions. He wants us to answer the "what" and the "why" behind the video. He hits us with a harsh reality and makes us face death, or more importantly the afterlife.
Much like Never Catch Me, the short ends with one of the characters dancing into a vehicle that drives them off-screen. It's obvious there's a relation to both of these images but it's important to unpack what they mean.
Kahlil Joseph and Hiro Murai (and by extension FlyLo himself) explore the freedom that comes in death. These videos show us this freedom by putting the emphasis on the dancing that occurs after the characters have passed on.
This says a lot about the current world we live in and the way it can be seen as something that isn't filled with that kind of joy or happiness. FlyLo and his videos challenge us, yes, but they also try to send this message of acceptance. The content of these two videos let us accept death as something that is a part of life instead of something that just happens at the end.
As someone who has dealt with death, it's a hard emotion to navigate. When someone you love leaves, it's almost hard to not react selfishly. "This person is out of my life, I will never get to see them again, etc." And while these videos show a little bit of that "selfishness" they focus on those who've passed on instead of those who haven't.
It's almost as if FlyLo is giving us some visual relief. It's like his videos tell us that there's another journey after the one we are currently experiencing.
*The imagery of children in caskets is striking because -- as you should know -- our country has a problem when it comes to the killing of black youth. You can argue with me about circumstances, or rights, or whatever you want, I don't care. But it doesn't change the fact that over the past couple of years, unarmed children/people of color have been killed in our country. There's something that aches and burns and tightens inside of me whenever I think of those recent events. And honestly, watching this particular video (Never Catch Me) was one of the hardest things to do. I can still remember the first time I saw it, I watched it with my ex-girlfriend on her cell phone where we sat in tears well after the video ended. It's beautiful and it's tragic. It's a reminder of why art is important.
**Kahlil Joseph is a genius. This short is masterfully crafted and, honestly, I could probably write a whole card on it. The way it's edited, the meaning of the images, and the symbolism within all of it. But the real reason for this endnote is to emphasize the fact that both of these videos deal with the death of members within the black communities. Joseph, unlike Murai, alludes to the cause of death. He really wants us to look inside of ourselves in order to understand the causes and meaning behind what's going on in the video. There's so much to unpack here that one endnote can't cover it. So, all I'll say is that it's definitely a short that deserves repeat viewings.