Speaking of Cali hip-hop, two of the most important figures in the contemporary L.A. rap scene, Kendrick Lamar and Flying Lotus, just revealed a surprising new collaborative single. The pair embody two of the dominant themes that have been bouncing around it recently: on one hand, a nostalgia-tinged re-engagement with the city’s gangsta rap history, and on the other, a psychedelic deconstructionist movement, influenced by cosmic free jazz, that’s doing to the boom bap what Ornette Coleman did to bebop. They may seem like artists with very disparate goals, but “Never Catch Me” shows that they’re more compatible than they may seem on the surface.
The new track, which premiered last night on LA’s Power 106, starts off in the hazy, jazzy mode that Flying Lotus has made his trademark, which doesn’t seem like much of a challenge for Lamar’s skills. Partway through, though, FlyLo’s drum ‘n’ bass obsession rears its head and the song turns into a frenetic tangle of skittering beats and zigzagging bass, like a ’70s jazz funk record being played back at double speed. Lamar, living up to his reputation for being at the top of the rap game right now, doesn’t miss a beat.