It’s stories like this one that warm my heart, man. Just a beautiful little journey in chance happenings and interactions that manifest into wild opportunity, dream collaborations and awesome music. To think, Kaelin Ellis simply shared a quick video showcasing the process of creating an instrumental – his intentions pure, his goal to get the music out there via the lovely outlet that is Twitter. And BOOM! Along the way, Lupe Fiasco catches wind of the beat, feels a connection, pulls the audio from the video and flips it into a freestyle.
The rest, as they say, is history. And today, history comes in the form of HOUSE, the 5-track EP courtesy of Lupe Fiasco and Kaelin Ellis. Created through virtual interactions and some majestic teamwork, HOUSE showcases the technical mastery of Fiasco while shining a vibrant spotlight on the eclectic skill possessed and harnessed by Ellis.
Ah, the wonders of quarantine.
In addition to our main protagonists, HOUSE includes features from Virgil Abloh, Crystal Torres and Graham Burris. The EP is available now on all your favorite streaming platforms.
Enjoy our #HxppyThxxghts on HOUSE below.
“HOMME MADE” (feat. Virgil Abloh)
HOUSE begins with a bit of dialogue from Virgil Abloh, who talks over Kaelin’s barely there production. The opening track has a dream-like essence to it, with Ellis’ spacey notes filling the void that exists between Virgil’s commentary. Through a discussion of art history, homes and the underlining idea that everything in our world is man made, “HOMME MADE” sets the tone for what’s to come – a thought-provoking, free-flowing descent into layered observations and the dangers of being human. “HOMME MADE” concludes with a jarring question: what’s more dangerous than that? Although asked rhetorically, Abloh and Ellis leave the listener lost in thought as they float into the soundscape of the Universe.
“DINOSAURS” (feat. Virgil Abloh)
And then, Lupe Fiasco arrives on the scene. “DINOSAURS” is smooth…like really smooth. This is a trait that envelops the entirety of the EP – Fiasco, as we all know, can rap. His ability to tell stories with his lyrics has been apparent for years now but it still feels striking to witness the ways he weaves words and phrases together. When you add the production of Ellis to the mix, we’re left with a viable tag-team that, fingers crossed, hopefully continue to work alongside each other as we move into the future.
The surface of “DINOSAURS” sees Fiasco rapping about just that – dinos. The technical and intricate prose dances with our perception of the ancient creatures, tying in scientific and pop culture references like it was nothing. It’s just a whole entire track about dinosaurs, right? Well, likely not – in typical Lupe fashion, “DINOSAURS” contains layered depth beneath the surface. Really, the entire project feels like Fiasco keeps it simple on the surface while he speaks in vibrant tongue about deeper subject matter. It’s a beautiful ride because it leaves a lot open for interpretation, allowing the record to connect differently with each listener. You can vibe to this one and simply be amazed by Fiasco’s poetry or you can dig around and see what you uncover within the rhymes.
Ellis shines with the jazzy instrumentation, keeping a slick vibe accompanying Lupe on his prehistoric flow. It’s a fun beat to get lost in – a little floaty, simultaneously warm and cool, dipping its toes in some enigmatic vibrations.
“SLEDOM” (feat. Crystal Torres & Graham Burris)
In the blink of an eye, Fiasco takes us from dinosaurs to models – HOUSE covers a lot of ground, both above and beneath the surface. “SLEDOM” keeps the smooth aura flowing, this time slipping into a soulful embrace along the way.
“SLEDOM” is all about modeling and the different ways being a model can blossom into a career. Fiasco spends time pointing out the various forms of modeling that exist in the world, paying special attention to the fact being a model does not mean one has to lose their dignity. In a world where OnlyFans is popping off and sex work as a whole is becoming an increasingly hot topic, “SLEDOM” reveals the many purposes modeling can touch on aside from showing off the naked body. Of course, one has to be careful not to fall into a trap or be deceived by agencies. There are warnings about sex trafficking, cultural observations and a whole lot more going on throughout “SLEDOM” – again, we get a thought-provoking cut that makes one wonder if there is a message beyond the financial and personal losses and gains that come from a career in the world of modeling.
Serious daps and pounds to Crystal Torres for the silky intimacy of the chorus on this one. Phew. Like a warm knife through butter, it just melts over Ellis’ production.
“SHOES” (feat. Virgil Abloh)
“SHOES” served as the pre-release single for HOUSE and it certainly got people talking about the EP. The powerful and timely record is saturated with metaphors and symbolism – of all the tracks on HOUSE, “SHOES” might be the most blatantly conceptual record. Over the course of the song, Lupe and Abloh – through lyrics and speech, respectively – paint vivid imagery connecting waiting in line for the release of new shoes to the death of Ahmaud Arbrey. It’s evident the song rings true to more than just the murder of Arbrey, but his story fits most poignantly due to the fact he was out for a run when he was killed.
The song is most certainly polarizing – I don’t expect many people to sit in the middle on this one. Either you’ll like the song and concept or you won’t. Since the release, I’ve had people close to me deem it offensive or insensitive while others praised the storytelling and symbolism emanating from the track. As always, music is subjective *shrug*.
From my perspective, “SHOES” not only once again demonstrates how engagingly pristine the collaboration between Fiasco and Ellis is, it also does an exceptional job tying modern and historical realities to our current pop-culture and fashion trends. There’s an energy present in Lupe’s delivery that makes “SHOES” feel important – when that energy couples with the content and nature of the song, “SHOES” begins to stand out as a moment in time.
Kaelin crafted a wonderfully reflective soundscape, one that floats and rolls along as if it was suspended in midair. It feels hopeful yet melancholy, bouncing smoothly as Fiasco and Abloh take turns offering up their commentary.
“LF95” (feat. Virgil Abloh)
“LF95” was the product of a Twitter interaction and the catalyst that led to the creation of HOUSE. Fiasco breaks down how the song was made and proceeds to drop off some streams of consciousness. While the whole EP is a display of it, “LF95” is like an explosion of Fiasco’s technical skill. Over the course of the song, he’s rapping about nothing and everything all at once. And it all fits perfectly within the confines of the song. It feels care free but purposeful – a refreshing listening experience.
When you listen to “LF95,” it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Fiasco would jump at the chance to rhyme over Kaelin’s production. Lupe may be Lupe, but you can feel there is something unique and special about Ellis’ production – like the lyrical content, it feels free. In a world full of people imitating other creatives, Ellis steps up with a sound that stands out from the pack. And Fiasco proceeds to hop aboard and take it all to another level.
Lupe Fiasco and Kaelin Ellis make for a great and natural tag-team. A connection that was forged organically, the duo seem to have an innate ability to play off each other’s strengths. I’d love to hear the production Ellis sent over that Lupe opted not to use, but the five beats featured on HOUSE allow for Lupe to piece together a web of concepts that are all tied together but somehow remain independent. It feels like there is a lot of social commentary littered throughout HOUSE, some more obvious than others, and it’s all presented in a manner that is far from forceful.
As noted above, HOUSE feels free. It’s two artists coming together to create – a pure display of artistic and personal expression. There’s a lot going on and fortunately Lupe has a keen ability to say a lot and make it sound good. This EP is going to be a fun one to sit with time and time again as you try to uncover hidden Easter eggs, pick apart the prose and attempt to decipher the layered messages contained within Fiasco’s rhymes.
And Kaelin Ellis. I mean, c’mon. The production on HOUSE is so beautiful – it’s emotive, endearing and level headed. Aside from Lupe’s storytelling, Ellis manages to design wondrous soundscapes with his instrumentation, taking Lupe’s prose and adding even greater life to it all.
The stars aligned on this one. Here’s to hoping they continue to align and we hear more from the team of Lupe Fiasco and Kaelin Ellis as history moves forward.