GRAMMY-winning rapper Lupe Fiasco and Orlando producer Kaelin Ellis released their collaborative EP HOUSE via 1st & 15th / Thirty Tigers. The EP came together by chance — on May 5th, Lupe was tagged on Twitter in the replies of a Tweet from Kaelin Ellis, a rising producer who had been posting clips of himself creating beats in lockdown. Reading “Get this to @LupeFiasco somehow,” Lupe listened, liked the beat, screen recorded Kaelin’s video, dropped it in GarageBand, freestyled over the beat, exported it in Quicktime, then Tweeted the song just a few hours after he first saw the mention.
The two then began interacting over Twitter, Kaelin sending beats to Lupe, who rapped over the tracks he liked. A few weeks later they had a 5 song EP titled HOUSE, referencing that the two had created the collaborative EP locked down in their respective houses.
For the album art, Lupe and Kaelin were inspired by iconic Columbia Records jazz album covers like Dave Brubeck’s Time Out and Charles Mingus’ Mingus Ah Um. The art on HOUSE features a painting of “The Glass House” painted by Peter Gellatly, the father of Lupe’s friend Sky. Peter recently died of COVID-19 — in the album’s liner notes, Sky Gellatly eulogizes his father, and includes a story about how Peter was a Merchant Marine who once sold a boat to the government of Nicaragua, then rode a motorcycle through Central America back to the US, returning with the money he’d use to build Sky’s childhood home.
For the EP’s first track “HOMME MADE,” Lupe had his friend Virgil Abloh speak about the concept of a house — Virgil has a Master of Architecture, and Lupe wanted to present an architect’s perspective. Abloh is also featured on the song “SHOES,” where he describes hypothetically designing the shoes that Ahmaud Arbery was wearing when he was murdered. The song “DINOSAURS” is about how we could be on the brink of another mass extinction, and “SLEDOM” (“models” spelled backwards) is a critique of the modeling industry. The final song “LF95” is the original track Lupe recorded that set this project into motion.