Flying Lotus was born Steven Ellison on October 7, 1983, in Los Angeles, California. He is the grand-nephew of the late jazz pianist Alice Coltrane, whose husband was saxophonist John Coltrane. Additionally, he is the grandson of singer-songwriter Marilyn McLeod, who is notable for having written Diana Ross's "Love Hangover" and Freda Payne's "I Get High (On Your Memory)" and is Alice Coltrane's sister. McLeod has been called by one writer "the biggest influence on Ellison's music". A DNA test revealed that Ellison descended from the Tikar people of Cameroon.