Review courtesy of the Uber Max Bell.
Milwaukee’s Milo has a “big brain”– like Jimmy Neutron if he talked about Nietzsche’s Übermensch instead of science. Think of Milo as a more introspective and well read Ab-Soul for fans of Vonnegut and Phillip K. Dick. Allusions aside, he’s an intelligent, unabashedly horny ’90s baby with an inexhaustible store of knowledge (high/low culture and otherwise) and a prodigious gift for thought-provoking and brow-furrowing bars.
His come-ons are only understood by those who know the fantastic ’90s Nickelodeon game show Legends of the Hidden Temple. He swears he’s the long lost third member of Mobb Deep. And his idea of a diss is calling you out for reading “Catch-22 on a Kindle.” It’s as much a diss as it is the lamentation of the decline of print from a guy who spends his spare time reading Boethius. He’s about that life.
Whichever way you read the line, it’s one of the most apt introductions to Milo’s music, given that a lot of his rhymes exist in the space between “either/or“. They can be laughed at and dismissed in all of their self-aware jest and/or digested in every manner of seriousness. It’s the flip of a two-headed coin from a rhymer, admitted childhood coin collector, and philosophy major preoccupied with “man’s rugged duality” (“folk-metaphysics”). One who’s boarded up his basement lair, recording his fragmented and unfiltered consciousness over a sample’s hiss, and reluctantly uploading it to the interweb for PayPal dividend. If you could get paid for holding Socratic dialogues on Youtube, best believe Milo would put down the mic. Dude is not exactly Waka.
Milo’s first tape, I wish my brother Rob was here (shout out to Del), dropped back in 2011. There were beats by guys like Shlohmo, Gold Panda, Flying Lotus, and Madlib and there were tracks entitled “DAVID FOSTER WALLACE” (the only Milo title in all caps) and “Bill Murray’s Prayer.” It’s only logical that his first official label release, the double EP things that happen at day/things that happen at night, would drop on Nocando’s Alpha Pup imprint, Hellfyre Club. And it only takes a few minutes of listening to realize that Milo is both a direct descendant and peer/co-conspirator of “oddball/indie/nerdcore/art-rap” (pick one or none) rap vets/Hellfyre affiliates Busdriver—in top form on “the gus haynes cribbage league”— and Open Mike Eagle—he took Milo on his first tour, appears on the record, and is definitely Milo’s reference point for delivery.
Comparisons and similarities notwithstanding, Milo’s no carbon copy. He is, at least for now, the next generation of what the narrow-minded often refer to as “left field” rap, ready to lead a “legion of book-smart idiots” to start a cypher at the nearest fair trade farmer’s market.
His new EPs are as great as they are difficult to parse, it’s not easy to tell where one ends and the other begins. In fact, if you play them back-to-back, they sound fairly cohesive together. That’s despite the fact that the production on day is handled by Riley Lake and that night is helmed by Analog(ue) Tape Dispenser. So, for the sake of brevity, I’ll say that day is sonically a little bit lighter and brighter, a less glitchy affair, and that night is much darker, atmospheric, expansive, lush, or something (forgive the puns).
Both fall into the post-Clams Casino crowd, with some of the trappier sounds coming out of Low End Theory thrown in for good measure. But the case could also be made that many of the tracks sound like electronic inclined art-rap made by someone who listens exclusively to folk and Seals and Crofts (see “monologion”).
Good luck boxing Milo in. I’ve been listening to the EPs on repeat for days and am still reeling, still trying to synthesize what he’s talking about. He doesn’t really bother with song structure, hooks, or trying to retain any sense of cohesiveness (he even admits “wish[ing] [he] was better at songwriting”). In his unflinching monotone, Milo poisons all seemingly calm and uniform water in the “aquifer with awkward non-sequiturs. Wherever his mind wants to go, he follows. A jump from talking about Steve Martin playing the banjo to the Teenage Mutan Ninja Turtles living in the sewer is commonplace with Milo, not an oddity. Sometimes even he has trouble figuring it out: “I’m getting confused/One of these internal monologues wasn’t meant for you” (“folk-metaphysics”).
Milo’s music might seem daunting—I’ve hardly read any Bertrand Russell and had to Google Nicholas Flamel when Milo dropped his name. Some might argue that Milo sounds overly pretentious and solipsistic. After all, references to Gonjasufi’s rasp, Kierkegaard, and Arthur Schopenhauer are balanced with surrealistic visions of the floating tongue of Danny Brown and references to Cribbage, Dragonball Z and Sailor Moon, ’90s WWF icons, and Ra’s Al Ghul’s facial hair.
As far as Milo’s music being difficult, daunting, or unapproachable, I say sack up, read more, and go buy all of Aes Rock’s records—you should have them anyway. With regard to his being pretentious, he unapologetically acknowledges and owns that fact. For a man who may or may not date Don DeLillo’s daughter (I don’t know if he actually has one), being a pimp in his own rhyme equates with dropping every reference at his disposal and openly embracing his Id in the world of “meta-postmodernity.” As far as solipsism is concerned—he admits to that too—people say the same thing about Woody Allen. And, as I say to his detractors: If it came from his head, how could it not be solipsistic?
Damn, Milo—now I feel pretentious. “I just want to [write about] rap good and not sell bread sticks.” Probably should’ve made more Kitty Pryde references. So it goes.