Question in the Form of An Answer: milo’s toothpaste suburb

An Interview with the mango conversationalist pimp and young Hellfyre Club prince, Milo.
By    September 23, 2014

milo

 

Engaging and emotionally resonant music requires an unflinching inward gaze. Los Angeles via Chicago (and Wisconsin) rapper milo has always known this. Through his quasi-spoken word raps he dissects his most intimate sentiments with the same unforgiving intellect he employs when pinpointing the problems of the world outside his bedroom tent. (Yes, he has a tent in his bedroom.) His debut LP, a toothpaste suburb, is out this week via Hellfyre Club. It’s his best work to date, a mobile and moving mosaic of blood, ink, and grey matter that you should play in your car; as much a revelatory personal narrative as it is innovative homage to those in milo’s camp and their antecedents. Really, it’s the logical coda to Hellfyre Club’s 2014 indie rap coup. 

The following interview was partially conducted over breakfast at Pann’s Restaurant in Ladera Heights. milo had apple cobbler and we joked about ordering a “bottomless orange juice” for far too long. The rest of our conversation took place in my boiling Nissan on the way to milo’s place in Boyle Heights. (He’s moving soon, so you only have a few weeks left to stalk him.) We discussed a toothpaste suburb – its composition, content, inspiration, etc. – milo’s decision to drop out of college and move to L.A., misinterpretations of his art, Freestyle Fellowship, and more. Each Hellfyre Club member is generally referenced by his real name. The one and only reference to ass play was an indirect result of our mutual fascination with Kevin Gates, his raps, and his sexual predilections. For the best reading experience, read while listening to an infinite loop of MF Doom muttering, “Aight then.” – Max Bell

What’s your favorite breakfast cereal advertisement?

To me there’s only one choice, which is Cookie Crisp. Do you remember that? They would be trying to break into the spot and somebody would always get hurt and he would be falling into a vat of Cookie Crisp [while] screaming, “Cookie Crisp.” It was so macabre. What he wanted killed him, and his last words were the name of the thing killing him. It was weird.

Two-part question: 1. Do you really have a tent in your room? 2. What is your favorite Wes Anderson movie?

Yup. I have a four-person tent in my room. [My favorite Wes Anderson movie] always used to be The Life Aquatic. Then, in high school, it was The Darjeeling Limited. But nowadays it’s Bottle Rocket.

At this juncture in your life, what’s your ideal day?

The ideal day is wake up in the tent prepared to work. Streamlining the day. What I’ve noticed out here especially is that if you have a super raucous evening it’s hard to translate that next day into work. Because then you have to help old girl get home, you have to clean up, you have to do all this shit. I just like staying up insanely late working, waking up and then flipping it back around. SB the Moor has been coming over a lot; Regan has been coming over a lot. The best shit ever is when I wake up and someone is en route. A day feels good out here when I do something rap related that I couldn’t have done in the Midwest. Every day that goes by that I’m not doing that I feel guilty and bad. I was living with my ex-girlfriend, by my folks in Chicago, by my grandfather, and I gave all that up to come here for rap. So if I’m not rapping everyday I just feel like a fucking dirt bag.

What’s your favorite Busdriver album? Why?

My favorite Busdriver album is Fear of a Black Tangent because it taught me how to rap.

 What does money mean to you?

I don’t value money, but I need it. When I have it, it’s very important to me to not treat it with any value, but I need it. [The other day] I was down to 41 cents in the bank account. I should’ve had money, but I didn’t. Long story short, I just lost my mind and ripped my bathroom door off the wall and went insane. Then my roommates were like, “What’s going on?” I was just furious. I was kind of being thwarted a little bit. It’s just what I’m learning about the music business. I might’ve earned $10,000, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to get my $10,000 this week or this month. How is it that I’ve made X number of thousands, but I have 40 fucking cents?

Why should rich people by self-serve ice cream machines?

I just think that if you’re wealthy there are only two ways to justify having money. It’s either you’re helping people or you’re styling. You have to do one of two with money. You can’t just have it. That’s frustrating. I’m not styling. I don’t have money though. I get by, but I don’t have soft-serve ice cream money. The reason that I said that – are you referencing that tweet?

Yeah.

In college the ice cream machine in our cafeteria was donated by Brett Farve — from his house. I was always so pissed about that.

But you ate it anyway, right?

Yeah. When you have that freshman tour their like, ‘This is Brett Farve’s ice cream machine and he donated…’ You’re like, ‘Fuck that guy. Why does he have that?’ And I’ve always just been amazed and angry by the fact that my school was championing this device because he owned it.

You went to St. Norbert’s though. Isn’t that a liberal arts school? Why do they care about Brett Farve?

…The summer training camp for the Packers happens there.

If you were teaching an introductory philosophy course and had to pick three books for your syllabus, what would they be?

We’re definitely reading Georges Gusdorf’s Speaking, which is all about the power of language. We’re definitely going to read Signifying Rappers by David Foster Wallace and Mark Costello, which is an interesting book about the power of language as it relates to rap and sort of anticipates art rap in many ways. And then we’d read [Arthur] Schopenhauer’s The World as Will and Representation because everybody has to read that always. Or you should anyway.

Is there a part of you that regrets dropping out of college?

No. There is no part of me that regrets dropping out. I just wish that I’d never gone in the first place.

Do you think you’d be a different person if you hadn’t gone?

Yeah. I think I’d be killing it in this rap shit. I never would’ve had to write a whole bunch of papers on the side for two years for no dollars. When that started happening, I should’ve left immediately.

Have you considered going back?

I have considered going back. Because I started it, there feels like there should be a need to finish it. But it has absolutely nothing to do with college as an endeavor. It just feels like I started this thing, I should finish it.

What would a degree mean to you?

A degree would kind of be a passport. I’ve started to get into – and I want to get more into – aesthetics in an academic sense. And I would really love to be speaking more about rap in an academic way. I don’t mean that I’m trying to teach rap classes. I’m interested in exploring the aesthetics of rap from an art theory standpoint. Next month at Maine College of the Art I’m hosting a discussion on black art and process and function. And that’s the kind of shit I want to get into. So, right now, a degree would mean that people would off top probably not challenge my ideas. I know that I’m going to go into the discussion and probably have a couple of motherfuckers with attitude. But whatever.

Do you miss Chicago?

I miss Chicago every day. I moved around so much growing up, but I was born in Chicago. My family is from Chicago. I kind of felt like Odysseus going back to Ithaca. It felt like, ‘I know this place, but I don’t know this place.’ So there was just a real fucking beauty in feeling like I was home. Something that’s been weird for me is that I didn’t really think that would stick with me when I left Chicago, but it has. I just keep thinking of Chicago as home in my mind and wanting to eventually find my way back there.

Did you write a toothpaste suburb out there?

I wrote all of it out there. It was all inspired by my ex-girlfriend. I started working on the album when she and I were dating but very separated. She was staying with her dad in Phoenix and I was in the Midwest working on this album. Then she and I moved in together in Chicago and I kept working on the album. Then I finished the album and she and I broke up when I moved out here. It’s weird because the whole record kind of revolves around her and now she’s not here.

I don’t hear much of that when I listen to the album.

No one could. You would have to be an insane person to see the math for that. But it’s there in hidden ways. Even the first single “you are go(o)d to me” — the full title is “you are go(o)d to me (editorial in parenthesis)”. The editorial was an anagram of my ex-girlfriend’s name that I came up with. And I was going to do this three-song suite for her that started with that and then went into the “objectifying rabbits” cut with Michael. It was just all this shit that I thought up for my girl.

Having lived in L.A. for a short while, what’s the biggest cultural advantage? Conversely, what’s the biggest disadvantage?

Something that’s interesting out here is that I now understand where this post-racial narrative comes from. [With] people in California — especially in L.A. — there’s a very multi-racial, sort of melting pot pride, this idea of being beyond race. I know that it’s comforting to a lot of people out here. It’s interesting to see people try to contextualize L.A. as a utopia in that sense, in this post-racial sense. But being from the Midwest where everything is so stark in its racial terms I personally find it to be disconcerting.

I’m used to the Midwest, where there is a certain loyalty just off top because of who you are. I’ll go to the south side of Milwaukee, a predominately black area, and I know that I’m going to be fine. I know that no one is going to fuck with me because I’m a black dude. I know that if a white dude tried to say anything to me people there would mob him. It’s just a different vibe. Out here I don’t get that sense of, ‘We’re in this together because we look the same.’ There really isn’t that out here. So it’s an interesting advantage and disadvantage. Not to make everything very racial, but…

On Twitter you said you were going to charge people a nominal fee to bring “a mango + condiments” to wherever they are and listen to them talk about their day. How’s business?

I didn’t open my business yet – the mango condiments business. I think it’s a phenomenal idea, but I just need to get my shit together. Will you help? Are you interested? What’s up?

I’ll be your ‘mango conversationalist’ pimp, if that’s what you want me to do.

It was mostly girls that hit me up about it. (Laughs). It was mostly girls.

Has BandCamp been good to you?

Bandcamp has been the best to me. BandCamp is my grandparent who gives me way too much every holiday season.

How do you feel about people who criticize BandCamp? I’ve heard some claim that BandCamp overcharges for its services.

I don’t agree with that. I don’t think they charge too much money. That said, I think critique is always good. I just believe critique makes you better. But I don’t think BandCamp takes too much money. I think they do so much, and they’re about to unveil a whole gang of new stuff. And they just really ride for the kid. Itunes doesn’t talk to us like that.

What’s crazy for me is that I got in [BandCamp’s] circle by doing nothing. That’s why I like them so much. I was just a kid in Wisconsin selling music. I didn’t have to be in the mechanism, in the machine. I didn’t have to know anyone. And I just appreciate that. Especially now, when there are so many people I want to fuck with but I don’t know the right person to make that introduction.

What’s your second favorite Camp Lo song?

Damn. So hard. I think they might all be my second favorite, quite frankly. The thing about Camp Lo that I love more than anything, which everybody probably loves, is the slang. When I need that new slang, I’ll just farm Camp Lo songs.

What’s your favorite Kevin Gates song?

It might be “Twilight.” I love “Twilight” because I love that Kevin Gates fucks with vampires. That song has the hardest hook of all time. [In a spot-on Gates voice] “I will go to war with God for you, baby.” I would go to war with God for you? That line is some shit I would say, so I just really fuck with Kevin Gates. I love him. He’s my favorite rapper out right now.

How often do you talk to your mom these days?

Not enough. For me, especially when shit is hard, I don’t like to talk to my parents. Lately, [because of] money shit, I’ve been avoiding them just because I don’t want them to worry. My folks are poor. My family is working class. I don’t like to stress them out. They’ll just rip their hair out and not be able to help. So it’s better for me to just not tell them until shit is good. So I’ve been kind of avoiding her. But you took me to that cool spot today, so I got to text her that. She freaked out over that.

How many times have you seen Office Space?

I own Office Space on DVD. I got rid of every one I owned except for two DVDs, one of which was Office Space. So I watch that movie way too much. I probably have it memorized.

What’s the other movie?

Take a guess.

Bottle Rocket.

Nope. It’s Ghost Dog.

I love that movie.

That movie is superb. I then got the Hagakure when I came out here and read that. It’s astounding. I’ll bounce you the copy I have if you want to read it.

I’m insane and I need own every book I read.

For me, I’m all about owning the book, reading it, and then giving it away. I try not to own anything anymore. I only have three bags worth of items. All my shit can fit in your back seat.

Is Cosmopolis your favorite Don DeLillo novel?

White Noise is my favorite DeLillo novel.

Doesn’t the title a toothpaste suburb come from Cosmopolis?

Absolutely. Because what I recognized in Cosmopolis – and I don’t know if anyone who’s heard this record is going to make the connection, it’s obtuse – I feel like rap game Cosmopolis. Like how he sits in that whip all day killing it, that’s how I felt on the Hellfyre tour. We’re in this whip, moving all around, [and] I’m inside just handling rap; I get out, kill it, get back in… When I read that book I was astounded by how rap played into it. DeLillo was super up on rap. He wrote raps for that book. One of the main characters is a rapper. So I was just amazed at Cosmopolis and how cutthroat and ruthless it can be, and how in the face of abundance this guy couldn’t find meaning. So he’s roaming the city constantly. I feel like that, but the United States is the city.

Have you figured out why melancholy men are always witty?

That [line] is from Aristotle. I flipped it. He said, “Melancholy men are always witty.” So I just flipped that. I think what he’s trying to say there is the ancient adage, which is do comedians need to be depressed? Is the sadness, the difficulty, what makes the good times good?

How do you think independent artists will be able to survive going into 2015 and beyond?

It’s so interesting. Coming up in a time like this, I don’t feel the heat. I read interviews from musicians who are like, “It’s so hard to do this nowadays,” and I think, “No it isn’t.” I’m just a kid from nowhere on the Internet – let’s get it. And I’m not even that good at it. There are other people who kill this thing. If all you want to do if make a living, I think it’s easy. I think the way that you do that is by doing shows, by doing it the old-fashioned way – the way Bob Dylan did it, which is living on the road. That’s the only way to make enough money as an indie artist.

Has vulnerability always come easily in your music?

No, vulnerability has not always come easily in my music. I’m so weird about writing. I can’t write unless I’m at home, and I can’t write unless I have my desk set up in a corner. I have to be able to see every door. It’s so weird. I have to really feel secure in real life to be able to write shit.

How often do you write?

I write every single day. Suzan-Lauri Parks has that book 365 Plays / 365 Days. I read that in high school because I was super into theatre, and she just writes about the importance of writing every day. Especially when you live off of this shit, you have to make it less mystical. You have to remove the, “I don’t know where it comes from. I hope I’m ready with a pen and a paper when the ideas hit.” No. You have to make it a muscle. You have to discipline yourself. You write every day.

Do you revise your raps?

I don’t ever revise my raps. There is no editing stage. I’m a very lazy writer. It’s fast and it’s done. If I can’t write a song in an hour I usually avoid the project. If I can’t write it an hour, then I clearly don’t have anything to tell you.

Do you always have to say something worth dying for in your art?

Yes. Hell yeah. I think everybody has something worth saying that they would die over. Why are you here? You have to have a maxim. Everyone has to have a maxim. One that is demonstrable and that you can speak into existence.

What’s the maxim behind “Hot in Herre”? [Asked after going through a series of current singles (i.e. “No Flex Zone”) milo doesn’t know.]

What I hear in that is what Epicurus is talking about. I hear a hedonist treaty. I don’t mean Nelly is a clumsy hedonist either. “Hot in Herre” sounds like some fun shit. Maybe having fun is something worth dying over. I think it’s important that your art just had to be made. I want to hear necessary music. I’m kind of sick of gratuitous shit.

Is making music the best way you’ve found to deal with Rob’s death?

My music has been the best way to deal with Rob’s death. It has helped me memorialize my friend, and it’s also helped me heal to a place where I’m good. I feel good. I feel like I carry my boy on my back, and I make sure people who’ve never met him know who he is. But I really used to put Rob as the crux of my music. He still is and he always will be, but there is a lot more to talk about than death nowadays.

Do you still put stock in what the Needle Drop says about your music?

I put stock in what the Needle Drop says. But Hellfyre, something that we’ve come up with in the last year, is that we exist beyond criticism. I’m not trying to be an ass right now. I don’t know people who have the type of critical theory and aesthetic background to criticize my shit wholeheartedly, or Mike’s shit, or Regan’s shit. We kind of just don’t sweat it anymore. The good write-ups are great, they’re kind, [and] we love them. The shitty write-ups are good, they’re great, [and] they’re kind. You have a job and we have a job, and I just want to be friends with people who do their job well, whether or not they like my shit…

Really, the only people who can critique my art are in Hellfyre. These are the dudes who’ve built the aesthetic that I base mine off of. These are the guys who have lives most similar to mine. So if we like our shit, then we’re good. That’s kind of been our motto this year. I feel like it’s really helped us. This year has been our most serious year for a reason, and I feel like it’s in part because we got our minds right with how to proceed.

How involved were you with “quality control” on all of the other Hellfyre albums?

I’ve been listening to Mike’s record for two years now, since my first time coming out to L.A. I remember he had some demos to those tracks. I have driven Mike’s car and listened to his album in his car without him in it. How weird is that? I definitely weigh in on it, but that mindset I just told you about, Michael embodies that maybe the best of all of us.

Have you applied for any artist residencies?

I have applied for a few residencies, mostly in New York. I’m still waiting [to hear back]. I applied for one that’s $30,000. I’m going for it.

In your mind, what’s the difference between a scallop’s hotel project and a milo project?

A scallop’s hotel project is written without the audience in mind. Any time I can pull off a song without thinking about the audience, I’ll call it a scallop’s hotel song. It has a spirit of fun that I think my milo shit doesn’t have because I get so scared of saying something that some kid who looks up to me is going to be offended by. In real life, I’m a nigga. I’m afraid of certain white people, and my life experiences are informed by being black. And when a lot of people listen to my music I don’t think they necessarily think about that. So they stay stuff online and feel a type of way, and might feel a type of way, and I just know that sometimes I disappoint people in my milo shit. And any time I can write something and not worry about disappointing anyone that’s scallop’s hotel, it’s got a certain quality of being unconcerned. It tends to be messier.

It’s like giving yourself an MF Doom mask.

It’s wild. Tonight I have a scallop’s hotel set. What that means is that your boy is going to show up, and I’m going to have fun. Milo sets – you want some art. Scallop’s is like, “Dude, I’m just going to have fun.” For the longest time, I didn’t think I could even do that. I felt obligated to be this pious monk, almost. I love philosophy, I’m concerned about these issues, but at the same time, at a good show, I might be the one who’s louder than everyone. It just came to me that I needed a way to express that. When I went on tour in August kids would be super surprised by who I was. I think certain people need a sad avatar.

Did they expect you to be mediating under a lotus tree?

I think they just expected a dude who would be in the bathroom cutting himself. And when I wasn’t that I could tell I disappointed some people. That’s just reality. I can’t do anything about that, but that doesn’t mean I feel less bad about it.

Why did you feel the need to pay homage to Freestyle Fellowship on “salladhor saan, smuggler”?

I don’t feel that there are many young guys rapping in this way. And of the young guys rapping in this way I feel like I’m the best of them. I feel like it’s my duty as a temporary figurehead of young rap to make sure that I pay homage to the OGs. It’s very important to me that those guys know how much I respect them. It’s very important to me that [people acknowledge] rapper’s who’ve come before me, who’ve innovated, especially stylistically, content wise, and especially, with Fellowship, as black men.

People hear my music, and for so long they’ve stripped me from context. It’s like, “Oh, if Sufjan Stevens was a rapper. If Elliot Smith was a rapper.” It’s like, “No I’m not a white guy rapping. I’m actually part of a very long tradition that stems back to literally decades of brown people making this kind of art.” And to be removed from that is offensive. So now I’ve taken it upon myself. Because I can’t rely on certain people to contextualize my music properly I have to do that in my own albums. I don’t want people to hear a toothpaste suburb and compare it to a Fleet Foxes album. And that’s the kind of stuff that was happening. So it seemed like I needed to embed little reminders to people. I’m a rapper. I rap. I love rap.

It’s not that fly for people to say stuff like, “I hate rap, but I like your stuff.” I’m honored by that [and] I know what you mean, but it’s also very offensive. So I just wanted to pay homage to the dudes who’ve literally been doing this for so long… There are a lot of young kids on the Internet who think I’m this brilliant guy who invented soft-spoken rap. I didn’t, I’m not… It’s 2014 and I do that same shit that Myka 9 did in ’93.

If there’s ever a Freestyle Fellowship biopic, why should you be cast as Myka 9?

I should be cast as Myka 9 because he and I have the same hair and because I was an actor. I would go Daniel Day [Lewis] for Myka 9. I would just make people call me Myka 9 until the movie was over.

Word on the street is that you’re starting a podcast with our very own Paul Thompson. True? False? What will you two discuss? Will I be a recurring guest?

Yes, I think I am. We’ll be discussing process and function. We’re interested in discussing the day-to-day lives of artists and people who make things. Will you be a recurring guest? Absolutely. We should have a segment with you on it. I’ve been thinking about having a segment on the show called, “What the Fucking Worst is…” It’s like a two-minute thing and it’s all timing. Like out of nowhere we’ll just be like, “And here’s Max with ‘What the Fucking Worst is…”

Have you and Jill Scott gone out on a date?

No we haven’t. But I want to, and I think she wants to. We text a lot. That’s my girl. I text her selfies sometimes. It’s on that level. I love Jill. Jill Scott is kind of perfect. She’s so much fun. She has an amazing energy. When I’m working on songs around her I’m inspired to write my best. And she just does the flyest shit. I was working on a verse for her – I don’t know if I’m allowed to say that? I’m allowed to say that. I was working on a verse for her and I was stuck and she serenaded me. I was like, “I don’t know what to put here. I’m really nervous because you’re Jill Scott.” She’s like, “You don’t have to be nervous [starts singing].” She’s one of those magical people that will do out of the normal shit to make you feel excellent. And I love that. I would do anything Jill Scott asked me to do. If Jill Scott wants to get married, I’m down.

And if she asks you to eat her booty?

I would do it. No disrespect. Whatever Jill needs from me, I’ll do it.

Why is “Kelly Slater Freestyle” the best Nocando song?

“Kelly Slater Freestyle” is Nocando’s best song, in my opinion, because not enough people recognize Max B’s influence on my man James. That song is James just riding a wave that I know him in real life to personify. He really is the dude that’s rapping in the “Kelly Slater Freestyle.” And I don’t hear enough of that from him. Not to say that he’s false on recordings, because I don’t. But I think a lot of people might think he’s – before I met him I thought he was a way more aggressive dude. When you meet him in real life you’re surprised. James is the funniest, most relaxed. He’s the last dude to get aggravated. And I feel like “Kelly Slater Freestyle” really personifies that.

Where does one procure a chain-mail tunic in 2014?

Before I moved out here my Dad gave me a sword, a long sword that he ordered. It’s a battle ready replica. I had to not bring it out here because I could get pulled over and shit. That being said, I do not know where to get a chainmail tunic. But I do have a sword on the ready. What if you heard, “Rapper milo arrested for beheading local gangbangers.”

How long did you work on a toothpaste suburb?

About a year. That’s the longest that I’ve ever worked on anything.

You’ve put out a double EP (things that happen at day / things that happen at night), which is the equivalent of an album in my opinion. How long did that take you?

Maybe two months. Scallop’s Hotel is like two weeks. All of the EPs are like a couple weeks. I wrote over 30 songs for [a toothpast suburb]. I mean it’s been through so many forms. It’s the first time that I’d ever written like that – written with the idea of paring. I’d never done that before.

You did most of your writing/recording in Chicago?

I did most of the writing in Chicago and Maine. I did all recording in Chicago. Then we mixed half of it in a very small town outside of Stevens Point, Wisconsin. Then we mixed half of it in Pomona. Not Pomona, Claremont. Is that the same place? [Laughs]

It is in my mind.

I don’t think it is. But we did it in Claremont. Then [Daddy] Kev mastered it.

How did you know it was finished?

Well I thought it was done, and then I went on tour with Hellfyre Club. We played it in the van three times and I realized it was totally not done… You know, you play it for people you want to show it off to and you think of all these new ways that you could’ve shown off. So then I went back home after that tour and I wrote “salladhor saan, smuggler,” and I cut a few songs, and then I wrote the last song, “gaudeamus igitur.” So really the opening and the ending came along pretty recently.

Where do all these names come from?

The names are just as much of the art as the songs. It’s all about context. It’s all about providing the listener with a rubric with which to understand and analyze the art. Maybe a song has a certain idea, theme, or topic that isn’t necessarily apparent. So maybe the title can kind of help you out. Or all the titles together might have a meaning.

The last song is a good example. The last song is about fear. Just straight up and down, that song is about fear. It’s called “gaudeamus igitur,” which means “therefore let us rejoice” in Latin. It’s about God and fear. And in parenthesis is, “(for Kang Min-gyu).” [In] Korea there was a big boat that had like 300 students on it taking a field trip and it crashed because the guy driving it wasn’t paying attention. A lot of the kids died, a majority of them. So the principal, whose name is Kang Min-gyu, he lived. He was so ashamed that he didn’t take of those children that he hanged himself the next on school property. I was just astounded by that gesture. And I was astounded by that fear, that sense of loyalty and duty, and that once you missed your shot maybe you should just kill yourself. It seems like an important idea. What does it mean to have a job? When is it done? And the reason I bring that up is because [you asked], “How did you know it was finished?” The last song is about that. How do you know when it’s finished? How do you know when something is done? And done in what sense? Forever?

Salladhor Saan, do you know who that is? He’s a character from Game of Thrones. He’s the black dude. And he’s just a crazy pirate. He’s a crazy smuggler, and he can be anything. That’s how I feel about myself and most of the dudes in Hellfyre. I’m a rapper and I went to college, I can be anything in rap. I can rap any way. I was just impressed by his character in that. So that song has a lot of styles, it goes a lot of places.

Do you see rap more as a means of working through language or working with language?

I see it as both. On my best days, I’m working through language. On my worst days, I’m working with it. I feel like in the shit that I’m making now I feel like I finally got something to say. All the shit I’ve made before, when I listen to it I just hear like clumsy fucking academic slogans being thrown together in a way that rhymes. I don’t necessarily hear an informed unique opinion from my old music. I finally feel like the stuff that I’m making now had my own statements, codified in my own way, my own type of language, my own sensibility of language. I finally feel like I’m working through it.

Was the toothpaste suburb where you lived or a state of mind?

The toothpaste suburb is where my Dad lives and it’s also a state of mind. The toothpaste suburb is the environment that births the context that a lot of what I’m interested in makes sense in. But, nonetheless, I hate it. So I’m conflicted.

Why is Kool AD so popular with Hellfyre?

He has known a secret that it took us a long time to learn, which is that the artist has license. He’s known that for so long. I think that’s why Das Racist was so inspiring and so interesting. They came out immediately in a way that had license. They just gave themselves permission. I think our thing is that we were hustling backwards for too long. Hellfyre was trying to play by other rules. And this year I feel like has been our year of understanding that. So, to answer the question, [Kool AD] has already known that. Look at how that dude sells art on napkins for hundreds of dollars every day. He’ll tweet every single day, at least once a day, a piece of art that he’s drawn on a scrap of cardboard and he’ll sell them every day for $100 a pop. He’s done this since I’ve been rapping. That’s the shit that we would think of and then somebody in Hellfyre would like, “Nah, that looks weird,” and we would’ve talked ourselves out of it. And I’m amazed by him. He gives himself that license as an artist. He believes in his own vision. I like him as a dude and as rapper.

What’s the biggest pissing match you’ve won?

The biggest pissing match that I’ve won is probably my continued ability to live off of rap. I know that there are a lot of people who don’t like that I rap. I know that there are a lot of people who are incensed by the music I create. I feel like every day that I’m able to garner a fan base, travel, make music, [and] live off this shit I’m winning a pissing match.

Please explain “fragrant pee farts.” What are they and who should be wary of them?

You have a moment where you have to pee so badly in a public environment. You go to the bathroom, you’re alone in the bathroom, you are peeing and it feels so good and you have that moment of calm while you’re peeing. It’s very important that it be public because you’re anxious. You’ve finally got that little moment. You’re relieving yourself physically and mentally, and then just a little pee fart comes out while you’re peeing at the urinal, just that little fart. That [makes the sound of a small far]. It’s so dense and it smells so thickly. It’s like, “Why is that the symptom of this good moment?” So that’s what that song is. It’s kind of like those thoughts that come to you in that good moment, but then it’s like, “I’m smelling my own shit right now. Why is that happening?” Yeah, stupid.

“A serious and good philosophical work could be written consisting entirely of jokes.” – Wittgenstein. Do you think that explains your fascination with Vonnegut? Do you think that explains Hellfyre Club on some level?

I love that Wittgenstein line. I agree. Yeah. That explains my love of Vonnegut, and that explains my love of Mike Eagle and Hellfyre. Nietzsche says the same thing. “A joke is an epigram on the death of a feeling.” So there are certain things that we can only hint at. And some hints can only be said in the form of jokes. So there are certain things that are funny, but it’s only funny because we all really feel that.

 

 

 

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