Youngest, most recentest signee to raplabel Hellfyre Club, milo, rapdude, has just released a double EP called Things That Happen At Day / Things That Happen At Night. So I thought it would be a good tme to catch up with him. I started paying attention to him sometime last year, when Shlohmo retweeted one of his songs (on a Shlohmo beat) and about a week later, Baths did the same thing (except on a Baths beat). That milo guy had to be on to something. Turns out it’s pretty close to what I’m on, so we had a nice time catching up.
His first tape was dedicated to the memory of his friend Rob and it showed a lot of melancholic musings gathered around production mainly issued from the LA beat scene. The new double EP is dedicated to his dad, and it’s a lot more geared towards serving his own writing style, while still hashing out the little things that tickle his brain. Better yet, it features all original production and it’s a an all original year, so head on over to Bandcamp to check it out, and figure out what’s going in that lively young mind of his.
Gnou: Can you start by introducing yourself for the kids out there that have never heard of you?
milo: My name is Rory Ferreira, I’m 20 and in school for philosophy in Wisconsin. I rap as milo. No one ever spells it all lower case tho. I grew up in Maine listening to Open Mike Eagle, Busdriver, and Neil Young. I think Arthur Schopenhauer is the greatest philosopher of all time. I’m really boring. That’s about it?
Gnou: So I take it that by “boring” you mean the Heideggerian Alltäglich, that you’re unique like everyone else… Or else, what is there to rap about?
milo: Oh dip. I’m speaking with a kinsman, I had no idea!
I don’t think I’m talking about being a bore in a Heideggerian sense, no. But I do wish I knew more German. It seems, to me, anyway that a lot of people think my songs are mostly about myself. Certainly topically they come off that way but as a Schopenhauerian I don’t really take much credit for whatever realm songwriting exists in. It seems like I just act as this diviner. The human experience isn’t unique so much as a shared construct. We’re all objectivized pieces of will experiencing inner turmoil because “desire” and “intellect” can’t get along.
I want to rap in a way that follows a dialectic I think Borges set down. He’s sort of calmly exploring all sorts of large-bin-categories like “existence” and he’s trying really hard to write 1 good poem. Which is why you might read several Borges poems that have the same line or concept and be like, “what is this shit?” and that’s really because his concern was to write 1 good poem. Maybe I’ve been over using the subjective narrative to try to write my 1 good song.
Rap is cool. It presents people like me an opportunity to explore topics that might be already played out in other genres. In particular– metaphysics. The task at hand becomes to do this in a way that feels genuine, honest and is about asking questions and not giving answers. Listening to rap that comes off as preachy or instructive is awful. Like General Akbar said, “it’s a trap.”
And girls. Girls deserve lots of songs. In particular my girl, Amanda, she deserves more songs than I am currently writing for her. That’s one of my favorite attributes about Neil Young, his approach to writing is so anti-discursive, so straightforward, where he comes along and is like “Damn, my car needs a song” and instead of crouching it in a lot of jibjab bullshit he just writes “Long May You Run.”
So, in a sense, this dialectic comes in now. Which is absolutely Hegelian (Schopenhauer would be pissed at me) of thesis, antithesis, synthesis. And basically: how can I explore these big-bin-categories in a Schopenhauerian/Borgesian method while still talking about like… wanting a girl to send me nudes, or the nature of advertising, or whatever.
Gnou: I did notice in your past albums, and to a lesser extent in your latest diptych, that you will recall bars from one song to the other… Which I took as Ur-Phänomen (German does come super handy when talking phenomenology), “large-bin-topics” that you are trying to address in your lyrics. It’s not so much obsessive/repetitive as it is exhaustive/exploratory, but – ironically (reversing your reductionist intentions) – it is perceived as being nerdy. I was just having a related conversation with my wife (she says “hi”) as we were watching BET for some reason: rap has become an all-inclusive package of heightened audio-visual-mental stimulation and it has taught a lot of people to dissociate the aesthetic experience from day-to-day bullshit. Yet at the end of the day, I don’t see any blogger calling 2Chainz “nerdcore.”
milo: That label fucks me up super bad, “nerdcore.” And I made the mistake, with my first record, of thinking “How easy it would be to raise this flag and make the distinction between nerd qua person and nerd qua character.” But then that didn’t happen and I was sort of conscripted into the likes of MC Lars and whatnot. It’s like du Bois and all that double consciousness talk. So now I have cats telling me I fell off because I don’t write hooks that go “This is nerd-hop.” Which was super corny to begin with.
I like how you say that rap has “taught a lot of people to dissociate the aesthetic experience from day-to-day bullshit.” That’s the thing exactly. And now the move is to make rap-art that is art in-itself reminding you of day-to-day bullshit in a manner that when you really sit and take it in you, hopefully, lose yourself. Open Mike Eagle is #1 at that shit. In particular he has a jam “Dishes” on “Rappers Will Die of Natural Causes” that is tackling this head-on.
Ultimately though the hard part, and what I’m flirting with now, is making music that is just good. For so long I was preoccupied with a style of music that took at least a 15 minute introductory conversation before you could press play for the person next to you. You know? Like you can’t just shove someone head first into some DJ Spooky. And now, I want to write songs that are approachable but they still have that exploratory element. John Maus has this method perfected. Bill Callahan is another who comes to mind. But again rap is a genre that, at least right now, is more conducive to this than any other I think.
Gnou: When Mike Eagle introduced the release of TTHAD/TTHAN some weeks ago, he characterized you as his “rap-kid” – you’ve also mentioned him a couple times already. Can you elaborate a little on how he rap-parented you? And are you allowed to tell us who Mike Eagle rap-banged in order to have you?
milo: He did that? What a cool dude.
Mike Eagle rap parented me by proxy. I grew up in Maine as, typically, the lone brown kid. There was no concise rap scene to be a part of, and if there was it wasn’t with folks my age but with weird old dudes who were into slamming Big Daddy Kane still or something. So a lot of my time was spent trying to pander to 2 dimensional notions of being “ethnic” or a “rapper” that I was watching on TV same as all the white kids around me. I found OME’s shit when I was 11 or 12 on MySpace. And I used to message him all the time, incessantly. He must have still been in college then, too.
The basic nature of these messages was to either praise him as the Rap Allah or send him lyrics I was writing at the time– and dude just opened me up to the “underground” rap shit. Thru him I got heavy into Busdriver, Freestyle Fellowship, Tribe, De La, etc. He had this one ancient song called “HotOven BustDown” and I was so young I thought that joint was really about hot ovens and women cooking food in them. And then MySpace sort of collapsed and I didn’t talk to him for like 2 or 3 years.
When Twitter came out, I found him on it and was like “yo! you remember me?” and dude did! So I used him as a resource from the moment I started rapping for real. He’d already been involved in how my most primordial rap songs were written but when my first mixtape dropped he was supposed to be on it. The song that was on his EP, “Boss Fights” was originally going to be on my first mixtape.
Mike took me on my first tour, too, this summer. It’s surreal because, basically, my whole adolescence I have believed (and still do) that Mike is the greatest rapper out, in terms of ability and creativity and being the consummate cool dude. Now I’m in Hellfyre Club with him and sometimes I just blow his phone up on stupid shit talmbout pizza and girls. He’s absolutely my mentor. If I ever blew up or became a high ranking political official I would do dubious shit to ensure OME had whatever he needed.
Gnou: Did you ever get to listen to JD Walker / Nomar Slevik while in Portland?
milo: You’ve done your research! I have bumped Nomar Slevik before but not JD Walker. The Maine shit I listen to isn’t hip hop. I’m super duper into folk music, so I listen to a lot of Brown Bird and Samuel James if I’m digging thru Maine bands and whatnot. Have you been to Portland? I’m from Saco, strictly speaking, which is more of a sleepy little beach town than anything.
Gnou: Never been to Maine actually… I will, one day, though. JD Walker was an early collaborator of the Anticon kids before they moved out West… I think he retired from rap at some point in the late 2000s, but his wife (Sontiago) is still rapping.
milo: Bleubird put me onto Sontiago last year and I’m steady thinking I should finally muster the courage to just /meet/ her.
Gnou: Troubadours were to folk as folk is to rap… Rife with disembodied bravado because once you’ve spent so much time churning out a song (or anything creative), they become jigsaw puzzles of yourself that nobody that only magical people can keep track of. I do find you to be much more assertive on TTHAD/TTHAN than on your previous efforts; at the end of Folk Metaphysics you say “we can drive it with weak contrivance” does that embody your approach to the double EP?
Assertive? That’s a cool quality to have I guess. I think that comes from the majority of TTHAD/TTHAN being recorded standing up– while my past tapes were sitting at my dorm room desk.
It probably does, man, yeah. I don’t know how I feel about being so easily pegged to a line tho.
Gnou: It’s one line… One peg on that particular timeline of milo. Besides, you can’t escape it: there’s your will, and my representation. Can you tell me a little bit about your two producers in the EP, and how they turned out to orchestrate your day and night?
milo: That’s Sartre right? The idea that no matter what I’m going to be objectivized and seen in a way I cannot control? I’m not that up on my existentialism, to be honest.
Well– Analog(ue) Tape Dispenser was a totally serendipitous and awesome chance happening. He emailed me a couple of beats from his OG beat tape on a whim, one of which was a track called “Messina” which became “post hoc…” and I was immediately taken with it. That warbling bass line, I was also taken that his drums are not nearly as pronounced in the mix as most producers yet he’s crafting in this style that very much seems like they should be, if that makes any sense. So I wrote to it immediately and my first email back to him was “post hoc…” in demo form. He makes stuff that I was originally calling, in my head, sad people trap music. It wasn’t as spaced out as Clams– there is a certain concision to Analog(ue)’s stuff that is all his own but it very much follows in that aesthetic. He’s a phenomenal beatsmith.
Riley Lake was a cat I found doing some weird internet searching and stumbled upon his SoundCloud. He’s actually from Almond, WI but goes to school in Pomona, CA. I remember thinking it was important to email him from my .edu so we could sort of commiserate over being student-musicians. He and I wrote/recorded “things that happen at day” over the course of 2 weeks. For contrast, “things that happen at night” took me 3 months. Riley and I have a cool synergy and a sort of telepathic connection, and he’s into a lot of philosophy that I am into so he’ll be using stuff like kombucha bottles and wind chimes and he’ll be mixing vocals into the same channel as the synths and exploring sounds in a way that seems right in line with “canonical” milo music.
The original idea had been to make an EP of sounds that was a total venture from what anyone would expect. While glitchy sounds are the dominant “art rap” sort of thing to get busy on, I wanted to make this incredibly spacey, trap-drum laced project that was steeped in philosophy and that was “things that happen at night” but it was so different that I was worried my fanbase, which is small but intensely loyal, would feel I had betrayed them. Which was a weird feeling because I felt I was being totally honest to myself– thus the matter of duality. Then it became imperative to go back to the studio and make a record of weirdo raps and that became “things that happen at day” which is heavily influenced less by philosophy and more by emotion, feeling, poetry and King Missile records.
Gnou: Seems to me that school is one thing you get into for a limited engagement but end up spending much longer in it while rap is the opposite. Do you have any long term goals set for either school or rap?
milo: That’s quite the ability you have to communicate the weird margins between things.
I have no long term goals whatsoever. I don’t think goals are good to have. To me, creating is the end in-itself. If I can continue to write music, poems, stories, philosophy articles, whatever then I am contented. For now I’m riding the wave where it takes me a la Pearl Jam.- Gnou