The Rapper’s Rapsmith: A Review of Milo @ 100state

By Sean Avery

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Photo Credit: Chris Lotten Photography

Have you heard of Milo? He’s a pretty cool cat, a rapper from Milwaukee who walks a fine line between The Last Poets and Definitive Jux. His last two albums, A Toothpaste Suburb and When the Flies Come are pretty dope if you’re either the type of person who enjoys poetry as much as Hip-Hop, or a student of the art of rap.

Milo plays with the sound of language how a jazz musician plays with a scale of notes, manipulating the weight and space of sound. His band (if they can be called that, they’re more like two live beatmakers) do the same, using a myriad of drum machines and voice changers to loop and reloop segments of an instrumental, or even chaos the audience with noise, cracking inside jokes into the mic and pitching them so low or so high they become inaudible. All of Milo’s work is exact on record but frantic live. He takes great liberty (and great pride) in freestyling. About ⅔’s of the show, if I can guesstimate, was freestyle, and perhaps even the beats he was freestyling over were freestyled by Al and Brando (Safari Al and Randal Bravery, aka, Black Tetsuo (what a dope nickname!)). Not to mention nearly every line that exits Milo’s mouth is either non-sequitur or nonlinear, causing you to either ponder its meaning or gape at its profoundness. He’s for sure a complex writer, and his shows consist mostly or head-nodding and listening, which is perhaps what a boom-bap connoisseur upholds, minus break-dancing and scratching. I liked the show, a lot actually, because Milo is simply awesome. He’s witty, goofy, and very serious about the art of rapping. I wish he had played “an encyclopedia”, but I understand that song to be something for himself, and not necessarily a concert favorite. I mean, the hook is “people of color coloring people of color coloring people of color coloring”, an illusive mantra for the minority. At an all white show in Madison, WI (although I assume most of Milo’s shows are all white), that song might go over their heads in a way that isn’t ironic or poetic, but more so problematic. I wish I had gotten a chance to ask him about his song choice, but his merch table was swamped after the show and I was tired.

Alas, Milo put on a good show, albeit a very Milo show. What does that mean? Let me say it like this, play some tracks off his Bandcamp, miloraps.bandcamp.com. If you don’t fuck with it, you wouldn’t have fucked with the show. But if you did, you would have rejoiced in how Milo and his crew referenced so many Hip-Hop greats while inventing themselves in that moment. Milo @ 100state show gets 4 flames, FLAME BURST!

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Outside of being a contributing writer for the Black Voice, Sean Avery is a poet and rapper. His work has been featured on Buzzfeed and Blavity, and published in Wisconsin People & Ideas as well as Illumination, the Undergraduate Journal of Humanities. He is an English Creative Writing major at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, and his work embraces both his imagination and his journey towards defining his own Black masculinity. 

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