“Underground hip-hop” doesn’t exist in the same area that it did 10 years ago. Def Jux is a thing of the past, Aesop Rock is still making music but it’s not the same headspace that Labor Days came out of, and overall things are just, well, different. I speak of that with some kind of nostalgia, because that was, like many people, my formal introduction to getting involved in the music world. Stones Throw, Def Jux, and Rhymesayers were all that mattered and that was cool.
The dominance of Internet culture on underground hip-hop has caused things to change, but its influence is still echoing through the music world. Flying Lotus’s Captain Murphy project is as rooted in 2012 weirdness as it is in Quasimoto and a strong rap scene is hard at work in NYC, spearheaded by the one and only El-P. The insular heart of hip-hop in 2002 is perhaps most embodied by a quiet voice out of the Midwest by the name of Milo.
Milo quietly made a name for himself with I wish My Brother Rob Was Here and Milo Takes Baths, two releases that were as successful as they were a signal of talent. Weaving understated but complex rhymes over quirky beat scene productions like not too many people are today, except for maybe one group of people, which conveniently, is where we find him today. On New Year’s Day Milo dropped a pair of EPs, Things That Happen At Day and Things That Happen At Night, through the LA based Hellfyre Club, which couldn’t be a more perfect fit.
With the pair of EPs, Milo has taken his outsider and nerdy persona even further over a crop of beats significantly more atmospheric than anything we’ve heard him put together before. The entirety of production for TTHAD was handled by Riley Lake, while TTHAN by Analog(ue) Tape Dispenser, losing some of the variety in his first mixtape, but ultimately creating a more complete project.
In terms of lyrical mind-bending capabilities, he would probably be most similar to someone like Aesop Rock, consistently two bars ahead of what you are able to process. It would be impossible to try and summarize the kinds of pop-culture references that Milo tackles over the course of both projects, but, in a brief (very, very brief) summary we get Kitty Pryde, The Matrix, Levar Burton, Legends of The Hidden Temple, and Danny Brown’s tongue. As aware of his surroundings as Milo is, he uses everything to create a self-explorative and honest picture of himself like many of his peers would struggle to do.
The individual projects can stand independently as successful projects as much as they can be grouped together in a single body of work. Milo has continued to refine and stretch his style, cracking his brain out for eight-minute marathons like “Almond Milk Paradise” and “Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc”. He’s young, but more self-aware than artists twice his age, and lyrically skilled enough to present it in an engaging package.
As his career progresses, there isn’t a better crew for Milo to get caught up with. Hellfyre is the home of rappers like Nocando and Busdriver, who has an appearance on these releases, both of whom produce progressive hip-hop consistently to the niche fanbases still reaching for music like Things That Happen At Day and Things That Happen At Night. Within this community, there is no doubt that Milo will succeed and grow even more as a rapper. But who knows, maybe his quirky but endearing character he portrays in his music will take him further than we all could’ve guessed.