Less than 12 months after the Dorner vs. Tookie compilation proved just how thorough an assbeating the Hellfyre Club is capable of, the crew members have spent 2014 releasing a quartet of albums to back that promise up. The first three—Nocando‘s spirited battler-turned-grown-man study Jimmy the Burnout, the melancholy, melodic humor of Open Mike Eagle‘s Dark Comedy, and Busdriver‘s slippery virtuoso poetry on Perfect Hair—were valuable reinforcements of the three names at the group’s nucleus, a chance for them to gain a following outside their core constituency of L.A.-geared Project Blowed rap-nerd connoisseurs. milo isn’t a total unknown by comparison, but with a couple scattered EPs and personality-switching alter ego side project Scallops Hotel providing most of his background on record, the Kenosha, Wisconsin-grown vet needs a bigger context to grow into.
His debut album, a toothpaste suburb, does just as much to play up the commonalities milo has with his labelmates (and his place in the underground hip-hop world) as it does to show off just who he is himself. milo’s own qualities are obvious from his first 16 bars: a heavy-lidded deadpan whose flow calmly lets the punchlines deliver themselves, whether they’re references to Arthur Schopenhauer (this album has a few) or shameless fart jokes (ditto). Those aren’t rare qualities—you get similar approaches on this very album from guests like Open Mike Eagle, who pulls Shel Silverstein wordplay (“Call me tiger ’cause I tige for a living”) on “objectifying rabbits”, and Kool A.D., who is dementedly meta with a thinking-aloud verse on “in gaol”. With the burbling, usually mellow digitalisms of producers iglooghost, Riley Lake, Greyhat, and Tastenothing giving his voice both gravity and lightness where it’s needed, there’s a feeling that milo’s been able to get in where he fit in, not just got in ’cause he fought in.
But the realm of the West Coast art-wiseass black intellectual is neither one to take for granted or one to set a low barrier of entry for, and milo’s place in and radiating outside of it is well earned off his own synthesis of experience. His referential eclecticism might otherwise seem random for its own sake in isolation, a string of phrases hammered into place; the second verse of “sanssouci palace” alone drops references to Avril Lavigne, Clerks, “Squidbillies”, and the self-descriptor “Rap messiah agitator/ Chronic bathroom masturbator,” but the track starts cohering to depict a more complete identity the further it knits together.
And when it does, there’s some deep rumination and staring into the void that exists beneath all the jokes. “salladhor saan, smuggler” is a stark autobio alluding to isolation and suicidal thoughts staved off by a steady diet of Jean Genet, Office Space, and the subsequent realization that milo was capable of total artistic freedom. And a recurring throughline, the too-soon passing of his friend Rob, is both alluded to and directly addressed with a mixture of survivor’s guilt (“Now kids write me about being their favorite rapper/ And I’m the asshole who gets to live forever after”), yearning (“Ought implies can and I cannot”), and resignation (from “Yafet’s song”: “Death is where we all go/ It can’t be that bad”). So milo’s voice acts fairly slow to reveal the intentions beneath the words’ surface, trusting listeners to connect the dots. That’s one way of staking a claim on curious ears, a connection to someone who, per “a day trip to the nightosphere,” doesn’t dabble in secret societies. milo’s society is far more open.
from Album Reviews – Pitchfork http://ift.tt/1v9K9wo