Rapper Milo Finds Kindred Spirits in the Hellfyre Club
Rory Ferreira, 22, claims to be “kind of from everywhere and nowhere.” Born in Chicago, he spent much of his childhood in Maine before moving to Kenosha in high school, close to Green Bay for a short time and then to Milwaukee. It was here that Ferreira hit his stride as a rapper under the moniker Milo, releasing Milo Takes Baths. The seven-song EP is rich in rapid-fire references to everything from long-cancelled cartoons, font preferences, Sigmund Freud, cult comedy films and vegetarianism to classic video games, each addressed in Ferreira’s distinct, monotone spoken-word method, which he likens to “when your stepdad would read you The Chronicles of Narnia out loud before bed.”
Each obscure Milo reference is padded with deeply personal, unabashedly emotive lyrics laying out the rapper’s perceived shortcomings—with more lyrics about his car breaking down than the make of said automobile.
“I found a kinship in him that there was another weird rapper in town that was more interested in poetics and emotion than braggadocio and ego,” said Wes Tank (also known as Milwaukee emcee WC Tank), who met Ferreira two years ago when Ferreira shared his pizza Lunchables with him at a show.
Tank’s appreciation of Milo extends far beyond Ferreira’s generous offer of bastardized miniature pizza and uncommon aversion to bravado. Tank also finds tranquility and substance in Milo’s music.
“There’s tons of references in it, but there’s also a really amazing poetic quality that moves throughout with idiosyncratic non sequiturs,” said Tank. “There’s a lot of deep emotion in it that is sort of offset by humor, which makes it really unpretentious and approachable.”
Tank wasn’t the only rapper to see something special in Milo. In fact, Milo’s break came from two of his longtime rap idols—Open Mike Eagle and Busdriver—who took notice of Milo after Ferreira persistently tweeted them and emailed them his music. Milo’s heady, intellectual and altogether unconventional hip-hop construct proved to be a perfect fit for L.A. label and rap collaborative Hellfyre Club. With rapper and Hellfyre founder Nocando’s approval, Busdriver invited Milo to join the label in late 2012.
“It’s still insane. It doesn’t wear off,” Ferreira said. “In particular, at that time it really galvanized me. I was sort of floundering with rap and was sort of unsure if I wanted to do it. Then to have these guys—who have been my heroes—affirm my rap existence felt awesome. It was a very big deal.”
Ferreira, who has since moved back to Chicago, put out his debut Hellfyre mixtape, Cavalcade, last summer and contributed to the label’s celebrated Dorner vs. Tookie compilation in November. Beyond the opportunity to work with some of his heroes, Ferreira said Milo’s star has only reached occasional donut-shop-recognition levels. “Aside from that, my day-to-day is not significantly different,” he said.
But Hellfyre Club is about to truly bring Milo places—20 states, two countries and a district, to be exact. Milo and label-mates Busdriver, Open Mike Eagle and Nocando just embarked on a six-week, 30-show tour that will bring the quartet (as well as appointed visuals expert and Hellfyre videographer Wes Tank) throughout the U.S. and parts of Canada before the end of March.
“It’s really cool, but I guess I’m just really hesitant to qualify the importance of my rap by events like that,” Ferreira said of touring. “It’s certainly an amazing opportunity; one I’m grateful for and one I’ve worked hard for, but more important than being able to go on tour is being able to work with a group of guys who are motivated to make good art. That’s very important to me and that’s a big reason why I’m part of Hellfyre Club.”
Hellfyre Club’s Dorner vs. Tookie tour will drop by Mad Planet on Tuesday, Feb. 25, at 9 p.m. Tickets are $8 in advance and $10 at the door.