Milo Channels Rage into Poetry on ‘So The Flies Don’t Come’
Though Milo’s flow
hasn’t changed much on his latest album, So
The Flies Don’t Come, his subject matter has. After several albums of
personal confessions and philosophical ruminations, he still raps with a poet’s
poise, in bone-dry wordplay plotted with the intricacy of a Sunday New York Times crossword puzzle, but now
he’s focused on struggles far greater than his internal ones. “I’m not a
scofflaw either / Born from the racial tensions between nigger rigs and MacGyvers
/ the difference between Quantum Leap and Sliders,” he raps on “An
Encyclopedia,” one of the record’s many meditations on race. Midway through
that song’s refrain about “people of color coloring,” he’s interrupted by an
outraged voice that shouts, “Hey! You can’t do that!”
Plenty of black artists are all too familiar with that voice. It’s the voice of every white fan who polices the sentiments of the black musicians they follow, weighing in on exactly which messages are and aren’t in bounds. Lately Milo’s been hearing that voice a lot.
“I make a very specific type of rap, and my audience, for whatever reason, is largely white,” Milo says. “This was around the time it was when the conversation around race relations in our country was starting to get really intense, and I was finding that if I had anything to say about it online, there were people trying to put me in my place. These were people who maybe bought every record I’ve made and who have been to my shows in their city, and they were telling me how offended they were that I had anything to say about Darrien Hunt or Renisha McBride or whatever. They were writing me these horrible letters like, ‘I thought you were a responsible musician.’”
“That was interesting to me, because my music is so highly personal,” Milo continues. “I was like, ‘I see. So it’s cool when you’re sad and you might want to kill yourself or talk about Schopenhauer, but as soon as you cross this line and say the world is trying to kill people like me or people who look like me, your fans are like, ‘Shut up.’’ So I wanted to make my best record one that would be undeniable to that base, one that I knew would agitate them.”
The new political lean isn’t a stretch for Milo, whose music has always stemmed from what he describes as “a mourning.” He first began rapping when he was 19, after one of his best friends drowned in a public pool, and that sense of loss has carried through all of his records, even the more free-form ones he releases on the side as Scallops Hotel. “With Scallops Hotel you could be getting anything, because that’s my imaginarium,” he says, “but with Milo, I reserve that title for my bigger projects. Those are the ones I’d like people to listen to.”
And to be sure, So The Flies Don’t Come deserves that audience. Produced with Kenny Segal, the Los Angeles producer who shaped the sound of acts like Freestyle Fellowship and Haiku D’etat, it’s Milo’s most provocative album yet, as well as his most beautiful.
“It’s an album sourced in rage,” he says. “My old music wasn’t giving me any tools to confront my audience, so I had to make this album. Now when I play live it’s a whole different experience. Like, this show last night in Chicago, it was just confrontational. It’s interesting playing shows where the audience doesn’t know how to react.”
Alpha Pup Records will release Milo’s So The Flies Don’t Come on Sept. 25. Stream it below. For an extended conversation with Milo about race, responsibility and white fans saying the N-word, read this blog post.