It's full steam ahead for Milo's hip-hop express

Milo

Photo by diana dalsass, kulture kick

Milo

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Expectations are high for art rap’s rising star Milo, whose distinctive recipe of intellectual and quirky lyricism bolsters an emerging niche in the underground hip-hop scene.

Most promising is the fact Milo was signed to Los Angeles label Hellfyre Club though he’s only been at this seriously for a couple of years, starting at the age of 19.

Now 21, Milo has forgone his final year at St. Norbert College in Wisconsin, where he was within earshot of a degree in philosophy, to pursue a full-time music career.

Known outside of his musical ventures as Rory Ferreira, the rapper’s nom de plume was taken from children’s novel The Phantom Tollbooth, whose protagonist Ferreira identifies with as, “a whiny boy who went on an adventure involving words.” Fittingly, as Milo, Ferreira’s raps are first-person narratives comprising the ultra-heady and childlike in equal parts, referencing both philosophical scholars and professional wrestlers with comparable frequency over a backdrop of subtle textures and atmospherics.

“I want to paraphrase Epicurus and say I don’t want to explain my philosophy, I want to embody it,” deflects Ferreira when probed. “If I have to express it, I must not be exuding it well The overall theme to my music is still the same — to kill loneliness. The last project I released attempted to tackle the absurdity of being finite creatures, the anger that dwells in that space. Death is a massive theme in my music, love as well.”

Charged to lead a quixotic assault on seclusion, Ferreira diverges from what has become the blueprint for this generation of aspiring hip-hop artists. While maintaining an online presence, the Milo approach places emphasis on the face-to-face interaction of a live show rather than an impersonal bombardment of YouTube vids. On a mission to learn through the sharing of ideas and fellowship, Ferreira perpetually tours far and wide, derailing, or at least ignoring, the perception that hip-hop translates poorly in a live setting.

“I don’t particularly like video,” Ferreira says. “I like the concept of building community, which of course YouTube is doing a phenomenal job of, but my talents don’t lie there per se. In high school, I did theater. I feel comfortable to a degree on stage performing these rap songs more than I do being filmed performing for whatever paradoxical and meta-reasons there are.

“I use a Roland SP-404SX, a head scarf my girlfriend gave me and the love my family pours into me. That’s about it. I probably don’t have the most interactive set; I like to create a space where there’s a bit of a notion of austerity. Not for me as a performer but for music, for ideas to be flowing, I try to open it up like a great seminar, and afterwards we all talk and mingle. I like that.”

The growing acclaim for Milo brought about a difficult decision for Ferreira, who until now had been studying at St. Norbert College in De Pere, Wis. Juggling academics while pushing his art, Ferreira chose to sacrifice the degree he’d been working toward (at least for now). Although his day job resumé may suffer slightly, in truth the self-propelled, knowledge-seeking and notorious bookworm probably learns more outside a structured system. Unfettered from a dystopian small-town music scene, Ferreira will soon move to Chicago where his unhindered creative efforts can intensify to match the nationwide buzz surrounding his act.

“It was like spending way too much time in the hyperbolic time chamber ...” says Ferreira of his time in De Pere. “I failed. I couldn’t do it. I burned out. I dropped out. I’m moving to Chicago to spend time working on rap and probably work a job as a short-order cook. I don’t think about my future so much as I think about making whatever moment I have in hand the best it can be. I remember as a child my dad would watch this movie, ‘Ghost Dog,’ and in it he would say a samurai has to commit to a decision in the span of seven breaths. That’s how I treated dropping out.

“I’m moving to Chicago. I’m going to begin a web series with a pal of mine (WC Tank) about freestyle rap stuff called ‘Back 2 tha Grill Again.’ My girlfriend and I are thinking of starting a blog about life-qua-young-college-drop-outs. My friend Zeroh has convinced me I should self-produce a project. There’s a lot to be done. I’d like to start designing all Hellfyre Club artist merch and begin applying for grants and artist residencies while expanding Hellfyre through distribution things, web stuff, whatever. I really just want to avail myself to the people I love and care about with these limited skills I possess.”

Milo takes the stage in Knoxville Saturday night, performing at Relix Variety Theatre with Safari Al, Black Atticus, MC Vague and Socro. The show welcomes all ages and kicks off at 8 p.m. Tickets are $7.50 in advance or $10 at the door.

RETURN TO SCENTER: The Bowery hosts Scent of Remains Friday night along with Serene Scream, Belfast 6 Pack, War Clown and Rot Iron. Music starts at 8 p.m., and admission is $7, with a $3 surcharge for patrons ages 18 to 20.

FEVER PITCH: Saturday night The Octopus Project revisits Knoxville, playing The Pilot Light in support of its newest release “Fever Forms.” The show is slated for 10 p.m. and costs $12. Advance tickets are available through Ticketalternative.com.

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