A few months ago I wrote piece on an emerging rapper from Chicago known in the hip-hop community as Milo, and at the time I lamented that I didn’t get to write about him more. Thankfully for everyone everywhere Milo has dropped his new album A Toothpaste Suburb, and man oh man, this guy has definitely stepped up his game to deliver an album full of great rhymes, jokes and inspired pop culture references.
A Toothpaste Suburb is the new LP from Milo. It’s brimming with the rapper’s signature humour and obscure pop culture references while still musing on the idiosyncrasies of life.
When I was a kid my impressions of hip-hop outside of Eminem were that of muscle bound guys who rapped about ‘thug life’ and going to ‘da club’. Which makes alternative hip-hop like Milo always fun to listen to, mostly attributed to the sense of unpredictability in the music. Like on opening track Salladhor Saan, Smuggler, which is a slow jam set to the unbridled thoughts of a young man on the cusp of realising his adulthood, is suddenly interrupted by a moment of absurdity.
“Something so beautiful it could kill me, like if Kim Kardashian were to smother the life out of me with her enormous butt cheeks. That would be a truly sublime experience” comes completely put of the blue and will leave you laughing. Milo continues to walk this line between youth and adulthood in a truly entertaining way. His pondering does’t always find a defiitive answer, but what is important is the questions are at least being posed in an attempt to grow as a person.
One of the primary themes found throughout A Toothpaste Suburb is the search to define one’s own masculinity and musings on what it takes to be an adult with a true sense of self. There are several times on this record where it seems Milo is reading off a note he’s left for himself, like “Abstain from getting shit-faced. Abstain from judging the people who don’t abstain from getting shit-faced” from Objectifying Rabbits, as if he’s trying to keep himself in check in order to be a better person. Following on in Ought Implies Can and I Cannot Milo muses on the nature of envy; “Staring at his food while my plate has plenty”. Simple yet quite effective, and it is lyricism like this that makes Milo’s music so accessible and familiar, as though he is the shaman on the top of the mountain preaching the small truths of the everyday.
Milo has been at this for a few years now, and after a steady stream of releases he continues to play to his strengths. His free form delivery on each verse sounds more like a man who got lost on his way to a poetry slam and ended up in a recording studio instead. His delivery flows so freely, ensnaring you with the inspired references and Milo’s ponderous nature. The anecdotes are engaging as they revel in the mediocrity of the everyday, any kid from the suburbs will find any of Milo’s musing could reflect their own experiences. As the man himself says on Objectifying Rabbits “I made you something pretty with my words today”.
Just Us (A Reprise for Robert Who Has Not Been Forgotten) is easily the strongest player on the album. Anyone familiar with Milo’s work will know that he had lost his dear friend Rob and since seems ridden with grief in the aftermath of that loss which can’t help but manifest in his music. Just Us is an intensely personal song, as Milo continues to wax his usual philosophical questions his thoughts turn to his old friend and ideas of mortality. As he continues the synths become more pronounced and aggressive, mirroring Milo’s combined sadness and guilt. Also the horn featured on this track is simply gorgeous as it oozes melancholy.
The minimalist instrumentation is effectively used allowing the focus to remain on the Milo’s poetry. The music is so low key and yet alien sounding, it almost feels feels like Milo used instruments found on the street outside his house. The collection of samples, synths and easy going beats all act as backdrop that serves to keep the pace of the song and prop up Milo’s shining lyrics.
I know I’ve done nothing but worship at the alter of Milo in this review, but I will say that A Toothpaste Suburb is not for everyone. To use the man’s own words, this album is full of weird rap songs. The beats are irregular, the samples are bizarre and there are no mentions of hitting up ‘da club’. But frankly that is what makes this album a great example of what alternative hip-hop has to offer. It is experimental and adventurous whilst continuing to ask questions of normal existence that everyone should ponder at some point in their life.
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