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Milo The Rapper


By Kristina Pedersen

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Milo The Rapper


By Kristina Pedersen

Photographs by Kristina Pedersen

Rory Ferreira stands in his closet facing the window.

He stands there a lot, every day in fact he tells me. He is not happy if he does not get to stand in there everyday. This is where he cooks the (vegan) meat that substantiates the stew of his one man revolution (just go with me here for a minute).

Many of you probably know Rory as the rapper Milo, just as many as you may know him as the artist Scallops Hotel or the green horse for rap, maybe more know him as owner and operator of RBYT (his tape label) and maybe less as RP McMurphy in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest off Broadway in Kenosha, WI.

He is a prolific rapper, artist, poet, maker. He assures me that rapper and rap are not pejorative terms and, though his music is heady and viscous and only ever dramatic in subtle ways, he assures me (and I am assured) that he sits in a special place within his genre and not outside it on its edges. He exists in centre void.

I wanted to speak to him to learn more about this void he singularly occupies, Rory has really invented something (or maybe perfected something that already existed) and he is both the fan and the flame. So in a conversation we had last week he showed me the modest but literally brilliant closet he makes raps in every day.

Each morning after waking (obviously), he steps into his closet studio and let’s the morning sun punch him square in the head through the east-facing window sitting directly at eye level.

When we hung out it was evening and a softer orange made itself at home on his forehead as he rolled us a modest doobie. He wanted me to leave the doobie out of this article because rappers and hip hop culture are (not necessarily erroneously but) gratuitously associated with smoking imagery as if rappers are the only people in the world who do it.

So if we can all briefly suspend the fantasy that everyone, and not just midwestern frat dudes, doesn’t smoke pot - and for good measure the fantasy that all people participating in any given culture are all the same! - I’ll tell you about the happy magic Rory practices in his closet in Milwaukee.

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Place


Place


Lately Rory Ferreira has been Rory Ferreira. His debut tape I Wish My Brother Rob Was Here (2011), an homage to his late friend Rob, released soon after his passing, and a valediction to concrete understandings of existence, was released under the name Milo.

Most of his tapes have been released under this name (A Toothpaste Suburb in 2014, So The Flies Don’t Come in 2015, the two-part EP things that happen at day/things that happen at night through the Hellfyre Club label in 2013) but he has a few other pseudonyms he uses as an artist and the list is growing, purposefully.

He intends to saturate his own market. The idea is to use these different mythos not necessarily as different perspectives or personalities but as different agencies/producers, and to underscore Rory Ferreira as the artist orchestrating this universe of actors.

Rory makes raps different. The critics would describe his music as smart and weird, I too would describe it as weird and also funny and clever and a little sad - full of cavernous optimism like relics of propaganda flying through outer space that an alien finds and wonders if the proprietary civilization's hopes and dreams ever came true.

Rory himself would describe it as sometimes boring. He is a wordsmith for sure. Every now and then he reads his late friend Rob’s twitter because it’s the record the catalogue and, in a way, his music is a lot about the existential nature of these small marks we leave every day.

But Rory is a very typical rapper, he raps everyday and makes beats everyday. I Wish My Brother Rob Was Here launched him into the soft glow of the underground rap spotlight and eventually lead him to move to Los Angeles where he worked with a label for the first time. He didn’t like it there so much. Not because he didn’t like there but because, in LA, his rap was presented as entertainment and not necessarily as art.

“I tried to go by the ‘rules’ in LA,” Rory tells me.  “So when I was there, I was valuing myself as an entertainer, but I’m just not that good at playing those games. So when someone comes to the show and is like, "Oh the raps are cool but the crowd participating is…" I’m like "I don’t give a fuck".

"So I felt like I was in an inappropriate place. I’m not an entertainer like that.”

Rory’s music sounds different than many rappers but, like I said, he is a pretty typical rapper and it’s only in his performance that he really lets his arteest flag fly. He tells me, “I really want my rap show to veer into that place of, like: was that performance art or was that a rap show? Did we just watch a guy beat up a room with his mind or was he rapping? What was that? I want to make it uncomfortable.” He doesn’t want the hands up he doesn’t want people making noise or jumping or whatever, no bottle service sparklers, none of the usual cues.

So Rory wasn’t necessarily excited to be rapping in the same city as Yelawolf. “You’re working on art and there’s someone who’s a multimillionaire and is like I’m over here doing my “art” [laughs]), I just hated that feeling. And everyone is using that rubric to judge you: [monopoly man voice] are you a millionaire? No? Well you’re not very dope then!” Rory moved to Milwaukee after that which is where he happily works and creates now.

Milwaukee

The Midwest is arguably the best place to be making work as an artist because it is lawless. For better or worse there is no industry, there is no competition. You aren’t making perpetually digestible work to cater to an audience of clicks to keep the money coming in because there is no money. You can really and actually experiment which in turn means you can really grow.

The opportunity to experiment is what Rory really loves about Milwaukee: “If I’m in New York, despite all my shit talking, I’ll be like "Everybody clap your hands yo!" To the beat yo!" But [in Milwaukee] it’s like turn the lights off, zone out, and get weird. I consistently get my smallest crowds here but my weirdest crowds. I don’t know if I can break a hundred people here but like of the 70 people who show up, five of them will be like if you sign my arm tonight I’ll get it tattooed
RIGHT NOW.”

Milwaukee is also important to Milo for another, simpler reason. “I love being back in Milwaukee. I love having a normal life. It’s important, I think, for my art to just be able to kick it a lot.” New things have meaning to him: making a family, investing in earth, investing in tomorrow, trying to make life better. “I don’t know when that happened,” he admits to me.

Oh everything is REALLY cheap there also. Rory just got married and has a baby on the way and so one of the more rudimentary reasons he makes music in a closet in Milwaukee is because no one invests in his art. [We both burst with laughter]. “I’m in this closet because I have to be.” [Same].

He works every day because he’s into the idea of rap as work and poetry as labor. I ask him about the details of his process and we talk more about the importance of space and place. We both really like the idea of the artist in residence (because process is place, he says, “You can hear where something was made,”) and he tells me funny stories of people who have invited him to make music on their couch in Brazil and stories of his music-making situation in LA.

Before he moved out there he had pretty much always been working in his house under relatively normal circumstances (aka kicking it). When he moved to LA though his living situation became really bizarre thus his recording situation followed suit.

“I lived with like all these different internet culture musicians so their network was just crazy wide, there were always people coming and staying at my house.

"Various sorts of culture warriors of casts and classes. It got to be where people were coming into my house to distill oxy in my kitchen and like other strange shit and... strange strange shit and not stuff that I really grew up around. And I’m over here making like extremely…..heady rap. [giggles].

"And it was so weird. It really just made me want to dive even deeper into my music being heady, like, I felt like I could just be even nerdier now. I live with gangbangers who sell drugs and I make raps with multisyllabic words.” We both giggle.

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Expression


Expression


It is in the new frontiers of his projected vision that Rory gets excited.

He currently produces a zine with some compadres, namely Safari Al, called O Bruxo. I own the first two issues and they are sacred texts. In his written word and in his doodles and in interviews with his friends in the same room, but on different computers, does one come to understand Rory’s vulnerabilities (as a human not as an artist).

The content of these zines, though funny and insightful and poignant as fuck, are not presented in familiar modes like rap or hip hop, or anything else sitting on the mantle of pop culture. (Zines sit on the mantle too I GUESS but are a little dustier, get a little less attention.)

Rory is excited to cultivate the audience of the book mostly out of curiosity I think. He tells me he has no idea who the fuck would want to read it and it seems like an exciting task to find out.

I ask him finally what he hopes his legacy will be as a rapper or as an artist or if they are different or the same. He recognizes a subtle hesitation in my question, as if all too familiar with it, and it is then that he tells me that 'rapper' is not a derogatory term that needs to be separate from 'artist' and that he is a rapper through-and-through and proud of it.

He tells me stories of police stopping him on the road on tours and not caring that he is a rapper and not understanding that he is a small business owner that carries an economy around with him from city to city, trafficking thousands of dollars of his merchandise at any given moment.

He tells me stories of police stopping him on the road on tours and not caring that he is a rapper and not understanding that he is a small business owner that carries an economy around with him from city to city, trafficking thousands of dollars of his merchandise at any given moment.

He regularly experiences all kinds of shit, he tells me, and it becomes more and more exhausting. “As a black man to age is to become more threatening. I’m trying to protect myself from that shit by making music.”

He answers my question, though, about legacy. I think Rory’s words and music and poems are divine iterations, like, voice-of-a-generation kind of shit. He says, though, “To be even part of the conversation the way I am blows my mind.”

Before we go out for a stroll around his neighborhood, Rory, a rapper who makes a point of bringing up his Magic the Gathering skills (for those who don't know, this is an unpopular and super nerdy trading card game), assures me he is a pessimist. “I think life is more or less bad. But making art and experiencing art is holy, it’s really the best.”

I think there is a lot more we can say here about this little revolution he is leading but honestly it feels dirty and futile to have said anything at all about something that is so obviously and purely human expression.

 

 

Milo's website

Kristina Pedersen

 

 

 

Macho Zapp would like to thank Rory Ferreira for taking part and the excellent Kristina Pedersen.