The recent rumors swirling around Soundcloud shutting down have threatened the livelihood of many independent artists who use the platform as a vehicle to promote their music to millions. What did Milwaukee-based rapper/producer Milo, a quintessential DIY artist, think about the permutations of the platform’s uncertain future? “I don’t know and I don’t care,” he matter-of-factly told me over the phone, as if I had asked his opinion about a sport he doesn’t watch. In a way I did.
Milo, aka scallops hotel, isn’t apathetic merely because he’s been successful with Soundcloud alternative Bandcamp, including having his new mixtape, over the carnage rose a voice prophetic, rise to number one on their charts a couple weeks ago. He didn’t find much personal meaning in that either. “Being in service of a dollar, or business… it’s just wack,” the 25-year-old artist contends. “It’s lame, it’s not cool. I want to be as free as I can when I’m rapping.”
During our hourlong conversation, Milo described his creative approach as “spiritual,” not in a denominational sense, but in an out-of-body manner that helps “connect you to yourself,” as he said. That he’s been able to become so successful off the strength of experimental hip-hop that has ignored — if not spurned — mass appeal means he’s making a hell of a connection. Not just with himself, but with a cult following who appreciate his id, esoteric lyricism over jazzy, abstract soundscapes such as “in the holodeck” from over the carnage rose a voice prophetic.
It’s those fans who have enjoyed his freewheeling live show and purchased his music, from highly regarded work like 2014’s a toothpaste suburb as a then-affiliate of LA’s Hellfyre collective to 2015’s outstanding so the flies don’t come, which he credits with helping him ascend from a starving artist who felt he had to convince people he was a “real rapper” to where he is today, in charge of a completely independent, Black-owned operation with his Ruby Yacht record label.
This August he’s set to release who told you to think??!!?!?!?!, his latest studio album. To give you a sense of how engaged Milo’s fanbase is, the tape is slated to drop August 11, but it’s already sold out on Bandcamp. Milo described the veritably reverse-engineered project, culled from “hundreds” of songs he performed on tour and then recorded, as a realization of his full power as a rapper.
As a new father, Milo is also focused on making the most of his expression as a self-sustaining means of income — completely on his terms. He’s working with current Ruby Yacht signees Safari Al and Randal Bravery on their upcoming projects, and also shifting the label from beyond the confines of the internet into a soon-to-be-opened record store in Portland, Maine — one of the nomadic artist’s many home bases.
From a perch looking along the river in Milwaukee, we spoke on the necessity of the record shop as a safe space, his plans for his label Ruby Yacht, and how his grandfather’s church sermons inspire his experiential live show.