When we think about rappers hyping themselves up before a track, we think about exclamations of presence, (“It’s Wizzop!” – Gucci Mane) sounds (“flrrrdlddldldlt yaw” – Desiigner.) Or even catchphrases (“Straight Up!” – Travis Scott). What purpose do these serve? What function do they serve? Is Mr Scott actually being honest with me?
Intros to rap songs serve a simple purpose: They set the mood – the theme. They’re the hook on the introductory paragraph, if you will. When Gucci Mane exclaims his name, we know he’s here; we know he’s bringing his assets to the table. When desiigner… ’emotes,’ we know he’s bringing his classic brand of frantic energy to a track.
With that being said, let’s focus on how Wisconsin rapper milo starts his song “Souvenir,” off his latest album So the Flies Don’t Come (September 2015 via Ruby Yacht/The Order Label), what energy he foreshadows with his first line:
it’s the Lazy Theologian
the clumsiest poet
Listen: “Souvenir” – milo feat. Hemlock Ernst
In seven words (two of those words being ‘the’), Milo establishes his presence. He’s a low energy
pseudo intellectual, using his word less efficiently than most might like and purposefully discrediting himself at the beginning of a rap song.
What comes next is what is, seemingly, a series of sporadic musings and aphorisms set to a beat.
the bathroom’s a sacred space
if faith is under the left nipple
There is nothing inherently pure; everything is messy and flawed. Just as all faith is located in the heart, which is below fragile flesh, then we must imagine that even places associated with hygiene can hold spiritual weight
Indeed, he’s ageless like Treva Throneberry
Throneberry, an American con artist who faked being a teenage girl in order to reap money from sex scandals. E.g. faking her age, thus making her ageless. Get it? (facetiousness implied)
at home on a cracked iPhone
alone and hairy, casting post modernist abra cadabra
milo is painting a picture of himself as a stalwart hermit, using his electronics to cast what he perceives to be important and philosophically heavy statements, just like so many of us have found ourselves doing.
Besides ranting about random musings in subjects like such, the relation of carelessness to American pop culture, and internet shit-posts, Milo also takes the second verse of “Souvenir” as an opportunity to attack the perception people have of him, and the underground rap community as a whole.
This monotone is great
The artist refers to his own voice and cadence, how he is often drab and monotone with his flows. milo is boasting here, telling us, hey, it fits.
so we made a couple sticker packs
and pretended we didn’t hear when white fans said nigger fast
milo is referring to the boho monetization of underground rappers, how they’re marketed and branded to a certain ‘kind’ of listener: Usually, “hip white guys.” Hip white guys who feign an air of social consciousness, yet still rap along to the n-words in rap songs.
I can rap like the Afghan
I can rap like my last name was blackman
milo can wrap you in an Afghan blanket of words, the obscurity of his metaphors and allusions absorbing you. He can also rap like the hip-hop stereotype people want him to be; he can do it all. But what he’s going to do, is do what he wants.
if underground hip-hop was just one tight fad
this is an all seeing eye eypatch, if i might add
If backpack rap/underground hip-hop/conscious rap is all just one monolith, being controlled by the same force, then milo seeks to blind that force – to add something new; to bring something to the table. That’s what this song is: “Souvenir” is milo’s attempt to bring something new to the world of underground rap. To bypass the idolatries, the empty flashy wordplay, the derivative allusions and attempts at loose narratives that have become the genre’s bread and butter.
Think of every bad ‘conscious’ rap artist you’ve ever heard, and that’s who milo is raving against throughout the course of this song. And while he’s a bit too tired and nervous to be the karate chop to the jugular that the genre needs, he engulfs the listener in his slow moving river current of melted rock, submerging us with his melancholy similes and drab, booksmart charm.
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