Review Summary: “Brothers like me don’t live too long, that’s why I have to write so many rap songs.”
Poetic, thoughtful, self-aware, and nerdy are the first few words that come to mind when trying to describe the rap styles and lyrical content of Hellfyre Club’s favorite spoken word deacon, Milo. His distinct delivery and persona has earned himself a decent amount of buzz in the underground rap scene, especially with quality releases such as Things That Happen at Day / Things That Happen at Night
companion EPs and his 2014 LP A Toothpaste Suburb
. What can be heard on these projects is spacey instrumentation, intriguing lyrics, and a laidback, calculated presence on the mic. Releases from Scallops Hotel, Milo’s side project, have sounded more like collections of musical ideas than complete products unfortunately. Luckily, with Plain Speaking
Milo has crafted a worthwhile project under the Scallops Hotel name.
The opener, “gnosis, Black nationalism, rice,” kicks off with pleasant looped electric piano chords, but the track builds in momentum as beatboxing sounds, bongos, and synths are thrown into the instrumental mix. Milo’s flow is steady, consistent, and more akin to a traditional hip hop flow compared to his somewhat scattered delivery on his earlier work. His stylistic shift is also very apparent in the third song, “lavender chunk” surprisingly featuring the singer of Future Islands under his rap alias Hemlock Ernst. The instrumental is highly influenced by the jazzy New York sound and the emcees as well give off a New York flare. The closer, “171: man and the cosmos,” is also notable for Milo’s new rapping style as he radiates with confidence and rattles off some braggadocious bars.
also contains some darker cuts where Milo’s lyrics depict an artistic struggle. On “glottal stop,” Milo spits “There aren’t enough letters to rearrange / To describe the depth of my rage / I was born this way / Another song stuffed in my mouth hole / When depression is no longer fashionable / When the potential begins sapping the actual / And there you are overwhelmed, splintering into fractals / I’ve been there sis, I’ve been there.” Milo on “the oprah winfrey show” sounds defeated and upset which also reflect in the lyrics.
The interludes that appear on Plain Speaking
introduce an interesting dynamic to the album as a whole and break up the tracklist in a beneficial manner. “sabil’s lullaby” has some singing from Milo which turns out well and “ticktocker” features a great spoken word piece. “birther,” an aimless instrumental, was the only unsuccessful interlude on the album.
The production on Plain Speaking
is reminiscent of the last Milo LP, A Toothpaste Suburb
. The instrumentals allow Milo’s lyricism to become the centerpiece of the music and the eccentric sound of the album is pretty similar to what could be heard on an early Flying Lotus record. The production does tend to be repetitive because a decent amount of the instrumentals recycle similar sounds (an issue also present on A Toothpaste Suburb
), but the brief runtime of Plain Speaking helps keep that repetitious feeling to a minimum.
is another great showing from Milo and a solid addition to the Scallops Hotel catalogue. His new found delivery gives him a sense of conviction when rapping and gives his witty lyricism a different life. His lyrics are as excellent as ever and the interludes on the album are integrated well to make Plain Speaking
feel like a complete product. Although Milo doesn’t completely sound in full gear and the instrumentals can become a bit bland, this album is a good peek into what the future might hold for Milo, and it looks positive.