with esteemed producer riley lake at the controls, the four mainstays of hellfyre club have taken their turn spitting verses over “honest,” a track originally by future. milo, open mike eagle, nocando, and busdriver continue to fire on all cylinders, arguing the case that their upcoming tour is something not to be missed. check out the track below, courtesy of hellfyre club’s soundcloud page.
if you’ve somehow missed out on milo’s output this year, let me give you a quick crash-course. on new year’s day, the mc released a double-ep called things that happen at day/things that happen at night. this past july, he dropped cavalcade, an excellent mixtape with exquisite production from riley lake. the three bodies of work together exhibited an enormous amount of artistic growth over a short period of time, as milo continued to develop his philosophical, spoken word-tinged rhyme delivery over beats that were more interactive and at the forefront of each composition. i think most people would have been beyond satisfied if he had called it quits for 2013 after cavalcade, but milo’s prolific tendencies dictated that even more material was necessary. i can’t really complain about that.
with poplar grove (or how to rap with a hammer), milo’s first full-length release for his scallops hotel side project, the young rapper furthers his case for being consider among the year’s best artists. poplar grove also marks somewhat of a return to milo’s earlier, independent days; although there are smatterings of hellfyre club found throughout the album, his decision to release it through his own personal bandcamp is telling. the tracks are much more intimate and eclectic than milo’s previous work this year, and they’re largely devoid of hooks. this return to a more stream-of-consciousness approach is akin to what initially drew me to last year’s milo takes baths, but it’s been juxtaposed by deeper, pitch-shifted vocals and comparatively haunting instrumentals.
when the occasional melody does appear, it’s wonderful. “bergamot gamut” traces the same melodic figure throughout with milo appropriating his words to its contour, changing the content when need be and slipping in and out of spoken and sung phrases. the improvement of his singing voice is notable, but what’s even more impressive is milo’s growth as a songwriter, not so much in terms of lyricism as in terms of form and overall structure. i saw some deviation from his established formula in penobscot expedition, a fan-made b-sides compilation that also surfaced this summer, and it’s nice to see milo continuing down a path to diversify his sound.
poplar grove isn’t milo’s defining album of 2013, and it really shouldn’t be. this excellent foray under the moniker of a side project allows him to prove that his output will never run the risk of becoming one-dimensional, and probably will help him pay for rent next month, too. in order to fully understand milo’s musical realm, poplar grove must be inserted into a continuous stream of his entire discography from this year. once you do that, i hope you’ll understand why milo has become a force to be reckoned with.
as if releasing a fantastic pair of eps and a damn good mixtape this year wasn’t enough, wisconsin rapper milo plans to release a new ep from his side project, scallops hotel. the ep, entitled poplar grove (or how to rap with a hammer), is set to drop on november 19th and features production from iglooghost, lee bannon, and busdriver. if you can’t wait five days to hear the whole thing (i can’t either, don’t worry), milo has remedied this situation by streaming the ep’s lead single, “xergiok’s chagrin (a song for jib).” the self-produced joint is dark and contains some of the best lyrics i’ve ever heard this guy proclaim. check it out below.
if you follow earl sweatshirt at all, you already know his story. when the young hip-hop prodigy finally returned from isolation in early 2012, his collective immediately experienced a void being filled; earl’s verse on “oldie” completely steals the show, and his guest spot on frank ocean’s “super rich kids” was consistently referenced in year-end roundups discussing channel orange. three minutes of music, along with a brief song called “home,” was all we got from earl in the year following his return to civilization.
then “chum” dropped. the minor key piano loop complemented earl’s brooding, deeply personal rap; gone were the days of “epar” and all of the other musings that permeated earl’s stream of consciousness when he was fifteen. “chum” underscores the feeling of abandonment earl has concerning his father, who hasn’t been a consistent presence in his life since earl was six, and foreshadows the depressing, self-aware themes that are found throughout doris.
for the first half of this year, we were teased with news of earl’s proper debut album. the title was announced long before a release date or tracklist, but earl was mum on the rest of the details. pieces slowly fell into place and more songs were released, like the pitch-shifted “guild” featuring mac miller and the boisterous “whoa,” with earl’s godfather tyler, the creator rasping the hook. but it was “hive,” a collaborative with longtime odd future compatriots vince staples and casey veggies, that proved to me that doris had true potential. the opening line, “promised heron i’d put my fist up after i get my dick sucked / a quick buck, maybe a gold chain,” solidifies earl’s jaded mentality about the rap game. the ominous, minimal bass line that snakes throughout the song provides a foundation for earl to flesh out his thoughts and to demonstrate that his wordplay and flow is just as solid as it’s ever been, and that it’s even evolved.
earl’s album has been one of 2013’s most-anticipated releases, and he knew it. despite releasing a third of the material on doris prematurely, earl teases the listeners who will actually be playing the album from start to finish. on “pre,” guest artist sk la’flare dominates the track for over a minute and a half before earl finally arrives to take control. and then he runs the show. across doris, earl’s verses are lazy in appearance but highly calculated in actuality. from the depressing tones on “burgundy” to the cheeky references to the earl of yesteryear on “whoa,” doris shows all the potential from earl’s self-titled mixtape fully realized. i can’t wait to see what he does next.