Stream: Milo - Things That Happen At Day / Things That Happen At Night (Double EP)
Bookish indie rapper Milo dropped two EPs back to back on New Year’s Day, collectively marking the first great release of the new year. Together, the two 5-track EPs explore duality through contrast. The first is appropriately bright and often melodic, melding Milo’s distinctive lyrical apathy with an emotive, nearly ebullient flow that occasionally dips into Yoni Wolf-reminiscent singing. Meanwhile, Things That Happen At Night is a notably moodier and appropriately nocturnal counterpart, which finds Milo retreating into a shell of solitary self-analysis.
Throughout these two complementary releases, Milo is still dropping references to Kierkegaard & Pablo Neruda, but name drops of video games and other nods to his ‘nerdcore’ roots are few and far between. Mostly, he transcends the niche limitations of his origins by focusing on what matters most: lyrical depth and his remarkable rapping ability. The oddball beats and deceptively catchy hooks are just an added bonus.
Stream the “day” side of the EP above, and then stream the “night” side at the embedded link below.
Serengeti - C. A. R. (2012)
Stream: “Geti Life” (feat. Yoni Wolf)
Serengeti deserves an album like this. It’s been a long time coming, and frankly, I wasn’t sure if he’d get there. Although he has been a prolific and uniquely talented figure in the alternative hip-hop scene for a decade now, he’s never had a great LP, which is frustrating because I would definitely call him a great rapper. Unfortunately, Serengeti (aka David Cohn) has been dogged by poor production choices, misguided collaborations like the bizarre s / s / s supergroup, and general lack of focus for the majority of his career. Despite its lackluster production and proclivity for hooks that didn’t quite fit, last year’s Family & Friends LP showed promise that ‘Geti was on the right track. Now, with the release of his new album C. A. R. (and its recent predecessor, the Kenny Dennis EP), it seems that Serengeti is finally fulfilling his tremendous potential.
So what changed this time around that distinguishes C. A. R. from virtually everything Cohn has released in the past? The most immediate improvement is the production, handled by Anticon labelmates Jel and Odd Nosdam, both of whom have a seemingly preternatural ability to make stellar beats for the kind of artists that Anticon tends to sign. Their production is dense, blocky, and very synthetic — a strong contrast to the live sound of Family & Friends. Sonically, C. A. R. feels almost like hip-hop retrofuturism; Nosdam and Jel throw in plenty of modern production elements, but the album still feels like a boom-bap record at its core.
The production on C. A. R. is so stellar that one could probably listen to and enjoy the album for its beats alone. The opening track “Greyhound” lilts with the spasmodic loop of a broken keyboard before giving way to an infectious synth squelch. “Amnesia” features a chopped up soul sample and broken, tired-sounding beats that help fit the sarcastic joy of its lyrical message. Meanwhile, the humorous and self-deprecating “Geti Life” features a bouncy, spindly beat that recalls the funnier moments of Eminem’s Marshall Mathers LP. Production elements like these make C. A. R. a very entertaining and even fun album to listen to on the surface.
There is, of course, more to this LP than the production and instrumentation, although the excellent beats might be able to take credit for why Geti sounds so invigorated here. ”Greyhound” provides a calm and reflective introduction, with Geti sliding in over the beat and dropping lines like “I’ve burned every bridge I’ve ever owned,” as if to distance himself from his past musical efforts. By the time the second track “Talk To Me” rolls around, Geti is fully engaged, namedropping (and purposefully mispronouncing) Bon Iver with a wink and romanticizing a life as a chauffeur and a scuba diver. Traditionally, Geti’s raps have the depressing, retrospective quality of a conversation with an old man at a bar, and although there is enough humor here to balance that, his sad-sack storytelling has never sounded better than it does here.
"Geti Life" balances the two rather deftly, offsetting the shock value of lines like "Let me get drunk as fast as I can / so I can fall asleep and pretend I’m a different man" with humorous references to WHY?'s Yoni Wolf, who pops up to deliver some hilarious banter of his own. Later, on “Cold,” he paints a miserable picture of adulthood punctuated by sarcastic interjections — “Everything is great / stolen license plates / dandruff everywhere / kids got colds / dishes in the sink / place smells like mold.” The the album's best and most heartbreakingly sad track comes in the middle, in the form of a lengthy, propulsive centerpiece called “Go Dancin'”. At over four minutes, “Go Dancin'” occupies a solid chunk of C. A. R.’s 29 minute runtime, but it justifies its length with one of Serengeti’s most powerful and evocative lyrical statements. Over a slowly building standout beat, Geti raps through a mild distortion filter, describing an idyllic vision for a failing relationship that slowly morphs into a passionate and emotive reality check. Geti has never sounded as emotionally invested in his music than he does on “Go Dancin’”; by the end of the song, he’s practically screaming “We’re not immortal.”
That passion turns out to be short lived, but its brevity only makes “Go Dancin’” stand out more. Quickly, the visceral pain fades away, covered up once more by Geti’s pointed sarcasm, and by the time the chilling closer “Uncle Traum” rolls around, he’s describing his wife being shot and killed without even an ounce of emotion. It’s a powerful contrast, and it speaks to Geti’s versatility that he can pull off both extremes with nearly equal effect.
C. A. R. is a validation for Serengeti, and a very strong highlight in a year that has been great for underground hip-hop. Although his label has admittedly definitely seen better days, C. A. R. is easily the best release to come from the Anticon camp since at least 2008, when WHY? dropped the near-perfect Alopecia. In his cool, collected, and admirably subdued manner, Serengeti has, with this LP, established himself as Anticon’s rising star — and perhaps its saving grace. Beyond that, he’s proved that neither shock tactics nor 2kNext relevance are essential qualities to making great rap. Sometimes a great hip-hop album is just that, and that’s exactly what C. A. R. is.
C. A. R. is available for purchase now from Anticon Records.