milo “Who Told You To Think??!!?!?!?!” Album Review
milo’s Who Told You To Think??!!?!?!?! was called one of the most anticipated rap releases of the year by Rolling Stone, fans new and old alike were excited, music videos were released to promote it, but none of us were truly ready for what was laid upon us.
Rory (milo) is an intellectual, and that comes across in everything that he does. The art rapper constantly showcases through his music that his brain must be something of a constant cacophony of ideas, sounds, theories, and video game references. This latest release is an album that you don’t fully understand on the first listen, or the fiftieth listen, for that matter.
When I first heard it, I loved it immediately. It had a powerful and moving narrative with lyrics about identity, love, struggles and hardships. I also knew right away that about 60 percent of it went completely over my head. Each time I listen to any Milo song, I catch something new and this album is no exception. That’s why I knew I couldn’t review this album without listening to it multiple times, sometimes with a dictionary, sometimes with research websites open.
There are some truly outstanding facts about this piece of art, the most striking being that it was recorded entirely in under 24 hours. That’s an incredible feat. Some of the songs are two years old, and some were written in that final recording session. Each song was recorded entirely in one take and the vocal effects were being made in real time. The feel of the album is very in-the-moment, much like his live performances. milo wrote that “it would contribute to creating a feeling of ‘being there’ as place informs so much of rap and too often one hears that common, lamentable refrain ‘you had to be there.’” Thank you, milo, for putting us there.
The album starts out with the voice of James Baldwin, an American writer on the track “poet (Black bean)”. Milo raps about being a poet or a farmer. There’s the standout line, “I’m back on my black Bukowski bullshit” which is witty and fun, but also totally true. “Fuck your notepad, wrote a poem with a toolkit,” he raps. His music does feel really tactile, and this album has a very physical presence to it. It’s more than poetry, it’s something that was built.
“call + form (picture)” is quite literally a call for the “real emcees” to come out and be openly political, openly talk about social issues and form a group that is here to tell the truth. “Your voice is needed,” milo tells the real emcees. He also throws in a line asking why “your favorite rapper” is always rapping about their brands or businesses, implying that this is something that he finds problematic. It’s a commentary that feels real, like milo is truly raising a question and not just being critical. These are not real emcees to him, nor to anyone who takes the craft seriously.
“pablum // CELESKINGIII” is a very intricate and interesting track. I learned the pablum is a cereal processed for infant in 1931 that was marketed by the Mead Johnson company. The word comes from a Latin word that means “foodstuff” and is now used to refer to nutrition, or can be used to describe something bland or infantile. It’s things like this that I thank Rory for—I would’ve had no idea what that meant in the context of the song if I had not been so moved and curious enough to look it up. That’s something that’s so unique about milo. His music is complex, but not intimidating.
“paging mr. bill nunn” is another incredible track. I could listen to it all day. He occasionally reminds us of just how human we are, in this song with the line “understand life is a chore list, what a blessing this boredom is.” It’s this idea that is particularly interesting now that he is a father; his “chore list” has certainly extended now.
“take advantage of the naysayer” packs a punch and includes more political commentary. The line “it’s white people on spaceships” touches on the idea that even now, those who are advancing further than the rest of humanity such as astronauts are still primarily white people. It’s lyrics like this that remind the listener that this is more than just a song, it’s a reflection on the everyday, the norms we accept. milo also says something that I never quite thought of before: “working titles of my autobiography: I’m probably not the rapper for you.” It’s true. His style, from the way that he writes to his voice to the finished tracks, there are aspects of milo’s music that is simply just not for some people, perhaps the crowd that listens to those who rap about their brands or businesses.
The album ends with “rapper (feat. Busdriver),” a song that perfectly sums up the album. It ends with repetition of the line “and for following every rule, all you received was applause.” milo has never followed the rules, always reimagining what he can do with his talent.
Who Told You To Think??!!?!?!?! is a true masterpiece. There is nothing quite like it out there, and it feels like that was the intention. It’s such a raw and real expression of oneself, a way to revolutionize the craft, a way to reach out and plant seeds of ideas that can change the world.
milo is the rapper for me.