John and “a toothpaste suburb” by milo

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No versus shit this time.

“This is an alcove
This is an outpost
This is a village in a poplar grove
This is an imaginary place
This is the room with the Wolfmother wallpaper”

So occasionally there are records that come out the right time for you personally, right? Like your life is going some kind of way and a record comes out and it almost becomes that part of your life entirely. Maybe that’s just me because I’m a dork about music but it’s happened a few times for me.

On September 23rd I was Low. My knee was hurting worse than it ever had. I was behind on my studies constantly. All my friends got into relationships at the same time my dates were going shitty and I was feeling ugly and too broken. Family members were getting cancer and shit. Everything coming down at once. I was just going through the motions and I forgot this album was even coming out.

“The image is a prison of the soul
Heredity and education have been exposed
Vices and aspirations have been disposed
I just thought you’d like to know”

Milo’s one of my favorite rappers. I mean, beat choice and flow, he’s great. All that mechanic shit is there, but it’s not why he’s a favorite. There’s a lot in his stories and songs that I feel like I understand. Milo started rapping because his best friend died and he didn’t know how else to keep his memory alive. He grew up a nerdy gamer fucking with deeper subjects (philosophy for him, psychology for me) and was starting to get uncomfortable with how geek culture treats people as his talent for music was growing. I relate to a lot of that, only it was my uncle Edsel instead of my best friend. Oh, also, we both were tripped out by MF DOOM when we were younger and hold onto that in weird ways.

There’s another factor: I have these anxiety issues around death that makes a lot of art REALLY hard for me to deal with (brings me back to memories of my father). The art that’s bad at it makes me feel like they don’t understand, and then I freak out. The art that’s okay at it just makes me freak out. Milo is great at it, and his ability to just toy with all the shit I’m afraid of brings me peace.

“People don’t die, we expire
And science has removed the fear of hell fire
And in its place given us NASA space expansion
And wasted McMansions and lots of english muffins
I don’t feel the tinglies for nothing
Reality is scripted
And rappers no longer spontaneously rip shit
It’s calculated, studied and designed
Binary code, asterisks and dollar signs”

So a toothpaste suburb showed up exactly when I needed it the most. I felt worthless and I needed something to hang onto, and milo shows up being just as brave and funny and talented as ever, and I was smiling through the first three tracks, parts of which I just quoted. I was starting to get away from what was troubling me before track 4, Sanssouci Palace, hit. Here’s how it starts:

“I have been alone for several months on a verge of a level up
Caught in a shifting paradigm
I’ve known the strangest pains
Played the language games
And won a couple of pissing matches in my time
Exchanging love tokens
Redefining success to include what’s broken in my mind
I’ve read the Wittgenstein
And sat staring at the ceiling
Wondering when I’m going to die
I don’t need to be comforted
I don’t need to be comforted”

Open, ugly crying. Every arrow in my body from shitty stupid 2014 got yanked out at once and all sorts of shit came out. The cherry on top being Wittgenstein, my father’s favorite philosopher. He passed when I was 15, and to help myself understand who my dad was I’ve been going slowly working through what he’s written. One of the thoughts that rolls through my mind as I keep moving forwards is if any of what happened to me would’ve happened without dad getting sick. So that all everything just… out, in a way I needed. The rest of the album was just soothing and vital after that, everything his other work has been for me.

Two exceptions.

One: “Just Us.” He’s got two tracks named this way, the first one from his first release, entitled “Just Us (For my friend Robert, who doesn’t live here anymore).” It is one of the easiest ways to get me to cry, just listening to that one. Sometimes just thinking about it does the trick, because the terms he uses to think about his passing are just so upfront. Like tearing off bandages. The one on a toothpaste suburb is called “Just Us (a reprise for my friend Robert who has not been forgotten).” It’s… what it sounds like, so that tore me back open when I was listening to it.

Two: “Gaudeamus igitur (for Kang Min-gyu).” I’ll let you research Kang Min-gyu for yourself, but the thing that caused me to come undone was the very ending of the song, where he talks about how he sees his survival moving forwards from this album until whatever stops his survival. It’s punctuated with this.

“Who wrote his thesis with the one black man emoji
Rap game Mowgli with a nosebleed
Who had the courage to keep on hoping
Who had the courage to keep on hoping”

The beat drops some for the second repetition, and then when it snapped back in it felt cleansing. I wanted the courage to keep hoping, even as the beat started laughing at it. I felt like it was laughing at milo too, but also that we were both going to face down whatever was laughing. I was probably going to hide behind him while that happened, but shit, solidarity fucking helps. But after the album was done, I just went on twitter, and

milotweet

which is how Kurious ends his verse on MF DOOM’s “?,” a track about losing but marching forwards anyways.

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