Twenty-one year old Milo is a rapper of a different kind. With no liquor or drug of choice, he's a vegetarian whose only weakness is soda. Rappers are often late to interviews; Milo is early. At a Chinese restaurant in Culver City, he's drinking tea and reading philosopher Jacques Derrida's Paper Machine, a book questioning the media. Tall and slender with a full beard and his long hair pulled back in a bun, Milo puts the book away and rubs the tattoo of the Pokémon character he's recently inked on his arm. You probably haven't heard of him yet, but that's going to change.
Born to parents younger than he is now, Milo was given the name Rory Ferreira and grew up in Saco, Maine. While in grade school, his uncle turned him onto rappers including Nas. Later, milo discovered art rappers Open Mike Eagle and Busdriver, both of whom he cites as largely influential.
Milo and his father relocated to Kenosha, Wisconsin for high school. Here, in 2009, he was president of his senior class, won awards for stage acting and was elected Badger Boys State Governor as part of a program recognizing Wisconsin's brightest high school students.
Though he comes to L.A. sometimes, he's still in school at St. Norbert College, a small Catholic liberal arts institution in De Pere, Wisconsin, majoring in philosophy. Having gotten in touch with Open Mike Eagle via MySpace, Mike took him on his first tour.
Meanwhile, Milo first began rapping with friends in the group called Nom de Rap. His first solo project, 2011's I Wish My Brother Rob Was Here, was inspired by the death of his best friend Robert Espinoza. In 2012, he then released Milo takes Baths.
All of this eventually led to a deal with L.A. rapper Nocando's label Hellfyre Club — which also features Open Mic Eagle — and Milo's released two EPs that reflect his intellect. All this, and he still hasn't graduated from college in Wisconsin.
His delivery is a rhythmic style of spoken word, and he references writers and philosophers as much as he does '90s Nickelodeon shows, and WWF wrestlers. Milo's music is honest and open, unpretentious and approachable. Though he'll namedrop Bertrand Russell, he's not trying to make you feel dumb, just suggesting you might like the guy's writing. In any case, it's not music for the passive listener.
His labelmates speak highly of him. “I think he's what Hellfyre was built for,” says Open Mic Eagle. “I don't know too many labels that would have treated him with the care and value that his work deserved as a new artist. I'm happy to have had some hand in showing him to people.”
Nocando shares a similar view: “As long as he keeps making really good songs and he keeps being honest with himself, Milo has a hell of a career ahead of him.”
Milo's latest EP Cavalcade dropped this month. Equally inspired by his grandfather's brush with cancer and philosophers like Ludwig Wittgenstein and Richard Rorty, the EP heavily samples '70s folk-rock band America — one of his grandfather's favorites. His most challenging work yet, the production is dense and often obscures the vocals. Still, Milo's raps are better and more confident than ever.
In addition to amassing a sizeable Twitter following of more than 12,000, Milo's also recently written for academic journals about his music. He just performed at Nocando's Daylight party and is about to take off on a 25-city tour.
His success so far has left Milo at a crossroads. The options are to move to L.A. or spend another year in De Pere. “I'm trapped in college,” he says, sighing.
Above all though, he's excited for his future and for the future of art rap. “I feel like my role [is] that of the young bulldog,” he says, nearly jumping out of his seat with eager excitement. “I'm really going to take this shit and run with it. I want to start applying for grants and artist residencies. If we call it 'art rap,' why the fuck don't we have artist residencies?”