THE PIFF GANG + CULT MOUNTAIN MEMBER ON HIS SOLO DEBUT
As one of the most promising rappers in the UK, Milkavelli’s heavily tattooed appearance and lyrics full of London slang have people wondering, “Who the hell is this guy?”
Viper talks to the only rapper we know with both Queen Nefertiti and Kate Moss tattooed on his chest. Shockingly neither tattoo is his favourite, as he gazes down at the ink in the palm of his right hand and reveals, “They all mean something, I low-key like this Benzo Boyz one the most ‘cause it’s the newest. It’s for the Barbiturate takers.”
We meet in his North London home, a place christened T.H.O.T. Mansion by the many debauchery-loving friends that pass through the doors. He refuses to take credit for the name, stating, “It’s nothing to do with me, I was away when the house got the name. It’s to do with the younger generation of us not the older ones; the little twenty one year- olds that float around.” Referring to the Chicago term that translates as “That ho over there,” the name given to the house subtly reflects Milk’s debaucherous lifestyle. It’s also reflected in many other touches around the house, with “Ollie’s hat box” written across a former wine crate. Surprisingly the box doesn’t contain a single hat, just random electrical cables, a lightbulb and similar nonentities.
The twenty seven year-old rapper has enjoyed a leisurely career so far, as both a solo artist and member of rap collectives, Piff Gang and Cult Mountain. He first appeared on the scene back in the mid-2000s as “Monster Under The Bed,” competing at battle rap events across London and loitering around Deal Real Records. One of his best known videos from this era is the Don’t Flop battle, which sees him battle Pseudonym. Asked if a lot of people come across him now then realise they knew him as Monster, he admits it happens often. “I like that my cult fans know all the different levels to this shit. Shout out them, they’re the real motherfuckers, they buy this shit.”
From “Monster,” he evolved into “Don Silk,” before eventually settling on the name du jour, “Milkavelli;” a play on 2Pac’s alternative moniker, Makaveli, not to mention Max B’s Biggaveli title. Hilariously I once had to talk him out of changing his rap name to simply, “Oliver,” arguing that it would be difficult to find him on Google. The Milk part of his name refers to his pale complexion, not his love for milk, though he does love the white stuff, thanking Viper for providing him with enough milk to last many days following our photo shoot. He expresses excitement as he runs through the many cereals he’s now able to indulge in.
Milkavelli’s sense of humour is evident in his music, as is his cocky attitude. On ‘Bionic’, he begins with the words, “So basically, you’re a complete cunt and that’s the fact of life,” an unexplained insult that leaves your eyes wide before the first verse even begins. Many of his opening lines tend to have as much impact as his ad-libs, though an assumed understanding of British culture often means that the wit is lost on those lacking in knowledge of the UK’s social history. For example, “Rap game Harold Shipman, I got no patience,” is a pretty mind-blowing line if you’re aware that Harold Shipman was a doctor imprisoned for illegally euthanising his patients. It’s also effortlessly delivered, demonstrating Milkavelli’s ease with clever one-liners.
Far from being considered a negative, this inclusive understanding of British culture encourages UK fans to embrace music that references their own culture’s history rather than America’s. Growing up, I knew cultural icons that meant nothing to my life due to them being name checked on a song by Ja Rule or Nelly [Vanna White anyone?]. So hearing rappers from London reference distinctly British things, like Roots’ Manuva’s lyric about cheese on toast, has always made me fonder of the UK’s own rap scene.
UK hip hop is presently expanding in an interesting way, coincidentally at the same time grime music is enjoying a resurgence. It’s been a few years since we had this many talented UK rappers releasing music simultaneously. And the fact that the artists are friends too suggests that this scene could evolve into a new era of talented musicians, from Rejjie Snow and Loyle Carner to Jesse James and Milkavelli. Many of them are also crossing over into the US, in part because of their relationships with NYC’s alternative rap scene, such as RatKing and Remy Banks.
Milkavelli has collaborated several times with the latter, most recently on ‘10K’, produced by Sumgii and featuring vocals by producer, Budgie. The song was recorded in London in early 2014, but released in 2015, along with another song of theirs, ‘Snowbeach’. Speaking on the possibility of the pair releasing an album together, Milkavelli explains, “That’s a work in process, eventually that will just hit you from the side.” His relationship with the Queens MC is evident, with Banks’ regularly shouting out the UK collective via the Internet.
Currently taking a hiatus from recording, Piff Gang’s 10 members are focusing on solo work at present, with Milkavelli and Phaze What both preparing to release full-length projects this year. The London collective, made up of rappers, producers and DJs, was formed in 2011 with their first show taking place in East London the night the London riots began. Creating feel-good songs that showcased their highly-active social lives, the MCs caught heat for promoting a lifestyle that some didn’t appreciate. As Young Skout says on one song, “People always ask why we rap about smoking weed, fucking bitches and parties, that’s cause all we do is smoke weed, fuck bitches and party.” Reflecting on the lyric, Milkavelli laughs, “At the time that’s all we did.”