When most people hear Portland, Oregon they think of rain and the Pacific Northwest. But Portland has also had a very underrated hip-hop scene for awhile now, and Milc and Televangel are two of its best. With their first collaborative album, Neutral Milc Motel, Milc’s charismatic flow matches Televangel’s atmospheric beats to create what might be the best album out of Portland – and one of the best rap releases period – this year.
Whether you’ve heard of Milc before or not, you’re probably familiar with Televangel’s work. As a former member of the duo Blue Sky Black Death (BSBD), he’s produced for the likes of Cam’ron, Jean Grae and Deniro Farrar, to name a few. After BSBD disbanded, Televangel emerged as a solo producer whose dynamic beats conjure lush and layered soundscapes with a strong sense of emotion and atmosphere. Televangel is Portland’s best producer and now he’s paired up with Milc, who’s been one of the Rose City rap scene’s best kept secrets.
It’s hard not to like Milc. In an era of tough-talking rappers and machismo, he’s charismatic and raps with levity, leaving you with the impression that he’s a very likable person. He’s steadily become one of Portland’s most exciting MCs and, having grown up in Northeast Portland, is also a bit of a hometown hero. And while he’s been able to ride a wave of positivity along with his rising local profile, he’s still Milc—nothing about him appears synthetic or disingenuous.
With Neutral Milc Motel, Milc and Televangel have crafted an album that distinctly represents the past, present and future of hip-hop — the beats sound fresh but still have an old school vibe to them; these are classic compositions and Milc raps with a laid-back, confident swagger which compliments Televangel’s production perfectly. The beats Televangel has cooked up are lush and timeless and push Milc to take his bars in a more lyrically dense direction than most Portland rappers. These two have fantastic chemistry, which really comes through on this album.
From some smooth production by Televangel that matches Milc’s flow with a level of depth, to a group of guest verses including AJ Suede, Defcee, Zilla Rocca and Deniro Farrar — the whole album is a stellar listen. Neutral Milc Motel is a reminder that you don’t need to be from New York or Los Angeles to create great hip-hop music with a distinctive sound. You can just do your thing from Portland and people will take notice.