Lil Ugly Mane returns with two new singles

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What does it mean for an artist to have “matured?” Have they grown up? have they aged? Has the content of their lyricism gained in wisdom? Are we talking about the quality of their technique? A more polished sound?

In the case of Travis Miller aka Lil Ugly Mane, it’s hard to say. From his blend of southern rap influence and experimental hip hop styles to his most recent “pop” sound, Miller cannot be placed on just one avenue of music, nor does he adhere to the perception. of how an artist’s music should “mature” overtime. Instead, time seems to work backwards as it effortlessly changes style over the years.

Miller’s musical talent ranges from the Gangsta / Memphis Rap mix to Mist Thug Isolation, with jazzy and soul rhythms on Three-sided tape Volume One, to the dark cloud rap loops under his Aka bedwetting. He’s a master not only in sampling styles, but also in imitating them, which is why it’s no surprise that he was able to bring his own twist to the psychedelic pop styles of recent years with his single sided. -verso “porcelain lightly / in a lifetime”, released September 14.

With these two new songs, Miller’s typical experimental hip-hop styles are missing. Instead, the singles are a far cry from what we’re used to from the rapper: punk-edge layered synths, high-pitched samples, and incredibly catchy melodies. By the time the guitar riffs crash into “a bit of china” any LÃœM listener will recognize that this is not a typical rapper song. Miller leaves us no break as the synth layers, reverberating guitars, delicate basslines, and even the presence of a repeating toy piano fit together perfectly.

There is never a dull moment as every second is filled with choruses of earworms and walls of sound production. As “into a life” is inaugurated, its accompaniments of record scratches, distant radio samples and baritone voices echo the layered pop music of artists like TV Girl and George Clanton.

What could perhaps be the most astounding difference is its lyricism. Of course, it wouldn’t be a challenge to produce such sounds for someone as comfortable with production as Miller. What surprises in these pieces is the softer, even poetic approach to lyricism, highlighted on “slightly porcelain” with phrases like “I count the stars as birthdays / From a window of this prison in which I am ”. Compared to a track like “Bitch I’m Lugubrious” by Mista Thug Isolation in 2012, “Bitch, je suis morose et lugubre / I’mma let the Uzi spit / Turn his face into sticky shit,” lyrical comfort, and with confidence.

The tongue-in-cheek pun and harsher rap style found in his other works are traded for more emotional vocals. And the lyrics follow suit, adjusting to this new tone. It works, unsurprisingly, against layered samples and dreamy melodies.

Both tracks are reminiscent of last year’s Miller single, “Headboard”, which was released with a synthpop cover of the 1996 track “Here I Am” by British musicians DJ Ham, DJ Demo and Justin Time. While the track seems like a good start to the artist’s emerging new sound, the song’s origins are a bit more ambiguous.

Although it was released on a tape in 2020, “Headboard” made its way onto the Spotify download of Third party tape volume 1, a collection of tracks made between 2008 and 2011. It’s unclear if this was done to stay true to the album’s intent, being a mix of songs and instrumentals unreleased at the time of its 2013 release, or to put the single on Spotify for streaming purposes.

Then, on September 21, Miller uploaded two remixes of the single “Headboard” to his Bandcamp that were “strictly to be played at dance parties between 2002 and 2004 in Norfolk, Va.” piece.

The cover, both for “porcelain lightly / in a lifetime” and for the new “headboard (nineteen remixes to the wave)”, features the name “Pinhead Barbarians” next to their graphics. Whether that’s the name Miller uses for his new material or the name of the upcoming album is currently unknown.

What is clear about these new tracks, however, is that they do not explore any new territory for the artist. Miller shows us that maturation does not have to be synonymous with aging: he has always been confident in his techniques, has always been aware of the border between irony and the poetic in his lyrics and has certainly always been able to produce beautiful sounds.

Maybe to mature in music is to create shamelessly, and Travis Miller has always shown us that he’s not afraid to take the plunge.

Daily Arts writer Conor Durkin can be contacted at [email protected]


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