Wilson Miles’ EP, ‘Where There’s Smoke’, is a continuous 20 minute experimental piece that presents snippets of the duo’s impressive skills. As soon as you really get into a track, it’s already transitioned into another. But this is no bad thing. It’s an effective technique that adds an enigmatic feel to the songs. First you hear fuzziness and strange sounds AS IF someone is searching through a radio for clear stations. Then from nowhere, rapper Tony Wilson’s southern voice rises from the murkiness.
But whilst Tony talks about deep concepts, he doesn’t play central character in the mixtape. Both he and producer Hector Miles share the limelight. The beats are often left to run at times, sounding satisfyingly choppy with unorthodox drums patterns. On top of them, Hector inputs vocal samples that sound like they are ripped from old documentaries. If you strain your ears you might be able to make out the vocals saying phrases like ‘falling upright’ or ‘the complete faith in nothing’.
Although the production can sound very unconventional, the overall project still seems tethered to the essence of hip-hop. For example, in one track we hear the introduction of a jazz trumpet that would sounded suited on an old boom-bap song. But instead it hovers over an innovative bassline that reminds us of an engine starting. ‘All these problems running through my brain, I can’t wait to shine so they feel my reign’, Tony says on that self-reflective, meditative tip that we are used to.
Together the duo move through different interpretations and re-inventions of familiar vibes. So different are the energies between different songs that it’s hard to put a finger on what the overall message might be. In the next track, for instance we hear something that reminds us of a Big-Boi or Goodie Mob song with Tony rapping quickly and stretching out his words in that southern gangsta style. It wakes us up from the previous introspective mode to tell us ‘There’s a war going on outside, look around, look around’. An eerie plugin sound comes in every couple of bars, chilling enough to make your hair stand up. Then almost from nowhere we hear it change to a sample that sounds like an intro to an 80’s cop show.
In one standout hype track you can imagine Tony driving a car in the South yelling to anyone who will hear him. He says, ‘We don’t need no reparations, run up in your favourite bank and waste them!’ Then in another place, ‘Peace to my black nation, I’m the god!’.
The mixtape ends well with Tony giving a final barrage of lyrics that one might find difficult to understand if one is new to the Southern slang. A high-pitched whistle melody plays at the end, the mixtape leaving us a on a level of playful childishness.
You can tell that the duo had fun creating the work. They have feed off each other’s energy. The combination of Hectors unique British interpretation of Hip-Hop and Tony’s commitment to old school lyricism create something that you fill find yourself replaying. After this experimental work, we are left to wonder what a more mature Wilson Miles will create in the future.