Ahead of today’s release, Cambridge rapper Millyz held a listening event for his new mixtape Sped last night at Laced on Mass Ave. Before you check the album for yourself (full stream below), here are three of my early impressions.
1) It’s Special
The inspiration behind the album’s title comes from Millyz own experience growing up in the public school system as a special education (“sped”) child, a time not exactly overflowing with great memories. “I remember being pulled out of the Fifth Grade and put with the worst kids,” he said in introducing the album. “I gave up the dream of going to college early.” Things didn’t get much better during his high school years at Seaport Academy in Charlestown, a boys-only school meant to “serve students who are not able to achieve their goals in a traditional school setting” according to their website. According to Millyz, that just meant another dead end for troubled kids: “I remember riding the short bus and feeling like I can’t be shit.”
Everything he’s achieved since has been in defiance of that notion, but embracing the nickname means something deeper. “Everyone has a special education,” he says, because everyone’s experience is unique, while making some allusions to the “Sped” name and theme continuing on to other future projects. It’d better catch on, as the t-shirts are already made.
2) It’s Dark
Millyz gives us fair warning before pressing play; this is a dark album from a dark time and a dark place, and how. The first track opens with the voice of a woman describing special needs students as “disabled emotionally” and “the saddest thing I’ve ever seen,” and when Chris Rock pops up later with his short-bus kids bit, there’s only a smattering of nervous laughter. Instead of just raging against the broken school system, Millyz paints a broader picture of life as a product of that system, with all its scars and self-inflicted wounds included. But be ready to absorb a heavy back log of bleak feelings. Even the story behind the thick stoner vibe of “Drift” is kind of a bummer: “I lived in New York City, next to [strip club] Sin City,” he says, “I was in there every day at 5, throwing my life away. That’s where that song comes from.”
3) It’s a Local Affair
The fact that Millyz worked with some local artists and producers for Sped isn’t surprising, but deserves some props nonetheless. Statik Selektah produced the first single, “Substance,” adding the aching soul sample per specific request. “I told Statik I wanted to hear the beat cry,” says Millyz, using the beat for a couple thoughtful verses about reconciling with his estranged father. Producer Humbeats is another name to watch who contributes here, after turning heads with Cousin Stizz’s “Life” last year.” Gio Dee also makes an appearance on “Legacy,” which also appeared on his own recent mixtape TOTB 2: The 2nd Coming.