Rory Ferreira is an artist who goes by many names. While his output as milo is perhaps his most well known, one can also find some of his best work with projects under the moniker Scallops Hotel and more recently, his excellent collaboration with New York’s Elucid on the 2018 LP Nostrum Grocers. He is a poet who, despite his multiple aliases, has clearly carved out a niche and loyal following within the alternative hip hop scene.
Here, Ferreira returns with his second project as R.A.P. Ferreira after 2020’s Purple Moonlight Pages. That record, made within an increasingly chaotic societal context, signalled a shift away from the laid-back tone of his previous releases to something more urgent and even confrontational.
In many ways, Bob’s Son further commits to this direction, embracing the more eccentric experimental style. Where previously, Ferreira would invite the listener to engage in relaxed philosophical enquiry, here, he is demanding the audience’s attention, forcing them to consider his meaning.
This is certainly a welcome development. However, before delving into the music, it should be noted that the release is accompanied by one of the most ambitious and original album rollouts I have seen in recent years. All listeners must first visit Rory’s intricately designed virtual café at www.cafe.rubyyacht.com.
The record, created as an ode to surrealist Beat poet, Bob Kaufman, might be a difficult listen for some. Its strange jazzy beats and occasionally impenetrable philosophical lyricism might alienate many casual observers seeking immediate gratification.
His writing requires multiple readings and often remains opaque even upon further inspection. In this regard, Ferreira is certainly an uncompromising artist who, much like Kaufman himself, is driven to speak his mind regardless of how many are listening.
Nonetheless, throughout the track-list, various moments will catch the listener off guard: “I’m the type of slave you buy if you need a new master”, Ferreira raps on “Diogenes On The Auction Block”. Amidst the thicket of obscure and referential lyrics, various proclamations occasionally burst through with surprising force and wit.
Later on the same track, Ferreira exclaims, “Political spectrum be Sprite or Sierra Mist, it’s disgusting”, critiquing the lack of substantial choice within contemporary American politics. It is a line which speaks to Rory’s consistent ability to blend incisive political and philosophical commentary with humour.
Indeed, despite the baffling complexity of certain aspects of the album, the tracklist maintains a generally lighthearted tone throughout. Here, unlike on some of his older more mellow albums, Rory’s voice bobs and weaves around the beats with incredible energy and eccentricity, often drifting into strange incomprehensible ramblings and even scat.
The results are electric, culminating in an album which does an impressive job of making obscure surrealist and philosophical poetry both exciting and palatable.
In closing, at the record’s outset, Ferreira finds himself both boldly proclaiming himself to be the contemporary heir of Bob Kaufman, and anxiously calling for his arrival. It is a moment which recalls his sampling of James Baldwin at the outset of “Who Told You To Think??!!?!?!?!”.
On both tracks, Ferreira, by invoking writers who have clearly influenced him, demonstrates his fascination with the role and importance of the poet in society. This is a rapper who understands poets as those with the greatest capacity for genuine freedom and truth in a world lacking in both.
Whether they are “off riding green horses, profaning the inevitable but never on purpose”, or “out to open sea croonin’, strummin’, open C, no capo”, Ferreira understands the poet’s function as not just partaking in but spreading this insight to whoever will listen.
In this sense, one can certainly feel the spirit of Kaufman flowing through the album. Later, on one of the standout tracks, “Rejoice”, Rory states rather beautifully: “You know this life is vicious, and it seems the only option is to cling to the mind that retains the faculty to dream”. Perhaps, for Ferreira, the poets are the greatest dreamers.
R.A.P. Ferreira’s Bob’s Son is available here and you can stream it on Spotify below.
Words by Noah Sparkes