Mylo Mu’s Many Frames of Reference

The Rapper, designer, and visual artist talks about Bay Area hip-hop, design school, and his new album METATRON.

Geometric shapes, spiritual references, and experimental sounds flow through Mylo Mu’s creative projects. Mu is a 24-year-old rapper, designer, and visual artist who recently returned to his former Bay Area home to film the visual for his new song “Honey.”

The fifth track on Mu’s new album METATRON, “Honey” features Mucho Banksy, an Oakland multimedia artist, community organizer, and member of the BLK MGK music collective. The visual’s unusual editing techniques and conceptual elements align with the album’s themes. The familiar underpass landscapes are pixelated, distorted, and tinted with vibrant colors, inspiring viewers to see Oakland for what it is: energetic, spirited, and unusual. “We’re setting the scene in The Bay Area,” Mu said, “where a lot of what I’m doing started at.”

Although Mu was born in Los Angeles, he spent much of his young adult life in the Bay Area, where he received his Bachelor’s degree in African American Studies at UC Berkeley. In 2016, he joined BLK MGK, a Bay Area collective of seven musical artists. Mu is currently based in New York City where he is completing his Master of Fine Arts at Parsons School of Design. Last week, he discussed METATRON, his experience in design school, and how the Bay Area has influenced his sound.

The Bay Area’s vibrant and distinct contributions to hip-hop culture — notably the energy of the Bay’s Hyphy movement — left an everlasting imprint on Mu and his music. “The spirit of The Bay is still felt in my music,” he said. “The freedom, the openness, and the chill quality of it. The politics as well.” Artists such as Too $hort, E-40, and Lil B were a few of the names to come up when discussing his influences, crediting them all as an inspiration to independent artists like himself.

But that is not to say that Mu’s sound is sonically linked to the energy of Hyphy. Rather, on METATRON Mu transmutes the hyperactive energy of the Bay Area into ambient, soothing, and heavily jazz-influenced sounds. While the album doesn’t fall into any genre or category, it’s clear that Mu draws influences from Frank Ocean and Solange, his voice and phrasing reminiscent of contemporary R&B.

In the album’s first track, “Shifts” Mu samples a spoken word explanation of “Archangel Metatron” and the merkaba, a geometrical cube said to help clear out negative energy. Asked about the title of the project, Mu described the Metatron as a symbol of freedom and the ability to shapeshift, visually represented as a complex geometric structure. “Metatron is basically the flower of life,” Mu said. “Turning something from an idea to reality is like the metatron’s cube.” Mu reinterpreted the symbol of Metatron to create a superhero, which is represented as an animated character on the album’s Ameily-designed cover.

The concept of rejuvenation and freedom are certainly major themes on the album. although Mu’s past projects have addressed politics using an experimental edge, his most recent album embraces themes of spirituality that listeners had not yet heard from him.

Discussing the topic of spirituality, Mu referenced ancient practices and traditions, such as the Orishas or deities of the Yoruba people of West Africa and their celebration of the ancestors. “To me, it represents a mentality,” he said. “It’s a mentality that you can call upon. I don’t think people have to believe in angels or spirits or anything like that. People should understand that these are frames of references. I’m trying to create a metaphor where people see themselves as creators.”

Mu’s creative capacities extend far beyond just rapping. He has production credits for all of the tracks on METATRON and his talents in design and photography are showcased in his brand Gumbo Couture. His preferred medium? Installation art. “Culture is created in shared space, and because I do so many things I can bring it all into one space,” he said. “It’s like my pulse.”

Yet Mu declines to offer advice to aspiring creatives. “Advice is a strong word,” he said. Eventually though, he did offer up some words on imagination and intuition. “Imagine a world you want to see for yourself and then create it,” he said. “Don’t worry about who’s going to be a part of it. So much will happen for you if you follow your intuition.”

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