Tone Glow 092: HiTech
An interview with Detroit trio HiTech (King Milo, Milf Melly, and 47Chops)
Saturday, January 7th, 2023: HiTech, ironically, were having a bit of an issue with Zoom. The trio—King Milo and Milf Melly, emcees and producers; and 47Chops, DJ—first appeared on my screen as a pile of sideways torsos, briefly righted by a rotation of the phone before metamorphosing into a black rectangle as their device fell face down. After a brief scrabble, order was restored, a coffee mug now placed front and center to hold my digital retina in place.
Even a wide view doesn’t quite capture the group. Being that they were at his house, King Milo got the middle seat—directly behind the coffee mug, and in front of an ornately-framed painting that he identified as being “from the French Revolution.” He was flanked by Melly and Chops, each of whom would lean in slightly from the edge of the screen to speak. FXHE label boss Omar-S, who this past summer brought HiTech’s eponymous debut from hand-burned CD-R dream to mechanically stamped vinyl reality, appeared briefly to flash a peace sign before disappearing behind the lens, unseen and usually inaudible when heard.
While HiTech (the group) is still quite new, and HiTech (the album) lasts a fleeting 24 minutes across 11 tracks, the collaboration marks the convergence of three distinct—and classically Detroitian—artistic identities. Soundcloud carbon dating can trace King Milo’s output back nearly a decade, and a deep dive into the accounts of the younger Melly and Chops reveals a tapestry of influences, fascinations, and dalliances alike from the years before they came together like… well, I’ll let Milo reveal exactly how.
Corrigan Blanchfield: Milo, I know you’re from Ypsi—where are the rest of y’all from?
King Milo: Well essentially, I’m from Detroit. Moved out to Ypsi with my mama. I’ve been comin’ back and forth since most of my childhood, ‘til I moved back into the town. So if I went to Ypsi with my mom, I’d come back with my dad. I’m on the West Side right now, but I’m from the East Side, you feel me?
Was it different growing up out there?
King Milo: Pitbulls and bloodhounds. I won’t put one and one, but you can kinda guess, you feel me? That’s it, compartmentalized. You gotta use your imagination. That’s two different things, but either way it’s a couple dogs there.
Milf Melly: Shit, I was born in the East Side of Detroit, and then after a few years I moved to Belleville. After that I went to Metro Detroit, that’s like St. Clair Shores and Fraser, Michigan. That’s on the outskirts, suburbs of Detroit. And then I moved back to Detroit for real, and it was like a real culture shock (laughs). I was a nomad for a long time.
47Chops: I was born in Detroit, but I’ve kinda moved around and lived in different places. Virginia bein’ one of ‘em, I used to live in Richmond for about seven years. Before that, I lived in Southeast Asia with my mom for two to three years when I was little. Then I came back to the city around high school, type shit.
Were you too young to be picking up musical influences in Asia, or do you still carry that?
47Chops: As far as musical influences back then, I pretty much listened to whatever my mom was playing, you know what I’m saying? She used to play, like, Loose Ends… what else? My dad was a hairstylist and made CDs for his hair shows. I remember going to kindergarten and he had made a CD with different songs on it. One of the songs he played was shit from the Matrix soundtrack, you know what I’m sayin’? So I was listenin’ to shit like that, at an early age I was exposed to so many different types of sounds. My dad actually was an artist as well, he was a part of this group called The Horizons. They would tour and dance, do different shit. They’d re-create songs by The Temptations, shit like that. I think they got some shit on Youtube, look up “swingin engine the horizons.” But I used to know how to speak the language, kind of lost it over time. But I lived in Cambodia.
King Milo: (visibly shocked) Oh yeah! I almost blew away, I was like “what the fuck?!” This n***a was gettin’ real Cambodian breast milk. The real dose!
Now that y’all are all back here, are there specific spots around town that you think of as kind of central to your scene?
Milf Melly: Wherever we go, that’s where it’s at.
47Chops: Either on the East Side, West Side, or downtown!
King Milo: Right now, we on the West Side, like I said. So my pad is kinda the spot for music, so we cook up. And if it’s not my pad, it’s [Milf Melly’s] shit on the East Side. I’ma keep it real with you, for me—can’t speak for them, because we all got our own boxes ‘cause we solo artists as well—it’s definitely here, ‘cause I’m the head engineering crew. I mix and master all our projects.
47Chops: This is definitely the meetup spot, for sure.
How long has this ghettotech revival type of sound been going?
Milf Melly: Last year, for real. Like we just came out with this. It’s still growing though.
King Milo: But that shit be growing quick, rapidly as fuck. N***as in this bitch move expeditiously. You know how it goes, techno been around in Detroit. At the same time, we kind of the new sound, so since we’ve been kickin’ it off everybody’s been likin’ the way it sounds. They wanna make they own sound, they own new sound. We think that’s pretty cohesive with everything we try to do, so we support everything that’s comin’ up.
47Chops: And on the universal tip, I feel like shit is kinda headed towards dance music again, you know what I’m saying? It’s just the perfect time for people to receive what we’re putting out, paying homage to the shit from back in the day, from our own city, but doin’ it in a more innovative way.
What were the formative techno records that y’all were turned onto? Milo, I know you and Melly came from a more strictly rap background.
King Milo: Oooooh, you ready? Let’s talk about that shit, that old shit. First of all, DJ Assault. We gon’ start there, you feel me? Obviously Omar-S, that’s the n***a that kicked off the shitshow—big kickoff, you feel me?
Milf Melly: DJ Rashad.
King Milo: (to Chops) Shit, who you say? This n***a’s engulfed in music.
47Chops: Mr. De’, Moodymann, Kraftwerk, Cakedog…
King Milo: Snowflake for sure, shout out Snowflake! Godfather. DJ Fingers for sure! It’s gonna keep comin’, bro.
47Chops: Yeah, we could make a list for a good 5-10 minutes.
King Milo: And you can stamp us right there too, you feel me? We just as great, we tryin’ to keep it going. They gonna respect our new sound too. You can stand with us, behind us, and in front of us, we are gon’ go up.
Do you feel any type of I-94 connection with Chicago, musically?
47Chops: Me personally, when I spin I spin a lot of Detroit, Chicago type shit.
Milf Melly: The jukin’, footwork shit.
47Chops: Yeah, and it’s also shit that I grew up on as well. When I came back to the city, that was shit that my parents would play and shit. Chicago, they like our cousins for real. Can’t know jit without juke, you know what I’m sayin’?
I know Chops, you mentioned living in Richmond, but do y’all have roots in the South that you’re conscious of, music- or family-wise? It seems like so much recent music coming out of Detroit is a new generation picking up on the No Limit sound.
King Milo: Yes bro, all that. But believe it or not, bro, for me? I kinda had leaned into music late, my knowledge of music was real scarce until I started delving. But I’m a quick learner, so when I found these kind of guys I’m just learning, catching the drift. My taste of the South was somebody else’s taste of the South, like, A$AP Rocky-type shit. Then I went in from there, UGK, 8Ball & MJG, past that to Shawty Pimp.
Listening to the record, I had one other specific influence I had to ask about—were y’all big on The Cool Kids?
King Milo: Ahhhh, yeah hell yeah bro! Sir Michael Rocks and… the other n***a, I can’t remember his name. But I fuck with him too. Chuck! I fuck with Chuck because he’s lit. I think one of them’s actually from around here, probably from Auburn Hills or something like that. But yeah, I used to listen to them n***as heavy though. That’s crazy!
47Chops: Sir Michael Rocks got some shit too, juke-type shit.
I know they were tied into Boldy James somehow, that might be the Detroit correction.
King Milo: Yeah, Boldy been around! Boldy know everybody—Boldy know Curren$y, Wiz, all them n***as. Boldy been tied in for a minute.
What are y’all doing production on currently? Do you care much about getting the real, old head equipment or are computers good enough?
King Milo: At some point, at some point. But for the most part, we do as much organic as we can. We’ve got plans to do a lot of that sampling, cuttin’ shit tomorrow, next year, you feel me? But for now, everything we do, we try to keep it as organic as possible. We rip a sample, we try to do it from somebody we know, or from something that’s built for that. I think most all of it is original, I don’t think you gon’ hear a sample right now. We try to use analog as much as we can these days. I got this shit from Omar-S, it’s a Casio joint. That bitch sweet as fuck. And that synthesizer, the brown one with the wood on it? That bitch crazy, I’m ‘bout to crack that bitch open like an egg.
Omar-S (off-camera): The Casio shit? (laughs).
King Milo: I know I wanna go back over to that n***a’s studio, because he got some shit. Like being a kid in the music department. Wow!
47Chops: I been fuckin’ with Roland equipment, lately. That’s my go-to right now.
Milf Melly: I really use software, I’m a software guy. I’m not into the hardware just yet.
What about culturally, are you really trying to go back and get that deep Motown education, The New Dance Show, or are you looking towards the future?
King Milo: Not necessarily bro, I ain’t tryin’ to go back to the past. I’ma live in the future. But anything that’s essential for my creative thought process in this day and time, I’ma just work towards it. I’ll never shut my ears off, so anything anybody has to say… everything’s nutrition.
47Chops: Yeah, as far as the history, that’s something I’ve kinda looked into, with The New Dance Show and different shit like that. But I feel like we’ve all come from different places, come together with the shit we doin’... I know a little bit about the history, but we all, on the same accord, are thinking about the future of what we tryin’ to do.
King Milo: Because the new sound, bro, you gotta understand—Bob Ross was on something when he said “happy accidents.” But we did it intentionally, we did it because of our having this intention. This shit happened, and now we creatin’ and devisin’ a way where n***as can be hip to the new sound we cultivated because we were joyous, living in that moment. We were tryin’ to reminisce on the vibes that Assault, Omar-S, Snowflake gave us, and lo and behold. Moodymann was out there playing our shit—that shit’ll freak a n***a out. I started feeling like some steps started forming in front of us. Omar-S out there playing our shit in, what was that, Australia? You start realizing, and no pressure, but you start realizing that it’s really for the culture.
47Chops: Just looking back to the past, you get an understanding of the culture, but not really trying to dig too deep and be too influenced by that. Move forward, take that understanding and mix it with what we wanna do. No disrespect.
What are y’all focused on now, creatively? Is there a HiTech 2?
King Milo: We workin’ on something, man…
Milf Melly: We workin’ on it, workin’ on it. It’s a process.
King Milo: A little elbow grease, a little knee grease ain’t hurt nobody.
47Chops: We cookin’ with some oil (laughter).
The debut record had come out a little earlier, in 2021, and then got the FXHE release this past year, right? How’d that end up in Omar’s hands?
47Chops: Shit, we just popped out at an event, a DJ Assault event. DJ Assault was at Omar-S spot, throwin’ an event and whatnot. Me and Mel had popped out, introduced ourselves, and Mel had pretty much gave Omar a tape that was—
King Milo: A tape that was one of fifteen! We only made fifteen at the time bro, we only had fifteen fuckin’ CDs.
47Chops: Didn’t you give him your personal copy?
Milf Melly: Yeah, that was my last one.
King Milo: We was down to our nubs on copies (laughs). So he gave this n***a the last copy he had, on some divine shit. Omar-S went and listened to that shit, he said he rode around all summer listening to that bitch. He said “I fuck with y’all, let’s get y’all in the lab.” So we got back in, he aligned the stars, and now we here. And we still workin’, tryin’ to get there.
That’s tight that it was an actual hand-to-hand exchange.
King Milo: That shit’s real!
47Chops: Organic, for real.
Did you feel like you had to push any of your solo stuff to the backburner to accommodate the project?
King Milo: It was just “Fitness,” I pushed that over. “Fitness” on my end, “CashApp” on [Milf Melly’s] end, we brought that over. And it still fits in the realm because it’s all still essentially what we’re tryin’ to do.
You’ve started getting a couple tour dates going, right?
King Milo: This year been kinda crazy, not gonna lie.
47Chops: London, New York, Atlanta, Chicago…
King Milo: Boiler Room.
47Chops: Boiler Room, Detroit, at home! That shit was amazing, bruh.
Milf Melly: Defend the Forest in Atlanta, if you’ve ever heard about that.
King Milo: Defend the Forest, shout out to everybody down there in Atlanta, man. We tryin’ to put our footprint in those places, tryin’ to get somewhere big too, you know? Trying to step in, everywhere we can. Just to have it in the footnotes, if you wanna see what we have goin’ on, you can just book us. We’ll go out there and show you. We been some places, we tryin’ to go everywhere else. We wanna make this very, very, very, very, very, very clear: we are not just hypemen, jumpin’ in front of a DJ who is talented. We got a talented-ass DJ, talented-ass performing artists, recording engineers, producers, all that shit. We are performing our music, that we composed, in-house.
47Chops: And it also has that old school element in terms of like MCing, getting the crowd hype and turnin’ shit up before going to the performance of the actual tracks. It’s like a build-up of energy, something that everybody is like “I ain’t never seen no shit like this live.” We try to make sure we get into the crowd, interact with people, shit like that.
How’d y’all like Atlanta? There’s only so many huge Black creative capitals in the country, and that and Detroit are obviously two of them.
Milf Melly: That shit was crazy, that was like a second home, for real.
47Chops: Southern hospitality, man. N***as don’t even lock their doors out there.
King Milo: We touched down, homeboy said “the door’s unlocked, I’m ‘bout to go back to bed.” Bet! We pulled up, door’s unlocked, sure as shit. And when we performed, it was like home.
47Chops: I feel like Atlanta was open arms for real. When we did our performance, it was in a forest.
Milf Melly: And that was crazy, they had a full-on bartender in the forest.
King Milo: Them drinks were mixed so good bro… I was totally like, what was it, “belligerent.” I was being a fuckin’ goofball, I didn’t know how much liquor they put in because it tasted so good. But I had the best time, moved like a drunken master.
That’s what Defend the Forest was? Is that a venue, or a festival, or what?
King Milo: It was a festival, dog, with some of the most earthly people that I love. We pulled up, “Fuck Cop City,” is that what it was?
47Chops: It was pretty much a party that was thrown in support of defending the forest, stopping cops from building a base to test out weapons and different shit like that.
King Milo: And, of course, they were successful—they knocked the forest down. So that will forever be legendary to us, for sure. I think we were some of the last performers before they took it down, so forever in our hearts that place gon’ be stamped.
And you said this next year you’re going to London?
King Milo: Ehhhhhh, fingers crossed! All I’m sayin’ is, those emails are comin’ in to our managers and we gettin’ them type of deals. You lock it in, it’s sealed and stamped. And we’ll be over there like a letter, a love letter in fact.
What do you imagine London being like?
Milf Melly: Top Boy, you know? The mans dem.
King Milo: I just wanna fall in love out there.
Milf Melly: I feel like it’s the opposite of America, because you know they got the steering wheel on the other side of the whole car?
King Milo: Oh, he talkin’ about drivin’, this—
Milf Melly: I’m talkin’ ‘bout everything.
47Chops: London is a vibe, bro. 2018 I had went out there on some graduation type shit. I had just graduated high school, and… it’s lowkey fire. The food, on the other hand, is…
Milf Melly: It’s crazy, I had one of my homeboys, he pulled up. He had a car shipped, from I think from Japan or something, and the steering wheel was on the right side. I’m like damn, this switches the whole thing.
Yeah, one of those original Skylines or something like that?
Milf Melly: Yeah, that’s exactly what it was.
I guess that’s a good segue bringing it back to Detroit—are y’all still heavy into the car culture and all that?
Milf Melly: Hell yeah, [King Milo] just got a ‘stang, today!
King Milo: I got me a house project. I like cars, I’m tryin’ to get into ‘em so I can understand ‘em. But I done learned more about cars fuckin’ with this n***a Omar. GT-R look cool as hell, it’s a spaceship in that motherfucker. I like that shit, I’m tryin’ to learn something. But I’m a muscle guy, you know we the Motor City.
Do you think about what you’re trying to message to the audience member who’s just getting blown away, has never seen something like this before?
King Milo: Release your inhibitions! I be tired of seein’ people be locked up. You gotta understand, and I know you understand this for sure, bro—when people, these days, are at a show, they’re a little more tightly-knit since before COVID. And after COVID, you have to get these people to chill the fuck out. Release these inhibitions out, and kind of let it go, and have fun. You’ll have people out to shows, and if it’s not one of those A-tier joints, they tend to be a little more reserved until they see a million people be unleashed. I want people to feel like it can be ten, twenty, thirty, a thousand people there and you can unlock, just jazz out. I don’t want no locked in, confinement of the mind and expression.
47Chops: We want people to have fun, not worry about all that other shit. And, dancing is not only spiritual, but it’s good for you, it’s healthy.
Milf Melly: Burnin’ hella calories (laughter).
47Chops: Relieves stress.
King Milo: And it make your dick bigger! (laughter). We tryin’ to get as many freaky bitches on stage as we can, and n***as down there, grippin’ they balls with fierce force, everybody goin’ crazy. What’d that n***a say, instead of the 2 Live Crew it’s the 2 Live 3?
47Chops: 3 Live Crew, boy, that’s how we comin’.
King Milo: Balls out. 3 Live Crew. God damn, Uncle Luke, The Chinaman, Brother Marquis, big brother!
Talking about that spiritual side of music, Chops, was there a point in your lives where the significance or meaning of music kind of turned around for you?
47Chops: That’s a good question… y’all wanna go?
King Milo: I’ma tell you like this—that shit, for me? Ok bet, you know Haute to Death? That’s the old Miami, down near around them ways. They used to have Haute to Death, every type of person that you’d want there, and for some people, some people that they don’t want there, you feel me? But definitely, everybody pops out and they start sweatin’. It’s always been an important part of what I be doin’, because shit, I love to dance. I need that, I have to. I be in here fuckin’ around, my bitch makin’ chicken for me, and I start dancing butt naked. Shit, I’ll jit sometimes. My daddy? He was a real jit n***a, I got this shit in my soul. It’s in me and on me.
47Chops: Definitely, and just being from Detroit, jittin’, you know what I’m sayin’, that shit goes way back. All the way back to The Jitterbugs and shit like that. It’s just a Detroit spiritual thing.
King Milo: You know when you was walkin’ around at one point, because everybody’s got a little bit depressed, as a soulless vessel? That was me, I was walkin’ around—before I got into music, my little brother put me into music and then I was rappin’, but my first real album was the Biggie album, Ready to Die. I wasn’t really listenin’ to music—it be on around me, but I wasn’t listenin’. Music would came on by DJ Assault, Snowflake, and shit, my dad would be killin’ that shit, but I wouldn’t really be listening to the music. I’d just be watchin’ what was happening. I’d watch reactions, I was a reactionary child. So I wasn’t living by what I was doing, I was living by what everybody else was.
So he wasn’t like a football coach type of dad where he needed you to follow what he did.
King Milo: Man, hell the fuck no—my dad was a rapper. That n***a used to rap, and perform. He was a full-time artist. A performer, that n***a was a comedian. My mom was a voice goddess, but she was a hustler, feel me? I laid around the bricks that she built with her hands, she was a hustler. That’s that. It wasn’t nothing negative, but she built everything with her own hands, and I watched. But that’s what I picked up, her and a little bit of my pop. And lately, my pops, because he’s been hittin’ me with the flashbacks. He the Gucci Mane from back then, Gucci Gucci. That’s all I can say on that.
What about you, Melly?
Milf Melly: My mom played a variety of stuff, from the East Coast to the West Coast, down to the South. We used to ride in like an old-ass Cutlass, top down, playin’ Paul Wall “Sittin’ Sidewayz.” She used to put me onto all different types of music, and I guess I just carried that on when I got older. She wasn’t really playing much dance music—I got onto dance music, really, because of GTA V. DJ Rashad had a little station on there, with “It’s Wack,” you know that song? And I just kept cruisin’, you know in GTA V, on the highways, like “it’s something about this song that I just like.” That was my introduction to dance music.
47Chops: Video games, dog! Definitely played a part in it.
Feel like I meant to ask this an hour ago, but what had brought y’all together initially? Milo, I know you were on that TMT record that had kind of a similar sound.
King Milo: You talkin’ bout that “Gucci Mane Christmas?” Listen, I ain’t gonna lie—TMT, they so fuckin’ wonderful. Shout out to the gang, TMT really got that shit. I engineered they whole first album, Full Body Durag produced that whole album, with the exception of a couple. That boy got some shit comin’ out too, real soon. FXHE records really ‘bout to dominate. Taylor’s on some shit too, Taylor from TMT, Tayloe. She got some crazy shit comin’ up too, we working on her shit right now as we speak.
47Chops: He said “how we came together.”
King Milo: Oh, is that what he asked? You asked us how we came together? Bro. We came together like buttcheeks (laughter). We came together like (claps), I been waiting for you to ask me that, we came together like buttcheeks.
Chop: Nah for real, n***as already friends outside of creating shit, so we were fuckin’ with each other on a friendship tip, just sharing similar values and principles. Then when it came to the music, it was just like “let’s try to make some shit,” you know? I cooked up with Melly one day, he came through the crib, and I had always saw Milo in passing. Every time me and Milo saw each other, it was like “n***a, we gon’ tap in one day,” and then they came through with the album, HiTech. And then I reached out to them to perform HiTech at an event I had curated.
Milf Melly: I met this n***a, we had a show together at El Club, it was a Babyface Ray show.
King Milo: Shout out Face, n***a! ‘Cause Face was there, and his cousin, man. His cousin really put me on, if it wasn’t for that whole gig and Face showing me love while I was performing, I wouldn’t have gotten in tune with [Milf Melly].
Milf Melly: Yeah, that’s how we got locked in originally.
So if you’re in creative spots and scenes in Detroit, are you inevitably gonna run into everybody else at some point, or is it still kind of segmented?
Milf Melly: It’s kinda like both, for real. Like you’ll run into somebody, but you really gotta lock in for real, set intentions on lockin’ in.
King Milo: N***as’ll be like “oh we gon’ tap in,” then never do. It’s like the new Hollywood out here for real, everybody sayin’ “we’ll do lunch,” but nobody actually eating together. You gotta prioritize sitting down at the table with somebody if you tryin’ to work with ‘em. I think that’s what make us rare, because we try to make it very, very intentional that we sit down. It’s room for everybody, it’s “can we get both our feet in the door and keys to the door?” N***as really got plans, me and Chop done talked about it and we got floorplans for everything. We tryin’ to do it all.
HiTech’s self-titled debut is out now on FXHE.
Thank you for reading the ninety-second issue of Tone Glow. Let me see u jit.
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