The legacy of the 2010 decade will certainly include performers' tendency to blend rap and R&B to present a hybrid sound. The musical trend that began in the 1990’s with genre-benders such as Lauryn Hill, TLC, and Missy Elliott has grown to include mostly male followers.
However, a shining female voice from Atlanta is adding her name to the new generation of artists to effortlessly switch back-and-forth between the two urban styles. Miloh Smith gladly grabbed the torch of her musical predecessors. While the Marietta, Georgia native can drop bars - like on the tracks “Extra” and “Ounces” - she still proudly represents the vocalist side of the music spectrum.
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“I feel like I could be any one of five people, depending on the day. I grew up with a lot of different influences,” Smith tells AllHipHop.com. “From hanging out with a bunch of kids from Cobb County listening to indie bands to my own parents who come from the Disco and Rhythm & Blues era to my older brother who didn’t listen to anything outside of Gucci Mane for what might have been three years - it's hard to pinpoint, but I would say my style is more so R&B because of the artists I grew up listening to.”
Lauryn Hill, TLC, and Brandy are among the acts on Miloh’s list of favorite childhood R&B stars, but being raised in the ATL also kept her in tune with the rap music sprouting from the south. Smith and frequent collaborator Wavy Wallace joined forces for “C-Murder." The Chris Calor produced cut essentially serves as an homagé to the song’s namesake and his entire No Limit crew.
In addition, Smith’s “Until I Die” is an ode to the late Texas legend Pimp C of UGK. Rap veterans from her hometown offered inspiration as well. Grammy winners Clifford "T.I." Harris, André "3000" Benjamin, and Antwan "Big Boi" Patton were among the Atlanta-based rhymers that paved a path for other entertainers coming behind them.
“Living in Georgia you can’t escape T.I., OutKast, and the southern influence of all the powerhouses,” states Smith. “No Limit was - and still is - a movement. They had hits, and everybody knows it. Cash Money, Lil Wayne, and New Orleans - I feel like they’re our neighbors in this.”
Besides “C-Murder,” Smith and Wallace have united on several other songs. Their catalog of collaborations comprises of “Mr. Wallace” and “Oprah.” Wavy also handled the production for “VHS Tapes” featuring Two-9’s Jace.
Smith actually credits Wavy with giving her the courage and support to pursue her dreams of becoming a recording artist. Listeners can expect the partnership to continue on any of her future efforts.
“Wavy is the first person to ever know I was going to put out my very first project,” explains Miloh. “I met him through Curtis [Williams] and Two-9, and then we kind of had this kindred spirit relationship. He’s a great producer, great writer, and great person. I’ve spent a lot of time working with him.”
That introduction to Wavy through Two-9 should not be viewed as surprising. Spend any time in Atlanta’s Hip Hop circles and you will quickly discover the Mike Will Made It endorsed rap collective has played a major role in the rise of numerous emerging artists from the city.
Over the last few years, members of the group have worked on tracks with fellow ATLiens OG Maco, Key!, Money Makin Nique, The Cool Is Mac, Rich Kidz, Childish Major, and of course Miloh Smith. The majority of Atlanta’s new crop of talent is all about building bonds and having that camaraderie transfer over to the music.
“I feel like all of my peers support me, and I support them. We’ve all recorded and performed together. Outside of music, we’re all really good friends,” says Smith.
One of those friends is another local Atlanta product named Brent Phillip aka Genesis. The longtime Trinidad James DJ and the promising entertainer have known each other since their high school days.
At the time, Miloh was writing songs for herself and her classmates. She had even been performing at talent shows as far back as the 8th grade, but DJ Genesis was the person that provided the initial opportunity that open greater doors for his gifted associate.
“He brought me out to a party in Atlanta from Marietta,” Smith recalls. “I met Curtis Williams and the rest of Two-9 there. I built a bond, and they started bringing me into their studio sessions. I took cues from them on recording music and putting it out.”
The eventual result of those recordings were the full collections Suite 404 in 2013 and Pulp Fiction in 2014. Earlier this year, Miloh returned with the sultry loose track “Pretty Dirty” featuring an unexpected chorus from a singing OG Maco.
“I said, ‘Who’s going to do this hook for me? I can’t say it, because that doesn’t make any sense.’ So I called Maco with my initial thought being he would be rapping on it,” reveals Smith. “I fed him the lines in the studio, but he goes in there and sings what I had just rapped. I think everybody was shocked. It became ten times better.”
Miloh’s connections with different artists around Atlanta also consists of collaborating with one of A-town’s elite lyricists. She linked with G.O.O.D. Music’s Cyhi The Prynce for her own track “Church” and the eastside rhymer’s “Black Pride.” The latter record was part of Cyhi’s standout 2014 mixtape Black Hystori Project.
“Cyhi brought me in for the Black Hystori Project he was working on,” says Smith. “That’s pretty much my lifestyle in a nutshell - that ‘Southern belle’ from Georgia. So I felt like it was a good platform for me to speak from.”
As the birthplace of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and a central location of the Civil Rights Movement, Atlanta will always be closely tied to the history of African-Americans. The Georgia capital's distinction as a historical site for the fight for freedom goes back to the 1800’s. The city once burned to the ground by Union General William Sherman arose a little over a century later as a new black Mecca.
Even 150 years after the Civil War and 47 years after the Civil Rights Act of 1968, America still has ways to go to completely reconcile the social inequality and legal imbalance black people face in this country. Those important issues have been placed on the back burner by many music artists, but Miloh would like to see some of her more prominent peers address the racial concerns still plaguing the nation.
“The Hip Hop community almost has to be constantly voicing our opinions to be heard. Everyone has to speak up, not just some people. I think if everyone who is in a position of power said something, then maybe things could change a little quicker,” says Smith. “But as far as right now, there are some people over here in these segments and some people over there who remain dormant. And there are people who are not in positions of power that are screaming the loudest, but they cease to be heard.”
Miloh is in the process of presenting a new voice to the public which includes a near erasure of her internet presence. Right now there are only two songs on her Soundcloud page and two videos on her YouTube channel. Her Twitter timeline is down to just 114 tweets.
What does this digital deletion mean for the rising songstress’ future? She contends it is the start of bringing a fresh, stunning, unanticipated Miloh Smith to the masses.
“I’ve been working on a lot of things like getting my own company together, publishing, and merchandise,” informs Smith. “A lot of things are coming with these next few projects I’ll be releasing in 2016. They’re going to be a resurgence all at once. I wanted it to be done right, so I had to just pull it.”
She adds, “That’s why I took everything down. I’m all about surprises. I don’t know if everyone likes them, but I’m totally into surprises.” With the new year approaching, the entertainment world should keep an eye out for the next revelation from Miloh Smith.
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Read other installments of AllHipHop’s #ATLRiseUp series here.