Travis Miller is a prolific musician and rapper with about as many aliases as albums, LIL UGLY MANE being his most popular. Before his rap debut Mista Thug Isolation, Miller produced Harsh Noise, and was the occasional feature on some underground Hip-Hop releases. This album shot him straight into cult legend status with fans flocking to him and begging for more. Although the album has heavy influences from the dirty south, almost an homage to Memphis underground Hip-Hop (even including the horribly kitsch album art), it’s still very unique. It is disgusting, foul, sleazy, self-destructive, nightmarish, and I love it. It’s one of my most listened to Hip-Hop albums, ever since this blew up in 2012.
Mista Thug Isolation (12th Movement) is a noisey intro to the album, and the only instance where Miller’s Noise background is so evident. Like many of the following songs, the music is creepy and disturbing, like something out of an 80’s horror movie. That’s blown all away with the smooth Jazz sample of Serious Shit and Lil Ugly Mane is introduced. His rapping is slow, deep, straightforward, and in your face. He’s got such a voice for rapping that I didn’t realize he was white to begin with. I think he affects his voice a little bit, but listening to interviews and live shows it’s clear his voice is just like that. Slick Rick is simply hilarious from start to finish, especially with the hook:
“Duck down when you see me in that monster coupe
Slick rick said treat ’em like a prostitute
She on my dick like flies in a box of fruit
Slick rick said treat ’em like a prostitute”
The production on this album has got to be the defining feature here, it’s just so perfectly grimy and dark. Miller was also the producer on this album, and it’s like he took all the DIY underground beats from the 90’s and early 00’s but elevated them to another level. As much as I enjoy Lil Ugly Mane’s rapping I will sometimes find myself waiting for the breaks at the ends of the songs where a few bars are just played out. Bitch I’m Lugubrious has some of my favorite beats, and also has one of the few times where he spits (ending with the sick line “playa I’m NOT LIKE YOU”). This album has so many classic lines that stuck with me that I’m struggling not to just quote all of them. Hoeish Ass Bitch is like a freight train of a song, taking a while to get going but it just does not stop. It also heavily samples what must be an inspiration to this album, DJ Sound/Frayser Click’s Hoish Ass Niggaz.
Twistin introduced me to Denzel Curry, and I really love his spot on this album (not really a fan of Supa Sorta Human on Radiation (Lung Pollution)). It also starts off with the ambivalently blunt response of someone saying that he found a dead body “in the alley”. Cup Fulla Beetlejuice is the lean-filled lead up to Lean Got Me Fucked Up, what has to be the best song on the album. It’s slow intro slowly introduces the immaculately disgusting production then Lil Ugly Mane jumps in with his best verse, starting with “I’m a project ghost, I’m a hood apparition”. Every song on this album is just dynamite, never gets old, and like I said it is quotable as all hell.
Unfortunately the underground success that came with this album pushed Lil Ugly Mane out of the spotlight and he said he quit. There was just radio silence for 3 years before he quietly announced his 2015 follow up Oblivion Access, but it wasn’t the “Mista Thug Isolation: 2” that everyone hoped it would be. It took a few listens for me to appreciate it on another level, maybe I’ll review that next. Thankfully he’s back to making more music in the new trio Secret Circle (with Antwon and Wiki). Noise fans should check out Travis Miller’s earlier work but Hip-Hop fans NEED to get this album, especially if you love that Memphis sound.