There’s a hint of boldness when it comes to the outer Houston music scene. They’re the singers, the vocalists who don’t hang on to a certain genre and instead plant seeds in damn near everything. You may call them greedy, I only call them multi-talented individuals who cannot help themselves when it comes to creating. They have to touch everything, and consider themselves über-important when they do so.
The Milky Wayv is an 11-person collective of singers, producers and keyboardists. The main production group within The Milky Wayv is the Ozone, made up of Michael Vallikappil, synth/vocals; Jalen Baker, vibes/percussion; Adam DeWalt, trumpet; Paolo Castagnoli, drums; Brandon Willis, vocals/keys; and Bobby Earth, vocals/drum machine. The main name you could even come close to recognizing out of that swath of musicians is Bobby Earth, who constantly showed up as the youngest and most supremely serious competitor in the bimonthly Space City Beat Battle producer series.
The Milky Wayv don’t think you’re about to hear a project. They think you’re about to hear the best project ever. These kids, who for all intents and purposes could be called Children of Kanye have determined that their tape, The Best Mixtape You’ve Ever Heard, is quite literally the best mixtape you’ve ever heard. I mean, they’ve got vocal contortionists such as Bee Honey and Mufasa Enzor leading some of these tracks and other nodes where The Ozone completely just takes over. I’ve even caught small glimpses of them working within the group structure, such as when Enzor performed at an Indie Exclusive show this past April. They are dead serious about their craft, almost too serious who you realize their artwork looks like a class yearbook photo.
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What The Best Mixtape You’ve Ever Heard immediately tries to run from is comparisons to Donnie Trumpet & the Social Experiment’s Surf tape that arrived earlier in the summer. Most of the Milky Wayv are accomplished musicians who utilize enough downtempo space to create sweeping, fun records. “Take You There” is an enchanting Bee Honey effort and when backdoored by Peyton’s “Verbs,” it's clear that no matter how young and sort of naïve the group is, they know how to create warm summer music. “Verbs,” for example, takes all the action of a first date and spools it out behind dusty snares and Steve Lacy's harmonizing background vocals. You know immediately that a collective of musicians are going to fight to the end to avoid any comparisons to anyone else, yet the Milky Wayv find their way to create inside the same headspace that make albums like The Internet’s Ego Death worthwhile.
TBMYEH doesn’t bog itself down in a lounge move, where sensuality and making it in and out of relationships unscathed is a driving point, but it certainly is engaging over the course of its 50 minutes. All those awkward moments of trying to win somebody over get fleshed out by the guys, and the girls seem more secure and laid-back in the thrill of it all. It’s almost like watching a romantic comedy with the girls taking center stage and the guys, as is the case with Mufasa Enzor’s “Spare Time,” left looking a bit more like Hitch before he put it all together.
So the truth is, The Best Mixtape You’ve Ever Heard isn’t the best tape I’ve ever heard. But for damn sure, it's a warm, spacious effort by 11 people who all shoved their own careers to the side and decided to go for broke together. Be damned if it’s a project that’s so obsessed with the cuter aspects of love and affection, the Milky Wayv just want to be dope on their own accord. Let them be kids navigating through love as adults while also noticing that sheepish looks and stutters still work.