Milc Spent the Past Year Filling His Twitter Page With Freestyles. But He’s Still Figuring Out the Kind of Rapper He Wants to Be.

He prefers the “all bars, no hooks” approach that’s at once dizzying and hard to turn off.

Best New Bands 2021 Milc (Wesley Lapointe) (Wesley Lapointe)

Recommended by: Kenny Fresh, owner of Fresh Selects

“Milc has been one of Portland hip-hop’s best-kept secrets for a while now. But at some point last year, it seems like he decided enough was enough, then flipped the a switch and has just been in a crazy-prolific zone ever since. He’s been relentlessly dropping projects every couple of months now (teaming up with producers Calvin Valentine, Sxlxmxn and Lawz Spoken), and he just keeps getting better with each one. I’m most impressed with how precise and efficient he is with his writing–he takes no bars off and makes sure that every single line in his verses hits exactly how it should.”

Also check out: Quickly Quickly, Donte Thomas

Ben “Milc” Johnson is still getting used to the idea that he might be good at this whole rap thing.

Don’t get confused—he’s plenty confident. According to his calculations, he’s better than “99.9%” of the other rappers out there. It’s just that, until recently, only he and a small circle of friends seemed to be aware of it.

That’s starting to change. Over the past year, Johnson has made it a point to get in the ear of his favorite Portland producers, and the number of collaborative projects he has lined up suggests he’s making a significant impression. Even now, though, he’s not entirely sure he’s impressing on skills alone.

“I mean, they fuck with me probably because I get shit done hella fast. And I’m annoying,” says Johnson, 30, “so I’ll keep texting them to send me more beats. It’s probably not just that they think I’m good, it’s that I’ll actually follow through with shit.”

Still, make no mistake: The guy’s got skills.

He’s been honing them for a long time. Coming of age in the late ’90s, at a time when hip-hop was truly becoming inescapable, Johnson started kicking rhymes as a bespectacled fifth grader, mostly at the playgrounds and basketball courts of Northeast Portland, where he grew up. In high school, he and his friend Devin “Brill” Boss formed the group Load B, whose give-no-fucks, take-no-prisoners style alienated them from Portland’s socially conscious rap scene—both on record and onstage.

“We were kind of assholes,” he says. “We would just get too drunk and be fucked up onstage. I’m kind of proud of it and I’m kind of not.”

These days, Johnson is less prone to shock value, though that doesn’t mean he’s pivoted toward message music or any other obvious lyrical bent. Mostly, he just says whatever springs to mind. He prefers the “all bars, no hooks” approach—unspooling sports references, drug jokes and bits of autobiography in a never-ending stream of consciousness that’s at once dizzying and hard to turn off.

At the start of 2020, it’d been five years since the last Load B release, and quarantine made Johnson antsy to get rapping again. He began filling his Twitter page with video freestyles—sub-two-minute brain dumps often set to a classic beat and filmed in his living room—that caught the attention of the local scene. True to form, he spent the year cranking out a series of quick and dirty projects with various beatmakers, including Lawz Spoken, Calvin Valentine and Stewart Villain. And he’s got plenty more in the chamber: Wolf Side, with Illmaculate producer Chase Moore; a just-finished project with Seattle’s Andy Savoy featuring underground hero Blu; and a second collaboration with Calvin Valentine as Tiger Milc.

It’s a lot to keep up with. But for Johnson, it’s not about sheer prolificacy—it’s about getting a little bit better, each time out.

“I’m writing the same song over and over again. I still haven’t made the one I fuck with the most,” he says. “I haven’t taken the right amount of time [or] the right approach yet. I’m always chasing that.”

See More of the 10 Local Artists Portland Music Experts Say You’ve Got to Hear in 2021.

Willamette Week’s reporting has concrete impacts that change laws, force action from civic leaders, and drive compromised politicians from public office. Support WW's journalism today.