DJ profile: Myst Milano
Myst Milano is that friend always picking up new hobbies like it’s nothing and keeps you asking, “What can’t she do?”
She's acquired quite a few musical skills in her only twenty-two years, the versatile artist can add rapper, producer, DJ and visual artist to her quickly growing list of credits. Originally hailing from Edmonton, Milano first came on the Toronto music scene in 2016 with the release of her 10-song self-produced mixtape BADLANDS and has since made her presence in the underground music scene known.
Self described as ‘Blk riot grrrl rap,’ Myst Milano’s music is punk in energy and hip hop in melody and form. Whether its rapping at DIY punk shows to DJing larger, more corporate gigs like AGO First Thursdays, this musical chameleon stays true to her art by relying on herself to get the results that she wants. She finds ways to do things even if it doesn’t comply to industry standards and encourages other aspiring black femmes to do the same: “Your method might not be the most polished or the most clean… but if it gets the job done then run with it. People are going to hear the talent before they see the equipment.”
Myst Milano spilled the tea with us (lemon and ginger tea to be precise) on artistic self-sufficiency, the DIY music scene, classism in the DJ world, her love of makeup and more.
Rapper, producer, DJ and visual artist… How did you become so self-sufficient?
I think I had to living in Edmonton… it’s so dry there so, you have to fill your time with things. I’ve always been a musician since I was very young. I recorded, produced and engineered my first song when I fifteen or sixteen. I was taking guitar class and I just recorded all the parts for the bass and drums with the guitar on Audacity. I engineered it, did the vocals and everything. I’ve been doing this forever.
Was this a conscious decision? Or did it come from a lack of musicians to collaborate with?
It was both. It was hard for me to find people who understood what I wanted to do. I was in a band really briefly when I was seventeen, I was the drummer. I just didn’t like it. Being understood I guess was difficult. It’s a bit of both… finding collaborations and wanting to do things alone.
What came first? DJing? Producing? Rapping?
Songwriting came first. I wrote my first song when I was six. Songwriting is more DIY than anything else. You don’t need to buy an instrument to be a songwriter. You can just grab pen and paper and do it yourself.
Your first project BADLANDS has a lot of punk energy that carries through it. I felt this even more so after watching you perform. Where does that come from?
I started self-identifying as a punk when I was sixteen years old. I got really into Black Flag, Bad Brains, post-punk and the DIY idea of punk.
You originally hail from Edmonton and you emerged on the Toronto music scene in 2016. What brought you here?
It was kind of on a whim. I had a grand saved up and I had just quit my job. My friend who had been living here for six months was like, “You should move up here!” So I sold all my shit. I sold my records and all my books *laughs.* It still hurts when I think about it. I had such a strong attachment to those things but, I had to get rid of it ‘cause I wasn’t going to haul it and I needed the money. Yeah, I sold all my shit got a bus ticket and never looked back.
So you’ve been a part of the Toronto DIY/underground music scene for two years now. What are some of your favourite and least favourite aspects of the scene?
My favourite is that there is a big focus on femmes and queer people. At least in the scenes that I operate in, there’s people trying to uplift those demographics. There is a lot of social awareness that goes along with being a part of the Toronto scene. At the same time… I think those things are being used as social leverage more than they are genuine. In a lot of cases, people are going out of their way to make things “diverse” when it’s not something they actually care about or feel for. It’s just something that they feel they have to do to get people in the scene to respect them because it’s what the trend is right now.
So do you feel now that you can differentiate between who is actually a part and for the community and those that use buzz words?
Are there particular influences resonating with you these days, musically or otherwise?
I’ve been looking at a lot of make-up artists. That’s visually where I’ve been living for the last couple of months. There is a couple of instagram accounts that I follow. There is Pat McGrath whose videos I really like watching. I feel like the face is such a different medium from a canvas well… it’s its own canvas. Makeup has been super interesting to me lately. You’re kind of restricted with what you can do with but not at the same time. Musically? OBUXUM just put out a really great release. I just went to her album release and it was so fucking good! My musical tastes bounces all over the place. I feel like now I get sound-fatigued and I only really listen to stuff I have to DJ. So it’s a lot of club music, a lot of ballroom, a lot of jersey club, a lot of house, a lot of tech-house. I’ll try and find punk music to listen to. I go to a lot of punk shows and that’s always a major influence. That energy is always there and has been for me.
What do you have cooking right now? Anything you want to share?
BADLANDS went all across the board in terms of where influences and genres go. I’m more EDM focused now. The stuff that I make sounds more EDM now. I’m still rapping over it but it sounds more techno and house. It’s still got that spooky vibe. It’s fun hip hop and rap music.
What would you say to an aspiring black femme rapper?
Fuck everybody! Don’t listen to anyone. Don’t listen to a single person! It sounds egotistical and hardheaded. But, if you have a vision you’re told so much, not only as a black person, but as a woman, to disregard your own feelings, your creativity and that you’re beneath everything else. You’re going to have people that come into your creative space that tell you, “Oh, you shouldn’t be doing this.” Even technical stuff like, “Oh, you’re supposed to mix it like this or DJ like this.” If it works for you and your finding it most conductive of your true self to express yourself that way, just follow that. When men are assertive they’re driven and powerful and when women are assertive it’s some feminine wiles shit. People want to try to box you in a thousand ways so get used to it as soon as you can. When I started DJing, I started with Virtual DJ and I would rip my mixes, put them on my iPod classic take them to parties and play them. I would get booked doing that because my mixes were good. Your method might not be the most polished or the most clean…but if it gets the job done then run with it. People are going to hear the talent before they see the equipment.
Building on that… what would you say about the classism in making music?
It’s a shame thing. People who have access to CDJs or who can afford to to get a controller are always going to make laptop DJs and people without the means feel useless and less than. It’s completely unfair and it’s baseless because I’ve heard laptop DJs do an amazing job and kill it and I’ve heard CDJ DJs suck and clear a floor.
Shoutouts to Babely Shades, RUDE collective, all the amazing in DJs in Toronto right now fucking it up, Blip†or, Casey MQ, Amira, Danny J, thanks for everything! Who else do I want to shout out? Oh, and shoutout to Charlie Diaz for getting me to move out here. They live in Edmonton right now. They moved back but, I miss them all the time, they are such an amazing light and thank you Effy. Effy is the DJ who got me DJ-ing.
I was at a basement party in Edmonton and I saw a black girl Djing and I was like “Woah.” Edmonton is that city where you see another black person from across the room and you guys make eye contact and gasp. To see another black girl at one of these parties and to be DJing was so huge for me. We became friends right after. She been very supportive of my shit.
Don’t miss Myst Milano rapping and DJing at the RUDE collective’s 1 Year Anniversary Party alongside headliners, Dai Burger and hometown favourite DJ Bambi on Saturday, November 25.