Georgia State student puts classes on hold to pursue music

It’s a typical day in the Georgia State student center; faculty constantly on the move, enthusiastic conversations being held and several students catching a quick nap between classes. Everything seems routine, except there is someone on campus who isn’t often seen. Hair tied and dressed down in sweatpants and Doc Marten’s, a promising young talent enters the building. Meet Miloh Smith.

miloh smith submitted photoSmith is an up and coming musical act, fairly new to Atlanta’s hip-hop/R&B scene. After the release of her debut mixtape “Suite404” last summer, several Twitter cosigns from T.I., and an unexpected performance at the Georgia State fashion show “Volition,” many people may be wondering exactly who Smith is.

Smith is a student at Georgia State, looking to create timeless music.

She said her passion for music has been life-long, only recently becoming something she takes seriously.

“I’ve been singing since I was four,” Smith said. “I’ve been singing legitimately for about ten months. The people that I’ve been around these last few years have really influenced me to start taking music more seriously. Seeing my peers do what they love and make great music inspired me to pursue it.”

Smith is currently enrolled as a student at Georgia State, but is not taking any classes.

“I started taking classes at Georgia State in 2009,” Smith said. “I’m actually still enrolled here; I just don’t have any classes scheduled. I could register for fall classes if I wanted to. The last class I took was in the spring of 2012. I was a double major in Business Management and Graphic design.”

Smith explained that she started her career like every other college student, lost and confused.

“I’ve always had a very structured lifestyle because of my parents, and I knew I didn’t want that lifestyle anymore,” Smith said. “I really wanted to do freelance work for as long as possible. I talked to some people at Nike and Dell for a while, trying to establish business relationships in the graphic design field.”

Smith said balancing a full time college load and trying to establish a musical career were contradicting lifestyles, and eventually decided to make the change.

“It was around April of 2012 when I decided to leave school. I had a lot of indie musicians in and out of my apartment everyday, and our relationships took a toll on my mindset in terms of what I had to do to make it before it was too late.”

Smith said the relationships she’s formed have helped her immensely in the industry, especially with her manager Steven “Stev-O” Dingle.

“I had first seen Stev-O online, primarily through Twitter,” Smith said. “Eventually my mixtape got around to him. We met for the first time at Indiefest last year and then again at the New Era store. He had a legit business plan, and I was out here by myself with no help. We teamed up and he helped me make some great connections.”

Dingle also remembers the first time the two of them interacted and said, “it was meant to be.”

“I had already heard a couple of her singles, and by that time I knew I was qualified to manage someone,” Dingle said. “After I heard ‘Burner On My Side’ I knew that she was something special. I ran some ideas by her and introduced her to some up and coming local artists during a party at the New Era store. I told her my business plan, and she called me back the next day.”

Smith had a unique sound, often alternating between singing and rapping in her verses at short notice while providing slick anecdotes for listeners. Dingle said it is more than just her lyricism that sets her apart from other female acts.

“She has her own distinct tone,” Dingle said. “She has an edginess in her lyrics that contradicts the sound of her voice, which makes her very unique from other artists. Some of her songs could be played on the radio right now. Very few female artists can mix singing and rapping as effortlessly as her.”

Although Smith made it look easy, she explained the difficulty behind not only being an artist, but staying genuine with her image.

“It’s been difficult because I’ve been trying to stay true to myself and my personal values while progressing,” said Smith. “I feel like the music should be enough to sell me. I don’t really want to be known as a sex symbol. That’s never really been my personality.”

Smith also said just because her work may seem to have caught on quickly, there is a lot of unseen work that goes into being successful.

“It’s easy to be a “rapper”, but it’s hard to be an artist” Smith said. “People think all that goes into it is posting a few songs online and watching it blow up. There’s a lot of time invested; even with the people you think blew up overnight. For example, with my good friend Trinidad James, people think he came out of nowhere, but he was putting his mixtape together many months before anyone knew who he was. It seemed quick, but it wasn’t a short term process by any means.”

Smith also said her entire mixtape was created without much outside assistance.

“I didn’t have much help making the mixtape” Smith said. “I found almost all of the beats for free just searching the Internet, I wrote all of my lyrics, and the cover art for the tape was my idea too.”

Dingle confirmed that all of Smith’s work comes directly from her.

“I don’t have to do much with her artistically. I just make sure the timing with everything is right. I run marketing ideas by her and keep the artist integrity intact on her behalf. She’s very independent”

Smith took a lot of pride in her debut project, and said the lead single, “French,” appeared to have the most buzz.

“French is the lead single, but it wasn’t much of a decision picking it. It just felt right. It looks like it’s the most popular song, as well. My personal favorite is ‘Bliind’. It started out as a text message, and ended up being a lot more,” she said.

Smith credited most of her inspiration to the musical acts of the 1990’s.

“My biggest influences are definitely TLC and Missy Elliot. Missy was a great visionary, so I look up to her a lot musically and artistically,” Smith said. “She always pushed the envelope.”

Aside from the popularity of her mixtape, Smith is also known for her engaging live performance, the most memorable being her first trip to South by South West (SXSW) last month, an annual arts festival in Austin, Texas.

“SXSW was a crazy experience,” Smith said. “I’m just thankful I got to go. It gave me a lot of exposure. T.I. and Grand Hustle were all there, so I got to go to his ‘Music Matters’ show. I got to meet some legends at that event. I was even able to give Pharrell a copy of my mixtape. That was a very surreal moment for me.”

Smith explained that she had not performed in front of such a significant audience before then.

“It was the first time I performed in front of such an expansive audience” Smith said. “A lot of music executives were there. C-Murder was there, and one of the tracks on my mixtape is a rendition of his music, so it was really cool getting to meet such a wide array of artists.”

Smith said the recent attention from major musical acts inspires her more than anything.

“It’s really cool having the support,” Smith said. “It gives you an added confidence knowing they believe in you.  There’s a ton of pressure as well, when multi-platinum artists are in the studio with you at work, and they’re waiting for you to deliver.”

Dingle said it was inspiring, but doesn’t see the attention as a shortcut to success.

“It’s great to know that such prominent people respect and appreciate the work, but we know that it doesn’t mean we’ve made it by any means,” Dingle said. “Our main focus is on building a stable fan base to keep pushing the music, not established artists. We want to be self-sufficient.”

Although Smith quickly gained popularity in the mainstream audience, she still remembered where she started, and said she ended up performing at “Volition”.

“We decided at 5:00 that morning that I was going to perform at the fashion show,” Smith said. “My team texted me really early and gave me the details kind of last minute. It was cool performing in front of my old peers, especially because I used to be in their shoes.”

Smith admitted her surprise at being welcomed so warmly by the Georgia State audience.

“I was really surprised the people at Georgia State even knew who I was. People came to me after I performed asking for pictures and telling me they loved my music; it was crazy since I haven’t been out here much lately,” she said.

Smith said although the buzz for her last project may just now be beginning to grow, she still want to continue working.

“I’m currently working on my second mixtape, ‘Pulp Fiction’, which will probably be released by the end of the summer” Smith said. “I know a lot of people are just now catching on to Suite404, but it’s been a long time since I’ve released a project, and I really want to move on. This project is in a different direction musically,” she said. “Suite404 was for the city of Atlanta. This project is a little more outward in terms of who it can reach.”

Smith advised any artist hoping to follow in her shoes to pursue their passion fearlessly.

“If you think you have a serious passion for it and believe in yourself, there’s nothing wrong with trying. School will always be here, so I think you should go for any dream with everything you have,” she said “Do your research on your craft, and make sure the people you work with have your best interests in mind.”

Smith represents a new age of music in Atlanta, a deviation from the familiar sound of Southern hip-hop that the community has grown so accustomed to hearing.

“There’s just so much artistic talent in every aspect right now,” Dingle said. “It’s just a matter of getting everyone to notice on a national level. It’s the confidence in everyone artistically that drives us to create great work. We want the bar to be set so high that everyone strives to be greater collectively. All eyes are on Atlanta, it’s up to us to ensure quality product.”

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