Richmond native Travis Gustavo Miller, AKA Shawn Kemp, AKA Lil Ugly Mane, AKA Bedwetter, is one of the most interesting and mysterious figures in the underground hip-hop scene, with co-signs from Denzel Curry, SpaceGhostPurpp, and Earl Sweatshirt, who, in a 2012 interview with Beats TV, said Lil Ugly Mane’s “THROW DEM GUNZ” was one of his 5 favorite songs (BeatsTV)
But who is Lil Ugly Mane? In truth, the moniker “Lil Ugly Mane” is now outdated, as Miller retired the name in 2016 and now releases music under the name Bedwetter. It’s hard to place Miller in a box in terms of musical style; his oldest tapes feature him making noise music, and the difference in subject matter between Mista Thug Isolation, the tape that propelled him into the upper echelon of the underground, and Volume 1: Flick Your Tongue Against Your Teeth and Describe the Present, his latest tape, is vast. One features hard, southern style beats that bring to mind old Three-6 Mafia, while the other is probably the most depressing and raw tape I’ve ever listened to.
Lil Ugly Mane hails from Richmond, a city notable in Virginia for its local hip-hop scene, where you can find multiple small basement shows every weekend, and boasts both legends like D’Angelo and newer artists like Divine Council, who received a co-sign from Andre 3000 in 2016. Yet, nobody really has the same mystique surrounding them as Miller, who seemingly came out of nowhere, quietly releasing music under a variety of stage names (and a variety of styles) until dropping Mista Thug Isolation in 2012.
Mista Thug Isolation is a horrorcore/gangsta rap album, inspired by Three-6, with lo-fi production and possibly one of the most unique covers to grace an album in the last 10 years (you either love its lo-fi charm, or think it’s the ugliest shit to ever be called “album art”). With song titles like “MANIAC DRUG DEALER” and “BITCH I’M LUGUBRIOUS” and Miller’s in-your-face voice and flow, Miller spits bar after bar over beats both smooth and menacing in equal measure. It’s no wonder that the album made waves in the underground; the beat for “SERIOUS SHIT” sounds straight out of a Denzel Curry tape (Curry himself is featured on “TWISTIN”).
After receiving acclaim for Mista Thug Isolation, Miller again receded from the public eye, quietly releasing experimental – and outstanding – music, with his mixtape Third Side of Tape (third in his Three Sided Tape trilogy) receiving a rare score of 8/10 from noted music reviewer/Melonhead theneedledrop. The tape features almost no rapping, consisting almost entirely of sample-based beats, with “Side Two-A” featuring a line from Shabazz the Disciple repeated over and over again: “Hate to go to sleep because of the dread that’s in my head”
Miller started moving away from the braggadocious gangsta-rap that made him famous with his tape Oblivion Access, another self-produced project released in 2015. The tape features more personal songs, as Miller hints at the anxiety and depression he’s struggled with throughout his life.
While Oblivion Access hinted at Miller’s struggles with mental health, Volume 1: Flick Your Tongue Against Your Teeth and Describe the Present dives headfirst into his depression, with Miller pouring his emotions out through song. Miller hinted at his depression in almost all of his albums; however, this tape describes his experiences with America’s mental health system and what living with depression is like in a country that doesn’t really give a shit about the mentally ill. Miller took to facebook to air his complaints about the mental health care – or lack of it – offered in the U.S:
“Our current mental healthcare system is absolute shit. Absolute shit that absolutely incentivizes violence and self harm by categorizing it as the sole interpretation of “severity” worth treating. By making the idea of treatment feel so utterly hopeless to people who already exist and drown in their hopelessness. Fuck your resources. Fuck being understaffed. Fuck your stupid priorities. You’re incompetent .”
Accordingly, all of his newest music under the name Bedwetter has featured music about suicide, self harm, and depression, presented in such a raw way that Earl Sweatshirt’s I don’t like shit, I don’t go outside seems like a sunny Lil Yachty joint in comparison.
So who is Lil Ugly Mane? Denzel Curry recently dropped “Zeltron 6 Billion,” which features Miller under the Lil Ugly Mane name, so maybe Miller hasn’t retired the moniker – and persona – just yet. However, there really is no way to know what’s going on in the world of Travis Miller. We’ll just have to wait for another surprise drop and see what happens.