Hip-Hop Artist Rakeem Miles Hopes to Boost Delaware's Rap Scene
The North East, Maryland native found inspiration for his brand in Wilmington, and is the only local performer at Firefly Music Festival this year.
MILES OCCASIONALLY PERFORMS AS ACTION FIGURE MILES, AN ALTER EGO HE FOUND INSPIRATION FOR AT A SKATE SHOP IN WILMINGTON.//PHOTO BY CAMILLE MARIET
Basking in the afterglow of the Grammy Awards, a major record deal and a new album, Rakeem Miles hardly sounds fazed.
The North East, Maryland, native who hung his hat in Wilmington, Newark and Baltimore before moving to Los Angeles—had a busy winter.
The 26-year-old rapper, producer and visual artist signed a record deal in February with Empire, which will release his album “Action Figure Miles” later this year.
I’m officially signed to Empire! The home of BrockHampton, Kendrick Lamar, XXXTentacion, and more. Appreciate everyone’s support, I’ve been working hard for 10 years straight, so this is very refreshing. Thank you to the people who stuck around, I remember each and everyone of you. Let’s get it, time to work even harder.
His newfound celebrity led him to Grammy parties that month, and the chance to rub elbows with A-listers like Pharrell Williams.
Miles plies the same brand of genre-blending, outré hip-hop that Pharrell helped pioneer.
And, like Pharrell, whose Billionaire Boys Club and Ice Cream streetwear brands brought a colorful, skateboarding-inspired aesthetic to hip-hop—Miles basks in the otherness of his art.
Occasionally he performs as Action Figure Miles, a blue-skinned super hero alter-ego inspired by a G.I. Joe character he found at a Wilmington skate shop. Initially developed for an animated web series, the real-life Action Figure Miles became a hit with audiences.
“I felt like it was a very interesting character, and people gravitate to just the overall aesthetic,” Miles says. “It just felt like he needed to be seen and brought to life.”
Local rap junkies are no doubt familiar with Miles’ unique brand of weirdness.
For a time, Miles helped curate Delaware’s DIY hip-hop scene, hosting house parties and DJ sets at venues throughout New Castle County.
In 2016 he debuted the Weird & Awful Music Festival at The Queen, an all-day hip-hop party that sprouted spin-offs in New York and L.A.
Despite sold-out shows and budding momentum, Miles’ Delaware parties usually ended the same way—with local law enforcement shutting him down.
But he still keeps his eyes on Delaware. He’s the lone local performer on the 2019 Firefly Music Festival lineup (catch him June 22).
“Honestly, that’s a huge deal,” he says. “I’ve been trying to get on that festival for a good four years—I’d tweet at them and send messages trying to reach out to them. And it’s just amazing to me that I’m actually, finally on that set list.”
And he hopes to parlay his newfound clout into once again seeding a scene around Wilmington. He wants to revive Weird & Awful and get back to curating parties and performances to spotlight local talent.
“There are a lot of talented artists around Delaware,” he says. “But you can literally count on your hand how many people are actually well-known, because there’s nobody really curating it and promoting it, you know?”