Archive for the ‘Black Milk’ Category

Black Milk – “Welcome (Gotta Go)”

September 29, 2010

Latest visual off Album of the Year, for one of my favorite tracks on the album, “Welcome (Gotta Go).” This beat is a lot denser than I had originally thought. Baseline is still the deal sealer, but Black Milk buries several great sounds in here, especially if you follow the melody. Kyle, you’re up (not the continent).


Re: Deadly Medley Video

September 23, 2010

Pretty standard video, as you say. But, I prefer a simpler video like this, compared to some over-the-top, or over-produced, nonsense.

As for the song, I was into from the beginning. Production is perfect for a braggadocio posse cut, and for the most part, each emcees comes with it. Certainly can’t hate Black Milk’s verse – he makes an MJ and Stevie reference.

And while both of us, independently mind you, thought Elzhi sounded off, the tail end of his verse is pretty strong.

Not the strongest track on the album, which isn’t a slight as AOTY is pretty consistent from front to back.

Speaking of Thriller, I like when artists aim for the 40-50 minute mark for album length. I’ve actually read some refer to it as the Thriller rule. I think it makes for a more consistent listen, and limits the opportunity for weak tracks. And as Black Milk’s production sounds more developed these days, e.g. beats sound more layered, and more interesting, I wonder if he focused on packing a more meaningful punch in a tighter package.

Deadly Medley Video

September 22, 2010

Okay, the song is growing on me. Pretty standard hip-hop video, but it does the trick. Any thoughts, Pete?

Black Milk’s Album of the Year

September 20, 2010

Drums, drums, and more crashing drums. It was difficult for a large swath of Dilla fans to overlook the obvious characteristics that Black Milk’s sound shared with Dilla’s since he came on the scene: drums, drums, and drums. However, on Album of the Year, Black Milk really stepped up his game with live drums (utilizing a live 4-piece band); this becomes the emblem of AOTY and easily carries the album. “Keep It Going” sounds like “Give The Drummer Sum” part two, which was the signature track of Black Milk’s last album, Tronic. He also has some great baselines throughout AOTY, particularly on the introductory “365”. Sonically, Album of the Year doesn’t let down.

I found Black Milk’s guest spots curious, and agree with Kyle: several of the featured artists add minimally to AOTY’s overall sound. From the range of artists that Black Milk has worked with, I would think he’d be able to do better than Danny Brown. Listen, I know Danny Brown gets props in Detroit, but his spot on the cleverly named “Black & Brown” is weak. (I thought the same thing about him on Dilla’s “Dilla Bot v. the Hybrid” from Jay Stay Paid. It’s too bad, too, because that “Black & Brown” beat bangs. I also agree somewhat with Kyle regarding “Deadly Medley.” Elzhi doesn’t sound like himself (not sure if this is recording, or anything circumstantial). Being a huge Elzhi fan, I wasn’t moved by his verse. I think Black Milk and Royce both go hard on “Deadly Medly,” however, and that track is going to get lots of spins.

One aspect of AOTY’s sound I really like are the “interludes” between tracks, i.e. how Black Milk changes the beat up and lets it ride out during transitions between one track and the next. It reminds me of what Questlove & Dilla did on Common’s Like Water For Chocolate. I often think that adds to an albums overall progression, and adds a little something extra musically.

Lyrically, Black Milk is, as he’s always been for me, hard to pin down. He doesn’t have the punchlines of Elzhi, nor is is his flow Phonte [formerly] of Little Brother or Blu. But he’s got something few emcees do: he’s a producer, and it sounds like either he makes beats to suit his flow, or he tailors his flow to enrich the beat. Like Dilla and T3, Black Milk has a flow that sticks and moves, and even without the hard punchlines, he sounds good. This isn’t to say he doesn’t have some good lines. However, Black Milk rhymes like a producer: with the overall sound paramount, and demonstrating care in making sure his delivery fits with the beat (rather than a battle emcee who’s always on the attack, e.g. Guilty Simpson). One listen to “Gospel Psychadelic Rock” and you’ll hear what I mean. Black Milk shows some lyrical growth on “Distortion;” not solely because of the material/topic, but because he does so without sounding corny, speaking on the medical condition of his manager & the death of Baatin. I always respect when artists are introspective/personable, but it’s not always easy to pull off, especially in the midst of an album that is sonically akin to a thunderstorm. There isn’t much going wrong on “Distortion”: banging drums, grounded baseline, and mood-exuding guitar.

“Gospel Psychedelic Rock” is an incredibly dope track: the perfect compromise between straight hip-hop and a cornucopia of sounds; the track utilizes drums, guitar, insane baseline, scratches, samples, and a great hook, “Better watch out here we come, here we go.” Black Milk can be heard in the background saying something to the effect of “yeah, we destroy shit,” and that’s pretty much what he does on this track. Beat is crazy (and gets doper as I ruminate about it). Classic Black Milk. This track and “Keep Going” are exactly why I love Black Milk.

“Closing Chapter” serves as a proper ending to any album of the year. Topically, Black Milk explores his influences and sources of inspiration/strength over a guitar riff and, consistent with the rest of the album, great drums. Like “Gospel Psychedelic Rock,” Black Milk’s flow is perfect for the beat. The only thing “Closing Chapter” is missing is Common’s Pop (yeah, of Pop’s Rap fame) extolling some knowledge as the beat simplifies and fades.

So, does Black Milk have the album of the year? At the very least, he does have the album of his year. On the production side, this album is nearly flawless. I would be hard pressed to enumerate anything more I would have wanted sonically. Album of the Year seems to need some lyrical power to put it over the top, however. I can only imagine what this would have sounded like with Blu, (more) Elzhi, or Pharoahe Monch on it. Or, alternatively, what it would have sounded like with only Black Milk. A handful of thin parts of the ice, namely Danny Brown and “Oh Girl,” which I could do without, while weak, do little to damage the full scope of the album.

Quick Scan on “Album of the Year”

September 19, 2010

This is an excellent effort by Black Milk, props to Pete for picking it… I write here to offer a few of my initial thoughts after the first couple listens.

In general:

Lots of guitars, power keys, and multi-part harmony hooks give the album that psychedelic hip-rock feel. Other than one track with Mr. Porter on a hook, the collabs detract from the album.  It has a tremendous upbeat pace, while maintaining a mellow mood. Live instrumentation adds a soulfulness to most of the tracks, as many of them strip down to their component instrumental parts in extended interludes at the end of several tracks.

High points:

Distortion” The beat is one of the toughest on an album full of bangers, and Black is at once hype and introspective in recounting the passing of close friend Baatin.

Closed Chapter (Feat. Mr. Porter)” That high-pitched, short guitar hook gives this track a sentimental feel as Black muses about his motivations in life and work.


Deadly Medley (Feat. Royce 5’9″ & Elzhi)” I was expecting a lot more here. The beat is ridiculously great, and with three of Detroit’s best emcees on one track, I expected this to be a highlight–that was not so. Royce uses this stutter flow that just sounds off-beat to me, and no killer punchlines; and Elzhi’s voice doesn’t sound like him at all.

Over Again” I’m so-so on this track. I like everything about it except the hook. I’m not crazy about Monica Blaire’s voice, but I’m still getting to know her material, which you can find collected at her MySpace page.

New Tape: Black Milk “Album of the Year”

September 18, 2010

Yessir, we’re back it. Trading Tapes is back. For the next two weeks we’ll be trading notes and insights into Black Milk’s latest LP, “Album of the Year.”

As we speak, the album is downloading off of Amazon, but you obviously can also get it at iTunes .

Just to get the critical juices flowing, I’ll throw out the Pitchfork review, which gave the album a 7.5:

Between his solo release Tronic, Fat Ray teamup The Set Up, and his production work on Elzhi’s The Preface, Black Milk’s 2008 made him look invincible. And you might note the potential tongue-in-cheek hubris in calling his follow-up Album of the Year and assume that he feels untouchable now. But the self-congratulatory name of his new release is deceptive. The year in question isn’t the 2010 that the drop date places its contention in, though anyone who loved Tronic or hard-bumping, densely expressive hip hop in general wouldn’t be off base in considering it as a candidate. The title is actually more closely connected to a different year: 2009, when Black Milk lost his close friend, Village’s Baatin, and saw his manager HexMurda go through a life-threatening experience after a stroke left him comatose.

Review: Guilty Simpson – “Ode to the Ghetto”

January 28, 2008

Guilty Simpson – “Ode to the Ghetto”
Stones Throw Records 2008

In a word: boring…

I’ve listened to the album about 10 times or so now, and I remain unconvinced that Guilty can hold down an album on his own–even one with an all-star production lineup like this. I won’t mince words because I like Stones Throw or Madlib or Dilla or Detroit: Guilty got exposed on Ode to the Ghetto.

I initially thought that this LP had the potential to bring us back to the golden era where an album featuring sub-par emcees could still be a banger because of a ridiculous production lineup. I was wrong. I don’t know if it was an attempt to match Guilty’s lazy delivery, but even some of the producers come weak on Ode.

First, the good part.

“American Dream” is indeed dope. Pete makes the proper reference to Madlib’s Beat Konducta in India project, and that Bollywood/Near Eastern influence he’s been getting out of his system. This beat is vivid, multi-layered, and it changes frequently–necessary busy-ness when Guilty Simpson is involved. Guilty’s deadpan, baritone delivery works well here, if only as an additional layer to an otherwise stellar Madlib beat (in other words, a rapper like Phonte or Blu might not sound as great on this beat). Then again, this is a familiar formula for many of my other favorable Guilty Simpson experiences. Though I’d ultimately be disappointed, this track got me excited for the rest of the album. It was well placed.

The title track “Ode to the Ghetto” also works well, with Madlib’s kid brother Oh No lacing an old-schoolish drum loop over some more Near Eastern vocal samples. There are also some significant changes here, and Guilty probably writes his best hook on the album. Again, the verdict is that Guilty Simpson is only tolerable on a well-crafted, complex sort of beat. Anything less exposes his weakness as an emcee, as I’ll get into below.

“Getting B*****” is one of the last highlights from this offering. I must admit that Denaun Porter has become one of my favorite producers in the last six months or so. His beats are so crisp and loud, yet manage retain the critical amount of grime that keeps them street-worthy. His works also possess a soulful quality that is hard to describe–though it is undoubtedly aided by Mr. Porter’s unique, falsetto singing voice that finds its way onto his tracks. Guilty is dope here. This beat provides the busy, noisy, and dirty playground that Guilty Simpson needs. All of the above might as well apply to “Pigs” as well.

But that’s the extent of it…

Guilty Simpson is too often reliant on his image as a product of the streets, and lacks the lyrical skills to repackage that image into something more novel. Like many commercial rappers, he is peddling swagger, and not much else. That swagger works here and there (see tracks listed above; also see entries in my music library from Yo Gotti, Lil’ Wayne, T.I. and others), but ulitmately, the popcicle-stick-and-bubble-gum foundation of pure swag is far too weak to sustain a full-length album worthy of any critcal praise. I could see some of these tracks turning into a solid 12″, and maybe an EP, but not much else.

“Kinda Live” is a track that I think Mr. Porter should have saved for a more versatile artist (it reminds one of Jay Electronica’s “Hard to Get”); Guilty just sounds uncomfortable switching up his flow for this unorthodox arrangement. I wanted to like this track, and I’ve probably listened to it more than any other on the album, but in the end I was left with the same feeling that one gets when watching George W. Bush squirm when he’s answering a question that his aides didn’t prepare him for. This is dope track but it was not cut out for Guilty. This is not to mention the subject matter, which, now that I have mentioned it, doesn’t work here either.

“Kill Em” and “Almighty Dreadnaughtz” are the two single worst beats I’ve heard from a Stones Throw offering in a while. This wouldn’t make some myspace artist’s mixtapes. That shit was just lazy. If Mark Jackson was writing this, I’m confident he would add a, “Come on, Peanut Butter Wolf, ya better than that!

“Several of the other Madlib and Dilla beats take on that wackier tone reminiscent of some of the Jaylib material, with a more stripped down construction, which has the effect of exposing Guilty for the sub-par emcee he really is. Simple “cat, bat, hat” rhymes proliferate, and with a subtle beat, you have no choice but to focus on the lyrics. Songs like “Robbery”, “Yikes”, and “I Must Love You” take special emcees to make them work. Frankly, sometimes I think these tracks might only work with Lord Quas on the track.

“My Moment” is an interesting, synthy direction for its producer, Black Milk; yet the result is the same, Guilty’s lyrics are in the forefront, and they just put you to sleep. He ain’t talking about anything, and this truth is painfully clear when you’re forced to listen, and not distracted by a loud, multi-layer Madlib or Oh No concoction.

“Footwork” and “My Moment” kinda knock, but they’re not really my style. I’ll give Guilty the benefit of the doubt on these, but I’m not sure that this is anywhere near enough to tilt the scales for the album as a hole. Oh No did lace “Footwork” on that long outro (but you’ll note that the best part of the track is the part where Guilty ain’t rapping).

Given the high regard that many of us hold for Guilty Simpson’s friend and mentor J Dilla, Dilla’s infamous blessing upon Guilty as his “favorite emcee” made all of us stop and take notice of this guy’s career. I’ve often wondered what it was that Dilla saw in Guilty, and I listened intently for it. I guess I’ll have to keep listening–it just won’t be Ode to the Ghetto.

RATING: 2 of 5 tapes.

Preview: Guilty Simpson’s “Ode to the Ghetto”

January 28, 2008

Guilty Simpson
“Ode to the Ghetto” – Stonesthrow, 2008

Not due out until March, this is setting up to be the first big splash of 2008 (unless Amerykah actually sees a Feb. release). Over at Stonesthrow, the production credits have all the makings of an amazing album. Guilty has the full support of Detroit’s best – Black Milk, Mr. Porter, and 1 Dilla track; throw in the Stonesthrow dynamic duo, Oh No & Madlib, and Ode to the Ghetto is looking like an ode to beatphiles. My listens have been limited to Guilty’s mix, Stray Bullets, which substantiates rumors that Dilla pressed Guilty as the real deal…however, it didn’t have a lot of material to preview from Ode, but I guess that’s what the advance copy is for. Production is as advertised. Madlib’s “American Dream” is a sonic trip that features a military-paced bass and drums, infused with a sung chant that may have been left over from his Beat Konducta in India. Madlib also did up “She Won’t Stay At Home,” a short commentary on Guilty’s “restless” girl. It starts with a great doo-op-esque sample, then takes off when Madlib drops the drums. Lately, it seems to me that Madlib’s beats are becoming a bit more formulaic, particularly his hip-hop beats (those for his emcee buddies, that is). I don’t know, maybe it’s because I’ve been listening to him for a while now and the subtle, and not so subtle, sounds he uses are less of a surprise. A common thread between tracks regardless of the producer is hard hitting drums (this seems to be the Dilla effect, and is becoming more evident on Stonesthrow releases…see Perseverance). I’m not complaining, just making an observation.

From what I’ve heard thus far, Black Milk does up my favorite beat on, “My Moment.” Snyth, claps, rattles – this sounds a bit dirtier than some of the Black Milk we had in 2007 – and this should bang in your nearest jeep (or associated hybrid) when the weather is warmer. I’m kind of feelin’ “Kinda Live” too (prod. Mr. Porter), a rare moment on the album for Guilty; sure it’s for the ladies, so I guess he had to dull his edge a bit. “I Must Love You,” the lone Dilla beat, also slows Guilty up – in this instance, it’s the token relationship track, you know how that goes – oh girl, we’ve had our ups and downs, but we good for one another – e.g. “the other night we went to dinner to chill/so we can talk about our problems and the way we feel/perfect therapy over a red lobster meal.”

The bits and pieces I’ve gotten have me pretty amped for this album. Production-wise, I have high expectations, and have no reason to think those expectations won’t be met. Lyrically, I think a Guilty album is what I need to get into his style. Thus far, he’s been a cameo guy who has impressed me at times, e.g. “Strapped” (from Jaylib’s Champion Sound, 2003), “Watch Your Step” (from Perseverance, 2007). I can’t forget his part on Skyzoo’s mix, Cornerstore Classic, on “Play Your Position” (prod. by Black Milk) & his appearance on the Waajeed produced “Supreme” from Buff1’s Pure, 2007…now that is a CRAZY beat! (For what it’s worth, his solo contribution to Peanut Butter Wolf’s 2K8 B-Ball Zombie War comp was fire, or fiyah, depending on your local pronunciation).

It’s tough to think how Guilty will be on an entire album after mainly knowing him from verse to verse. It was very similar to Percee P – the guy went 20 or so years with random tracks and a number of cameos, and then boom, has entire album. I think it worked, although I think his potency waned as the album progressed. Guilty certainly has Percee’s grit; does he have anything else? I’m interested to see if Guilty’s rhymes/style have LP endurance.

UPDATE: I just listened to “The Hand That Leads You” & “Watch Your Step” from Perseverance…damn!! That’s fiyah no matter where your at!

Way back when…in 2007…

January 3, 2008

Aight, it’s January 3 and neither myself nor Kyle have shared any thoughts on the year in music that was 2007 (looking at our last post, looks like we’ve been hibernating). But, I’ve been listening to music incessantly, and been reading some fine wrap ups on some of the blogs I frequent however, and don’t feel it necessary to cut and paste some of the great albums and tracks that others have recollected, e.g. Ohmega Watts’ Watts Happening over at WTR. (“Model Citizen” still sits atop as my favorite, along with “Dedicated” & “Eyes & Ears.”) Sure, I really dug (or digged) Pharoah’s Desire, Hov’s American Gangster, Kweli’s Ear Drum (Madlib dressed “Everything Man” & “Eat to Live” smartly), and other top choices for top 5-10 albums of the year. There are a few albums that I felt didn’t get represented as well as they should have in others’ top 10 lists.

For example, one of my early favorites of the year was Black Milk’s Popular Demand, shown some love early in ’07. “Sound the Alarm” with Guilty Simpson has to be in the top five for gully of 2007. Through 2007, Black Milk lent some really dope production to a range of artists (not including how he laced up his own work, e.g. “So Gone” & “Take It There,” both from Popular Demand). If you haven’t, be sure to check his work on Wildchild’s Jack of All Trades. “Love at 1st Mic” is so Detroit, so Dilla, you have to love it, featuring the classic cut and stuttering soul sample. This beat could have easily been on Popular Demand. I really like the drums on “Ox to tha D,” but Frank-N-Dank don’t really do it for me, nor does the chorus…but the beat is still pretty hot. Black Milk also killed “Danger,” (shown love at WYDU, #81) from Phat Kat’s Carte Blanche; this track was also featured on BM’s EP, Broken Wax, but in my opinion, the highlight of that project was “U’s a Freak”: Classic tale of dude calling out a girl who’s a lady in the street but freak behind doors (very Slum Village-esque theme), but that beat is ridiculous.

Jneiro Jarel also put out, what I consider, and excellent album in 2007, in the form of his Shape of Broad Minds project, which is to Jneiro Jarel what Yesterday’s New Quintet is to Madlib: includes Jneiro Jarel, Jawwaad, Rocque Won, Dr. Who Dat?, and the only non-Jneiro creation, Panama Black. Craft of the Lost Art (digital version here) features the rare soul/funk samples of Madlib, drum arrangements of Dilla, non-self-absorbed lyrics of Ohmega Watts, and the free wheelin’ style of a Count Bass D release. Four elements that make for a great album. Led by the single “Let’s Go” featuring MF Doom working as a tribute to Dilla (whom I would guess Jarel was a student), Craft of the Lost Art is packed front to back with diversity, but manages to sound coherent in one listen. While tracks like “Let’s Go” & “Light Years Away” back the bangers, I really like when Jarel sculpts some more surreal backgrounds, as heard in “Changes,” which features a rolling sample that makes the track float, “Electric Blue,” one of my faves on the album, and “Lullabanger,” the latter very Madlib-esque in the use of rising tones, and, what sounds like a maraca. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t include the jazz tribute, “It Ain’t Dead!!” reminding us all that jazz still contributes greatly to hip hop music. Unfortunately, when I was in Philly and tried to check out Zanzibar Blue, I found it to be closed.

Other honorable mentions include:
100dbs & Ryan O’neal’s The Adventures of the One Hand Bandit and the Slum Computer Wizard – a long-winded title, sure, but it’s certainly worth checking out for 100dbs’s production. Sample-heavy it is, but as I always say, the ability to find an ill sample nearly precludes sculpting the sample into a track. 100dbs digs some good ones. Highlights include “She Got a Body,” “Get Down!” & “One Hand Bandit.”

Waajeed’s Waajeed Presents: The War LP – Again, here we go with Detroit. Waajeed’s production is on point throughout this “compilation,” which is comprised of both vocal and instrumental tracks. The instrumentals are worth it, but you throw in some excellent tracks from Ta’Raach, a few Dilla instrumentals, and 3 solid Tiombe Lockhart songs, and this album gets better and better, culminating with its final two tracks: “Escape from Stinktown” and the instrumental, “Tron.”

I first learned of Uncut Raw’s First Toke over at When They Reminisce. This was certainly a surprise banger for me, and due to this element of surprise, probably is in my top 5 for the year. Both Selfish & Fluent are capable emcees but for me, the production is definitely the selling point – the samples could hardly be more perfect, including so-soulful and funk, and it sounds like it was recorded in a dark basement; it’s got that dusty sound that made (or, makes) Wu-Tang’s Enter the 36 Chambers so appealing. “The Flying” may be in my top 10 tracks for the year, and is quite Dilla-esque if you ask me.

Sa-Ra’s Hollywood Recordings continues the Detroit ambiance and restores some contemporary Prince vibes to the ’07.

And last, but surely not least is Panacea’s The Scenic Route, which you can (or may have already) read about right here. I still maintain that Raw P is one of the premier story tellers out right now.

Here’s to 2007 – an excellent year, imo, for music. Both the underground and not-so underground came with some really solid albums; while I will occasionally get into a funk when I hear an awful hip hop song on the radio, or see some sloppy video on television, I cannot really complain about what came out in 2007. I’m optimistic enough to be quite interested in 2008’s releases.

Hip Hop, rock, rock on and…

Black Milk on point… again.

May 18, 2007

Not to get too far astray, but back in March while Pete and I were discussing Black Milk’s “Shut It Down”, I asked the question:

How is this not the hottest hip-hop record in New York right now?

Well it appears that this week Milk acted upon the sage advice of this lowly and irrelevant blogger (feel free to laugh now), and decided to drop this track as his next sing-lay. The “Sound the Alarm” remix is off the hook, with a grimey-ass new beat and a guest shot from Royce 5’9″.

This is sort of left-fieldish, but I have a feeling that if Funkmaster Flex can get his hands on this record, he might take to it and let it blow.  We’ll see…


April 2, 2007

It’s a funny coincidence that the both of us find ourselves swamped with schoolwork. Once Wednesday hits and the Easter season kicks in, I’ll have much more time to bring all my thoughts on Black Milk together and post a full review.

Until then…

Crying over spilled Black Milk

March 28, 2007

No crying actually. This album is looking more and more likely as if it could be thee album of the spring/summer 2007 (I’m still holding my breath for Pharoah’s Desire). It’s good to see the love pouring in from other bloggers (pun intended)…at least the recognition that Black Milk has that quality in his beats to have some commericial spill-over success (pun intended).

Kyle & I have yet to show any love for the bonus disc which I’ve been bangin’ just as much as the main course. It features a eight instrumentals (and one vocal track) from previous releases, e.g. “Broken Wax,” Pressure,” and one of my favorite BM tracks/beats, “U’s a Freak [Bitch].” The vocal track is featured on BM’s Broken Wax EP, but the instrumental bangs just as hard. You know a producer is doing his thing when the instrumental cuts deserve their own disc.

I’m content to sit back and watch BM’s beats spread like wild fire.


“Shut It Down”

March 23, 2007

How is this not the hottest hip-hop record in New York right now? It’s almost like some Midwestern producers are more New York than New York’s own producers…

Black Milk – “Shut It Down” (iTunes)

I’ll have some more thoughts on this track, but it’s Friday and I’m punching the clock for now…

Shades of Dilla

March 22, 2007

I get the feeling that this is going to be a recurring theme here, and I don’t think that it’s by accident, but I agree with Pete that some of the Dilla-isms on Popular Demand are downright uncanny.

In particular, “Three+Sum” (which I think should have been the B-side on the 12″, or even the next single) sounds like it was ripped from what I think you can imprecisely dub Dilla’s Donuts period (including all those 2005 beat tapes that hit the internet). Pete also aptly points out that the subject-matter is similarly Dilla-tastic.

Tracks like “Sound the Alarm“, on the other hand, remind you more of Dilla’s Welcome 2 Detroit/Ruff Draft period. I challenge anyone to pick up a copy of Ruff Draft, throw on “Reckless Driving“, and tell me that you don’t hear the similarities to “Sound the Alarm.” Even the hook-writing is eerily similar.

I’ll look for the quote, but I recall one reviewer describing Milk’s beats as J Dilla without the idiosyncrasies. I think that’s right on point. His shit is just a little more polished, and just may be a litlte more palatable for mainstream hip-hop audiences. We’ll see.

First Single: “Sound the Alarm”

March 22, 2007

The first single from “Popular Demand” is “Sound the Alarm,” for which they also put out a video. If you recall, I criticized ISWHAT?! and their hip-hop hooks. Let this track stand as the perfect example of the right way to do it. The shit is infectious.

Guilty Simpson looks a little stiff, no? Big guys gotta be comfortable in their own body or else they just make everyone around them uncomfortable. Otherwise, I thought it was a solid hip-hop video, if not groundbreaking–but I would advise against watching this if you liked the video, it sort of detracts from the “realism.”

The 12″ single also includes the track “About Me” (off the Pressure mixtape) and the B-Side is “Say Something” off of the new LP.

Manage a trois

March 21, 2007

Aight, I’ve been trying to slow my head-nod down long enough to listen beyond the beats. It’s tough, believe that. You know, the conspiracy theorist in me (and this hip hop ya’ll, the music where nobody but everyone dies), has me thinking that Dilla ghost produced (pun implied) some of these beats. The drums (particularly snares) are too familiar. Then I hear how Black flows.

A number of Detroit emcess/(producers) have a similar mic presence. T3, Dilla, Ta’Raach, Black Milk – they all have that punchy rhythm that hits at the right points throughout the beat. Dilla was the master of this – hitting at the kick, or pausing with beat; Black Milk brings a similar style on Popular Demand. No where is this more evident than on “Three+Sum,” “Action,” & “Take It There.” That latter is complete will “Let’s Go’s” & “Oh’s.” Of “Three+Sum,” it’s good to see a Detroit emcee come through with the manage a track (listen to Fantastic Vols. 1 or 2, Welcome to Detroit, and anything by Frank & Dank).

I’m not a producer (but I know one to ask so don’t test me), but it’s as if some producers (I speak generally) know their beats so well, that their lyrics aren’t lyrics; they are part of the beat. I watch those videos Kyle posted of BM toying around with a beat, and he’s nodding his head; listening for the slightest sound as he alters the bass’s timing here and there. The way he rhymes at times on PD, how he emphasizes sounds, and pauses – he, much like Dilla mastered, is part of the beat…I think that is the overall impression I get about BP lyrically. Not that there is some sociological message, or even that he’s glorifying some gangster image; and while the club, drink, and woman(izing) talk is present, it is ancillary to his real mission – the beats. BP, in the end (for me), is a beat tape.

RE: Black Milk’s Commercial Viability

March 20, 2007

Bottom line: he could lace tracks for 50 Cent right now; they would make some real hood shit. But does he want to? That is, if you had the choice, is 50 the right major label artist to hook up with at this moment, if you’re Milk, you want to get paid making some of his raw shit? If not, then who is? Jay? Nas? T.I.?

I was going to go this route but I wanted to keep my original post brief. 50 Cent was the exact artist that came to mind to. Not so much because of his lyrical dexterity, but he seems the prototypical artist one may consider to hit the major circuit. (And, not for nothing, but 50 usually does a good job picking beats…particularly for his singles). But, off your suggestion, I think T.I. would be a good fit. He has a lazy flow that may work really well with a Black Milk beat.

Black Milk’s Commercial Viability

March 20, 2007

Son… you read my mind with that suggestion that Milk’s shit could really get commercial run. I actually even had an entire paragraph on that written in my intro, but deleted because I wanted to talk about it later and in greater depth.

It’s just that his shit bangs like an Aftermath beat, but it’s even grimier; you can’t tell me that the streets won’t feel that. While it’s probably for the better that Milk’s Lloyd Banks collabo never got released (the LP flopped, and Banks is hardly an emcee to showcase Milk’s production), but it’s an inkling of the potential major label support this kid could get.

Bottom line: he could lace tracks for 50 Cent right now; they would make some real hood shit. But does he want to? That is, if you had the choice, is 50 the right major label artist to hook up with at this moment, if you’re Milk, and you want to get paid making some of his raw shit? Is G-Unit on its way out? If so, then who is the right person to hook up with? Jay? Nas? T.I.?

“Popular Demand” – precursory thoughts

March 20, 2007

Aight, I’m having overload after listening to this album a few times through so it may take a minute to collect my thoughts. If had to play a little word association with myself, it go something like this:

Black Milk – Detroit
Detroit – Dilla
Popular Demand – Beats
Beats – Bangin’

I had a similar beat overload the first the time I heard Champion Sound. The drums dominate and the patterns BM uses are easily identified with Dilla’s Detroit. On tracks like “Take It There,” the drums, along with an amazing sample, create a mob-inciting environment…not sure what the sample was before being cut up, but I love the chanting background BM creates with it.

In addition to thinking of beats when I think Popular Demand I also think consistency; that is, there is no lull on the production. Typical of another Detroit native. When it comes to sampled beats, I always think that the entire beat hinges on the sample used – picking out that sample and cutting it up just right is truly an art – and Black Milk’s beats revel in excellent samples. Similar to Dilla (is the Dilla comparison tired by now?), BM takes some soulful ass beats and makes them bang hard.

So, as I’m bopping my head to the beats, I can’t help but think: anyone of these beats could be a hit commercially; I can easily hear cars bumpin’ “Threesum,” “One Song,” or “Action.” It’s difficult to get inside an artist’s head though. Some strive for that commercial success, e.g. Kanye. Others, like a Dilla or Madlib seem content to succeed/produce on their own terms. I don’t know enough about Black Milk to guess where he’ll end up. He definitely has a marketable sound, particularly in the wake of the success of Kanye, and the death legacy of Dilla.

I’m going to have to listen to the album more to shed light on it lyrically – prematurely, I think Black Milk has that ill ability to flow over the hard drums, a la T3 and Dilla.

Oh yeah, one more thing: how good is it to hear T3 & Baatin together, along with Elzhi?

P.S. That studio session, ill. Love the lone light bulb (he needs to get one of those energy savers though); also love his remark on sampling: “Cats probably think I have hundreds of thousand records; it ain’t really like that though. I just got good records.” The art of sampling.

Black Milk – “Popular Demand”

March 19, 2007

Black Milk – “Popular Demand”
Fat Beats (2007)

Detroit is trying to take over right now… You probably been feeling Black Milk‘s work for years, but didn’t even know it. The 24-year-old producer/emcee out of the D has been producing for Slum Village since 2002 as part of the B.R. Gunna production team.

When I heard the “internet goin’ nuts” over Black Milk, I was skeptical, but very interested given all the hype. (I was sleeping on the B.R. Gunna connection).

I first checked out his promo mixtape, “Pressure” (free download), when it dropped a month or two ago. But I really couldn’t get into it because there wasn’t enough Milk on there (it featured a lot of his Slum Village production) and the mix was very poor.

However, when I finally got my hands on his new LP “Popular Demand” I was blown away. I feel stupid, but I’ll admit it: I slept on this cat.

The sound evokes a post-Tribe Dilla… that grittier, synthy sound that he ushered in on “Welcome to Detroit” and kept going into “Donuts” and whatever else remains of his library. Make no mistake these beats BANG, and they have that drunken griminess that Detroit is becoming known for.

Moreover, this kid has real talent as an emcee. Milk has this amazing presence on the mic and shows some versatility with his flow. As for the content of his lyrics, I’ll let him explain (hat tip:

[M]ost of my lyrical content be on some regular s**t, everyday s**t that you would hear from Jay-Z or any n***a on the radio. I talk about chicks and havin’ nice s**t and stuff like that. It’s just that them the type of beats I like to make. But the raps, they regular. I’m not a really a so-called “conscious” or “political” type rapper, that’s cool, but that’s not really me. Detroit, we the type of city where there’s a lot of street s**t goin’ on, a lot of negativity. I’mma rap about a lot of the s**t that go on here in the D, which is not no pretty type city. [Laughs] It’s a lot of f**ked up s**t goin’ on…like anywhere else.

While I feel like Pete’s pick was an experimental choice, and a good one at that (it really challenged us), this is one of those guaranteed bangers that will also be fun to delve into, but in a different kind of way.

I’ve provided here a two-part interview Milk did with Here, he’s on his home turf, and he shows his recording set-up, messes with some beats, and just talks shop. It’s a must-see.

I also reccomend checking out his interview with the Red Bull Music Academy. Those guys always put together an in depth program for real beat heads.