Just about anything we’ve seen on Black Milk seems to mention either Dr. Dre or J Dilla. Sometimes both in the same review, interview, or what have you. The disservice this does to Black Milk however is that he’s setting out in his own direction. His records don’t sound like anyone else’s. His name is quickly becoming like that of Kanye West, Just Blaze, Dr. Dre or RJD2 in that it usually makes you at least stop for a second and check it out on his name alone. In the past two years he’s put out his own solo records, worked extensively with both Elzhi and Bishop Lamont and has further plans for more material early next year.
He still took the time however to drop one of the better hip hop albums this year with Tronic. Tronic features some solid samples both also includes live instrumentation, guest spots going the other direction with Dwele on trumpet and scratches from Premier. He gets Detroit names like Elzhi and Fat Ray and reaches to New York for appearances from Sean P and Pharaohe Monch all while holding down his own on the mic.
If Kanye is the Jay-Z of producers on the Mic, then Black Milk is Guru. While Kanye prefers to try to reach the stars with varying results, Black Milk is more consistent. He might have less hooks, but Milk doesn’t crossover into corny terrirory like West can. Right out of the gates he gets one of the best songs in with “Long Story Short”, starting with a Sergio Leone-esque piano lick, dropping drums, and some way out strings, carrying the rhythm. Towards the end, an ice cold trumpet comes in and Black Milk carries it through with his own personal short form biography.
“Bounce” sounds like something Michael Jackson would have killed in 1986, only it’s a little too hard for an R&B hook, but perfect for Milk to flip his rhymes. ”Without U” is the guilty pleasure of the album. It’s the softer side of the album and it works, although it doesn’t always tend to fit in with the rest of the sound. But it sounds like a perfect summer jam. Despite the fact that much of the album is made without samples, the Royce Da 5’9” guested “Losing Now” uses a good sample to good effect.
“Hell Yeah”, “Overdose” and “The Matrix” are also album standouts. No one except Black Milk could create the soundscapes on these songs. Each “The Matrix”, “Hell Yeah”, and “Try” all evoke certain elements of J Dilla, and Black Milk as much cites the man as an influence, but they keep their own distinct vibe. “The Matrix” is a great posse cut featuring Pharaohe Monch, Sean Price and cuts by Premier, it’s like the photo negative version of something Mantronix might have made back in the day.
“Tronic Summer”, “Bond 4 Life” and “Elec Outro” close out the album on a slightly warmer note than the album begins on. It’s like Winter going into Summer. What’s most exciting about this album is to see what Black Milk is capable of. He hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down, he’s still trying new things, and unlike Kanye, he’s making them work. – Dane Johnson
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