It’s a bold statement when you call your latest project Album of the Year. But for Detroit producer/emcee Black Milk, his audacious claims aren’t unwarranted as Album of the Year is one helluva complete package that is sure to be on many year-end lists.
Let’s get this out of the way: Black Milk is an exceptional lyricist, but it is the production that steals the show on this project. Simply put, Black Milk’s work behind the boards is top notch. Milk has a knack to make his drums slap your eardrums silly as evidenced on the scatting “Round of Applause” and the album’s opener “365.”
The underlying story here is Black Milk’s strides as an emcee. Prior outings like “Tronic” were demonstrations in superb production while the lyrics mostly played the background. This go around Black Milk makes sure you listen to him as a rapper. It’s something he does a great job with and obviously focused on when crafting the album. “Distortion” finds Black lamenting about how he can’t grasp why bad things happen to good people. It’s a heartfelt lyrical therapy session for an emcee from Detroit who has watched Dilla, Proof and Baatin pass in less than a decade.
Black shows off some lyrical dexterity when he calls upon fellow Detroit rhyme slayers Royce Da 5’9” and Elzhi for the simply menacing “Deadly Medley.” While Black holds his own, it is Royce who ravages the track with lines like “If you can’t take the heat, get yo’ ass out the kitchen/Matter of fact, take yo’ ass back in there and wash the dishes.” Not to be outdone, Elzhi rips the final verse with his trademark punchlines like “Half of ya’ll shouldn’t rap, you do a shitty job like colon cleansing.”
But in the end, Album of the Year is anchored by its production. Black Milk can make you nod your head until your spinal cord can’t take anymore, with the moving strings and raw thump of “Black & Brown.” When he’s ready to smooth it out, he’ll surround a sweet guitar loop with another round of potent drums on the album’s closer “Closed Chapter.”
Ultimately, if you are a fan of raw production, Black Milk’s Album of the Year absolutely must not be missed. His lofty claims aren’t unjustified and you’ll find that out courtesy of this 12 track exercise in how hip-hop should be done.
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