26 November, 2013@8:43 pm
Detroit’s Black Milk has a long, storied history as a part Slum Village’s extended family, and even has collaborated with J. Dilla early in his career. Which is why it makes sense that despite Dilla’s passing, his sound looms heavy over that of Black Milk’s, who carries on his legacy years after his death. No Poison No Paradise is Black Milk’s fifth solo LP, and if anyone in Detroit has built a successful post-Dilla career, it’s him.
The similarity between the two producers can work both for and against Black Milk, however. On one hand, if you were to tell a blindfolded fan that this album was a newly uncovered Dilla LP, Milk’s production style is so airtight that they’d be hard-pressed to argue with you. However the flipside of that coin is that some will just pass it off as a copy, unaware of Milk and Dilla’s past work together.
Songs like the gospel-driven stick-up tale, “Monday’s Worst” and the ominous “Codes & Cab Fare” with Black Thought, create infectious grooves, as Black Milk’s ultra-descriptive rhyme style paints the picture for you. “Sonny Jr.” breaks the traditional hip-hop mold completely, as he enlists Robert Glasper on horns, for a gorgeous, jazzy instrumental melody. Again on “Perfected On Puritan Ave” and “Dismal”, Milk aces the exam with fully realized, bittersweet, soulful hip-hop music.
While the aforementioned cuts help Black Milk carve out his own sound and style, there are moments on here that feel mined from the Dilla catalog. “Parallels” is essentially a cover of Slum Village’s “Look Of Love”, which is a strange choice of inclusion if he is trying to distance himself from his mentor (who knows, maybe he isn’t?). Meanwhile, songs like “Ghetto Demf”, “Black Sabbath”, and “X Chords” show heavy influence from Jay Dee’s Beat Generation era, and while dope, will have some folks screaming “but it’s not Dilla!”
If anyone in Detroit has persevered in the post-Dilla world it is Black Milk, and truth-be-told, he is a much stronger emcee than the late great James Yancey. It is respectful that he is carrying on his legacy, however he does lean too heavily at times on the production techniques of his teacher. As he shows in several moments on this album, he does not need to rely on the old Dilla formulas to make great music. Hopefully as his career progresses he can break out of this shell.
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