October 7, 2010

Test Spins: Black Milk

Print More

Sometimes it takes a year to make an album. In the case of Detroit’s MC and producing-phenom Black Milk (Curtis Cross), it wasn’t so much a year of work in the studio, but the experiences of 2009, from the death of a dear friend, Baatin of Slum Village, to the stroke that left his manager HexMurda comatose, that led to the deceivingly boastful title of Album of the Year.

Black Milk’s masterful production is the album’s most noticeable quality. Ranging from classical symphonies to upbeat drum-heavy go-go to wah-wah guitar wails, the beats are a diverse array of genius. “Black and Brown” begins with a medley of violins that are soon joined by solid drum backing, only to explode with the emcee’s entrance. As always, Black Milk is the master of the sample. “Over Again,” incorporates classical jazz trumpets with gentle keyboards and, of course, steady drumming, all highlighting the interesting contrast between the emcee and the soulful Monica Blaire.

Since his impressive 2008 that featured work on three distinct albums, including Tronic, the highly regarded album that earned Black Milk the title of one of hip-hop’s premier producer/emcee crossovers, the artist has endured an unimaginable amount of heartache. He declares on the album’s opener “365” that he “couldn’t help but to channel those moments through the music.” The song recounts the story of how he heard about some of the tragedy that took place, but maintains an upbeat tone, reflective on how he has been able to put the pain behind him and return to making music. Although Black Milk has stuck strictly to battle rhymes in the past, he allows the emotion from the trauma of 2009 to seep into certain moments of Album of the Year. The emcee retains the laid-back wit he is known for on many tracks and allows his modest lyrical abilities to be a source of strength, refraining from attempts to overpower the fantastic musicality of the album.

Is Album of the Year aptly titled? That’s a question to answer in December. All that can be said now is that Black Milk has definitely put himself in contention.


Original Author: Adam Lerner