Black Milk: A Black Star

In today's hit-or-miss Hip-Hop landscape, most rappers can't afford risk-taking or lengthy departures from their prevailing formulaic forte. Detroit-reared indie beatsmith Black Milk isn't too concerned with staying in one lane with his raw sonic signature having more layers than Kwame Kilpatrick has court cases. Establishing his trademark for an impressive laundry list, producing gutter anthems for cats like GZA, Busta Rhymes and Pharoahe Monch, Black Milk has significantly grown as both producer and lyricist from his days in the trio BR Gunna. After his soul-filled 2007 release Popular Demand, he has taken things a step further with his latest offering Tronic, via Fat Beats Records.Employing features like rising YouTube star Colin Munroe and legendary DJ Premier, Black Milk proves he can incorporate any style to his versatile creations that coined nearly all of elZhi's The Preface and much of Slum Village's Detroit Deli (A Taste of Detroit). Whether it's east coast, west coast or dirty south, Black Milk has no trouble adding his own flare to anything. Nevertheless, what he really wants is to use his rhythms and drum patterns to boost the 313, becoming not just a forerunner for Motor City Hip-Hop, but Hip-Hop, period. In BR Gunna with Fat Ray he was usually one of the most vocal MC's when you were together. How is it now that you are the primary lyricist shifting the light on yourself along with being the producer? Black Milk:  Even though we went our separate ways on the BR Gunna thing, Ray and I always stay in contact with each other. We're cool, that's my family, and whatever Ray needs I got him, whether it's beats or whatever. That's neither here nor there, I have got to do my thing so I can get my entrance into the game. I felt like that BR Gunna thing wasn't really working out, we need to try something new. If the solo thing wouldn't have worked out, I would've tried something new, I would have tried to go a different avenue. So far, the solo thing has been cool, so far, things have been working out pretty good. But definitely, I'm going to go back and reach out and work with artists I was working with in the beginning trying to get them as much exposure as I get right now. That's my On your latest album, Tronic, what's different about this album than your previous work?Black Milk: I feel like Tronic is my best work yet out of all the projects I have put out over the past couple of years. It's just a whole new direction from all of those projects. It's like all those sounds on those projects all into one album but with a new twist to it. It’s a futuristic twist but still has the soul, and grimy drum beats. With the new sound the production has stepped up, rhymes stepped up, I'm actually a little more personal on this album letting people know how I feel about what's going on in the music industry. How I feel about what is going on in my life in general as a whole. I still have my up-tempo tracks, crazy soul tracks, it's just a variety of different music on one album and the album is still solid, everything is cohesive. I tried to stay away from the soul chops and soul loops because Popular Demand was so soul heavy. With this new one, I wanted to take a different approach and use a different formula, with the beats, song concepts and with the beats and tempo, all of that. I only have one song that’s a soul chop on this album and basically, everything else is a futuristic, synth-heavy, bounce rhythm to the tracks. It is real musical, I used a lot of instrumentation for this album. Give The Drummer Sum - Black You have often said you are a producer first and MC second. Why is this when your lyrical skills have advanced just as much as the production? Black Milk: That's just saying I have more of a love for producing and making the music side of it instead of the MC side of it. If I had to pick between the two I would have to pick the production side and producing other artists. One of the main reasons I rhyme is because I can, I do it well, I got to let people know. I'd be stupid to hold that back. But another reason is it gives me a chance to perform and travel, go to different cities and countries and do shows for people and actually hear my s**t bang in the club and see people wild out to it. How do you feel you have grown overall as an artist on Tronic? Black Milk: The way I listen to music now is totally different than the way I listen to music two or three years ago and when I was doing beats then. I guess you could say I'm somewhat of a perfectionist when I create music nowadays, because I try to make everything as perfect as I can. Back then, I probably just threw a track together and it was dope, then I'm going to rhyme on it and let it go whether it has imperfections in the track or not. Now I listen to everything. With this one I would be making a beat, leave it alone, come back to it two or three hours later and if the beat doesn’t sound crazy to me in the first two to four bars while I'm playing it, I will erase it. That was my creative process for this album, like it had to be undeniable or I wasn't using How did a track like "The Matrix" come together with Pharaohe Monch, Sean Price and DJ Premier?Black Milk: That was dope, it's always good to have a lyricist of Pharoahe Monch's stature, and everybody respects Pharoahe. He is on the list of one of the dopest MC's to ever do it. I knew before I even went in to record the new album, I wanted Pharoahe to be a part of it and be on one of the songs. I hit him up and told him we needed him on the album and I got a track and sent it out to him and he did his thing and killed it. I got Sean Price on it and he killed it. And at the last minute we got DJ Premier on the hook for the cuts and scratches, I sent it out to him and he got back to me a day later and asked me what the title of the track is. At first, I wasn't going to tell him, because I just wanted him to put some cuts and scratches on it. Then I decided to tell him, "Yo, it's called “The Matrix." The very next day he sent the track back to me. S*** was crazy how he found the Jay-Z sample saying the matrix on it and found it in that short amount of time and killed that hook for me. He sent it back to me a classic Hip-Hop record.The Matrix (Ft. Pharoahe Monch, Sean Price, & DJ Premier) - Black The chemistry on "Losing Out" with Royce Da 5'9'' is definitely one of the craziest on the album. How did that track come together? Do you really feel like people are losing out on Detroit?Black Milk: No, I wouldn't say that people are losing out. That really wasn't the concept of the song, like if you're not listening to my music or if you're not up on Black Milk or Royce Da 5'9'' then you don't know what you're missing or you're wack. The concept was basically saying let’s talk about all the s**t us as Detroit artists go through and rhyme extra hard as artists to be heard, to put our music out here and create a fan-base that will support our music. It's a different grind for us because we're not from a major city, like LA or New York. We don't have certain things here in Detroit, like out there in those cities. It might be easier for those certain artists to get on where they could probably walk to a label somewhere in New York or Cali and try to politic with different people in the music industry, that's not how it is in Detroit. We got to work extra hard here and make sure, our music is extra crazy. Then hopefully be heard by people in the music game and get that exposure that a major label artist would that lives in those cities. That's why we're always dropping music and always putting out s**t, trying to keep the buzz going and growing at the same time.