Black Milk: Tronic (Album Review)

For the past 10 years Detroit has been cultivating an eclectic Hip-Hop scene featuring everything from avant-garde to mainstream emcees. The next up in the city’s long tradition of talented musicians is emcee/producer Black Milk, who since 2004 has plied his trade with notable cosigns from Pharaohe Monch, Slum Village, and the late J Dilla. Now with several well received solo LPs on his ledger and extensive production work on Elzhi’s The Preface, Black Milk seeks to continue raising his profile with his fifth solo album Tronic (Fat Beats).

Knowing that his audience is ever-expanding, Milk uses the opening salvo “Long Story Short” to educate uninformed listeners on his humble beginnings learning production techniques on a karaoke machine, to exchanging board notes with J Dilla and touring with D-12. Accentuating the triumphant narrative is soul crooner Dwele, who surprises by showcasing his skills on the trumpet to close out the track.

Unlike many of his underground peers, Black Milk displays the ability to create melodic, radio-friendly songs that don’t come off stilted or disingenuous. “Bond 4 Life” sacrifices no lyrical respectability despite a standard R&B centered hook, and the quirky beat and tongue in cheek lyrics of “Without U” work well in capturing the awkwardness of new love.

On his own, Milk’s work becomes unique when the Detroit native experiments with traditional Hip-Hop song structures. Instead of the typical rhyme then hook, on “Try” and “Tronic Summer” Black Milk instead extends the vocal sample and instrumentation in parts to keep the listener engaged and prevent monotony.

The big guests of the LP also uphold their end. Royce Da 5’9 and Black Milk elevate a serviceable speed up soul sample on “Losing Out” by deconstructing it with respective rhetorical and manifesto-heavy rhymes. “The Matrix” proves to be a highlight, with DJ Premier supplying his signature chorus cutting and underground luminaries Sean Price and Pharoahe Monch playing the roles of all-star cleanup men.

The only misstep is when Black Milk gets a little too comfortable with his production techniques, and the LP falls into a pedestrian rhythm during its early second half as seen on the filler tracks “Hell Yeah” and “Overdose.”

Black Milk’s work as an emcee and producer continues to show exponential growth in the three years since his solo debut Sound Of The City, Vol. 1. And to date, in Tronic he offers his most accessible LP for those yet to be initiated into the sounds of one of Detroit’s best kept secrets.

Black Milk

"Tronic Summer"

Black Milk

"Give The Drummer Sum"