Popular Demand

Artist: Black MilkTitle: Popular DemandRating: 3 1/2 StarsReviewed by: Jessica Dufresne

While most of the spotlight shines on the next big thing from the South, the East and the West, the Midwest has always quietly but consistently cranked out its share of potential stars. Next up, reppin' the Motor City, is Black Milk with Popular Demand (Fat Beats Records).

One-half of the production team BR Gunna, who are responsible for tracks by Slum Village, Pharoah Monche and Lloyd Banks among others, Black is fully aware of the wariness of yet another producer-turned-rapper. He addresses that concern on the delightfully melodic title track when he kicks, "Producing rappers get the most criticism/Until they heard Black/Now they kinda feel different."

Despite his hope on an interlude that people recognize the Black Milk sound, it's hard to nail it down-but it's pretty safe to say that he's mastered the art of delicately balancing soulful vocal loops over hard drums, best demonstrated on the title cut, the would-be wifey song "U," and the cocky "Say Something."

Not to be outdone by his beats, however, Black's flow is just as tight and his rhymes as inventive. On the neck-snapping "So Gone," he spits: "Oh my, this ni**a flow's retarded/Y'all ni**as trash/Y'all ni**as ain't artists/Sanford and Son/ All I see is garbage," then playfully points out his across-the-board-appeal, "It's like Cadillac grills/Black shit kills/ Matter fact, ni**as with backpacks feel this/Even though I'm a still talk about grills and millions." Taking a detour from the souled out the grimy keys and strings blend of "Shut It Down,” featuring Ahk, provides the foundation for Black to let haters know, "Rhymes congruent/Yeah, I still rhyme fluid/Just because I do beats/ Niggas thought I might lose it/Nope/I'm still tight to it."

Still, you can't help but focus on the beats, because they're that good. The instrumental interlude "Luvin' It," is yet another example of Black Milk's sharp ear; a wailing electric guitar collides with cymbals and tambourines creating a '70s-inspired spacey vibe straight out of the Isley Brothers' catalog. Black even admits in the background that this is the type of ish he really wants to make.

Though >Popular Demand is a bold title for a relative unknown, for now, with his precise production and rhymes, Black Milk proves that without knowing it, you really were craving what he's selling.