“Drums!” Black Milk shouts before he tears into the first verse of “Keep Going." His newfound cohorts, bassist Tim Shellabarger, singer and keyboard player AB, string arranger Sam Beaubien, and drummer Daru Jones, unleash a barrage of explosive riffage and outsized tribal percussion; Milk barks spitfire bars from the middle of the maelstrom, sounding slightly unhinged. He’s finally arrived. Early releases like 2007’s Popular Demand introduced Black Milk as an upstart producer/rapper from the Dilla school of soul-infused, sample-based hip-hop production.
Detroit producer and MC Black Milk always seemed much more honored than annoyed when his work was compared to that of the late J. Dilla, so don’t think the sonic surprises on this 2010 effort are driven by a desire to end the association. That said, Album of the Year is a distinct break from the smoky Detroit funk Dilla championed, as it pulls inspiration from the worlds of rock and funk-rock.
Review Summary: eatin' on perogies / goose mixed with sobe / smokin' on an oz / pimpin' like an ogI'm questioning whether Black Milk is trying to evoke a double entendre by naming his record "Album of the Year". The intention of speaking on the year of events that lead up to "Album of the Year" is referenced in the first track on the album. A skit after the track 'Black and Brown' mocks the notion that the name stems from Black Milk thinking he released the best record of 2010.
Between his solo release Tronic, Fat Ray teamup The Set Up, and his production work on Elzhi's The Preface, Black Milk's 2008 made him look invincible. And you might note the potential tongue-in-cheek hubris in calling his follow-up Album of the Year and assume that he feels untouchable now. But the self-congratulatory name of his new release is deceptive.
With Black Milk, and especially Album of the Year, I feel like it’s necessary to talk about preconceptions and double standards. The most common knock on Black is that he isn’t much of a rapper. His flow is direct and intense, a sort of unraveling that feels urgent and precise. It puts Black in a position where his words carry a fantastic amount of weight to them, pushing them up to the forefront of his equally boisterous productions.
It’s an ambitious title, and Black Milk probably knew it was going to be interpreted as a boast. But Album Of The Year, the Detroit producer/MC’s fourth solo full-length, refers less to the size of his ego and more to the difficulties he encountered in 2009 that spurred him on creatively. The death of Slum Village’s Baatin, the stroke of manager Hex Murda weeks later and numerous deaths in his family made last year one of the most difficult of Black Milk’s life, and Album is the sonic phoenix rising out of the proverbial ashes.