Black Milk - Popular Demand

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Not every one of these 15 tracks knocks it outta the park, but you nevertheless get a strong sense that Milk (who also engineered, mixed and provides the majority of the rhymes) is a one-man wrecking crew just beginning to hit his stride

With the untimely demise of J Dilla
and D-12's Proof last year, Eminem
going into semi-retirement and Royce
going to prison, the storied Motor City Hip Hop scene would appear to be on
life support... or at the very least desperately in need of a blood
transfusion. You could call 24-year-old Detroit native Black Milk (a.k.a. Curtis
Cross
) Dr. McSteamy for all the
heat he's brought to previous production efforts for artists such as Slum Village, Proof, Lloyd Banks, Pharoahe
Monch, Canibus
and more. But now, for the first time since 2005's
self-released (and rarely-heard) Sound of
the City
, he's stepping out from behind the mixing board, boldly
proclaiming his desire to inject vibrant new life into a Motown scene that has
seen far too much death in recent years.

Let's be brutally honest here: Producers, on the whole, are not known for
their dazzling mic skills. For every somewhat respectable Kanye West there's a completely laughable Puffy, and even the legendary Dr.
Dre
is smart enough to let Snoop
and Em carry most of his lyrical
weight. But Black Milk, who makes no
bones about his desire to be seen as the future of Detroit Hip Hop, seems
determined to stand or fall on his own merits, with Slum Village (who appear alongside Baatin on the killer posse cut, "Action") the album's only guest stars
whose name adds considerable clout.

Milk lets you know where he's
coming from right off the bat on the opening title track, insisting over a
sweet old soul groove that "I'm
underground, but don't get it twisted, man/ I'm in the range and I'm thinkin' bout
that Escalade/ We like a little platinum on a chain, on a ring/ I'm from the
city of the gators, dawg, what you think?/ 'Cuz I don't walk with no backpack
on/ Don't put me a box, dawg, we do it all/ You can catch me in the club/ from
the window to the wall.
" It's this desire to walk the middle ground between
the purity of the underground sound and the accessibility of mainstream Hip Hop
that characterizes the bulk of the album, which matches the new school's
intelligent lyricism with ol' school subject matter (braggadocio, materialism,
etc.) over infectious beats equally suited for Jeeps, clubs or headphone
listening.

From the Bomb Squad-style
in-your-face assault of "Sound the Alarm" (featuring "Guilty Simpson") and the
head-bobbing syncopated funkiness of "Insane" to the string-laden soul of the
cinematic "Shut It Down" (which wouldn't sound out of place on the Superfly soundtrack) and the double
dutch handclaps and jazzy bassline of the rollicking "Watch 'Em" (featuring Que Diesel and Fat Ray), the album leaves no doubt that Black Milk is one of the most promising up-and-coming producers on
the Hip Hop scene. Not every one of these 15 tracks knocks it out of the park,
but you nevertheless get a strong sense that Milk (who also engineered, mixed and provides the majority of the
rhymes) is a one-man wrecking crew just beginning to hit his stride, eminently
capable of putting "the D on my back like
a shirt that I bought
."

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