Black Milk: Big Shoes To Fill?

posted March 21, 2007 12:00:00 AM CDT | 12 comments

By Kendra Desrosiers

The trend of the emcee-producer has run rampant in Hip Hop from the likes of Dr. Dre, will.i.am and Kanye West to even David Banner, Swizz Beatz and Pharrell and in the case of Detroits Black Milk it is no different. After a history of working with Slum Village, Lloyd Banks, Pharoahe Monch and the late J Dilla in production, Black Milk has indulged in his lyrical side and released albums, Sound of the City and his more recent piece, Popular Demand. Popular Demand is laced with the same classic Detroit soul found in Sound of the City, with a slue of local artists as well as an impressive collaboration between Slum Village and their ex-member, Baatin.

After a fortunate run in with Slum Village in 2002, Black Milks career has taken off and has led him to his current projects with Sean Price and Bishop Lamont as well as the highly anticipated Pharoahe Monch LP, Desire. Looks like Eminem wasnt the 8 miles only rising star.

How are you?
Im alright.

What have you been working on?
Uhh just right not Im in promo mode for the album just tryna push that and besides that working on beats. I got a couple of side projects thats coming out this year, this summer or what not.

Black Milk is an interesting name, any particular meaning?
Naw, not really. Theres not really a deep meaning behind the name its just something I came with. I said if I ever got into the industry and took this real serious you know music or producing and emceeing I always said I waned a name that was gonna stand out and stick out from everyone elses. Thats basically where it came from just you know write words on a piece of paper and Black Milk just came together.

What made you decide you wanted to pursue a career in music?
I was always around music. From my family being into it and just Aunties, Uncles and my parents, everybody that was around me was always into music and eventually then occurred Hip Hop and being around older cousins I was already into Hip Hop and watching them. Plus they was already doing their own little production at their own little production center at the house and I would go over there and watch them emcee and record little songs and what not. I just got interested and took to it and started doing it myself and found out that I had a gift for music and just start taking it at one point and time took it seriously. This is what I want to do, my career and Ive been doing it ever since. That was like 99, 98.

What would you consider to be your big break into music?
Big break into music? Ummmwell I can say the first time that I was into the beats more than the rhymes even though Ive been emceeing longer but I got a bigger passion for making beats. So the first group I sold my beats to I think was Slum Village and that was in 2002 I think on one of their albums called Trinity. The Trinity album and yeah, I sold a couple beats to them, met them through a friend and a cousin of mine that was already friends with them. They got a hold of one of my PCs on one of their tours and came back to the city and hooked up...listened to some more and picked a couple tracks and like I said that was the first time I [laid down] a track with a group that was already established.

Who are your idols and music influences?
Producer wise the people that inspire me the most or influenced me the most when I first started doing beats and production was producers like Pete Rock, DJ Premier, J Dilla was like the biggest inspiration and influence on what Im doing right now so when you hear my music you can hear a little bit of each one of those producers, a little bit of their trademark, a little bit of their sound in my music just the soulfulness and the hard hitting drums.

What equipment do you use?
I do the majority of my beats on the MPC 2000 XL. Thats where I do all my beats onsampling off of old records, Pro Tools, and Im getting a little more into live instrumentation, live drums and live keys. But the MPC 2000 XL is my main tool.

Were you taught or did you pick it up on your own?
I basically taught myself to use the MPC the machine wasnt that hard to work so I was making a couple of beats the first night I got it.

How did you develop your style?
I guess just being around like other Detroit artists, theres a certain Detroit sound here, a Hip Hop sound, like the underground Hip Hop sound, just a certain bouncy, loose feel to it and soulfulness to it. Like I said, Dilla was one of my inspirations and he founded with that sound so I kind of just head off what he was doing, (as well as)some other producers thats in the game right now thats from Detroit made it into my own. Like I said, thats how I basically found my sound. I listen to a lot of different genres of music so Im always creating, reinventing what Im doing. My sound is not just one signature sound. Im always changing up.

Would you say your role in rap and production parallels that of Pete Rock or Kanye West in the sense that you either feature several artists on your beats or choose to do most of the rapping yourself?
Yeah, I do feature. Like on my new album I have quite a few features mostly features of artists Ive been working with for a while and artists from Detroit. It doesnt sound like youre listening to a mixtape or compilation. Im rapping on every song but I do have a certain number of features on it. I like to work with other artists. I dont wanna just have my voice on every track, I like to mix it up.

Do you feel that as a producer you dont get enough credit because some feel that the beats are what can solidify a hit single in the charts?
No, I wouldnt say that. I think that at this point and time in the music industry the Hip Hop industry you kind of know whos behind the boards. Back then, like in the 90s you really didnt know who was behind the boards but now you know because the producers shout their name in the track, see producers in the video and all of that. So I dont think its at a point where producers play in the background, they not getting their credit. I think producers get enough shine.

What are your thoughts on ghost producing? It seems to get even less coverage than ghost writing conspiracies.
I dont have nothing against it. I know cats that do ghost production. Its a good thing to get on. Especially if you ghost producing for a [big name]. And a lot of producers thats big today, they definitely started out by ghost producing. Its one way to get your foot in the door in the music industry. Then eventually you do your own thing once you have built that credit up and you build up that name for yourself.

What producer do you think you are compared to the most and why?
Thats a question that I really dont wanna answer. A lot of people compare me, compare my sound to J Dilla a lot with the beats. Its not that Im doing his style but I think theyre comparing him to me because were form the same city. Were both emceeing producers, we both work...well weve both worked with the same artists, and plus we done worked together in the past we done worked on a few different tracks. They look at me like a younger version of what hes doing but Im not tryna be that. Im tryna cut that whole tie from Dilla. The only thing I wanna do that J Dilla did is be consistent and put out good music. Yeah that whole J Dilla thing is not a good look for me because Im not tryna do what he did.

Do you feel pressured to fill J Dillas shoes or do you find it more humbling to be put in the same league?
No, I dont feel any pressure to fill his shoes because like I said Im not tryna do what he did musically. The only thing Im tryna do that Dilla did is be consistent and put out good music like very year. I dont think I can fill his shoes. Them some real big shoes to fill. He created a certain sound of music and for a person to create a certain sound thats likeI dont know how to put that into words. For me to say "yeah, Im filling Dillas shoes" Id never say that because theres other people from the D that work with Dilla and just as good as me on the production. I wouldnt never try to take that credit or try to say Im the next Dilla. Im Black Milk, Im doing me.

I noticed you have also worked with Pharoahe Monch, how was that working with an artist who has in a sense been silenced for several years?
I mean working with Pharoahe, thats classic. For me to be on his, basically his comeback albumIm a fan of Pharoahe Monch so just for me to be a part of what hes doing and coming back to the game with a fresh new album and me having tracks on there. Thats big for me. Being in the studio with him was a dope vibe, real cool dude, we knocked out some joints, some bangers for the album. Thats what it is. I still talk to him to this day, just cutting music with him outside the album its all good.

Can you tell me more about Popular Demand? Many are wondering how you were able to bring artists who dont necessarily get along in the studio.
[laughs] Like who? Artists that dont get along in the studio. Who could they be talking about? I dont know who they talking about on that joint or with that question. Yeah but umm, Popular Demand is just one of those albums. Dope Hip Hop album. I didnt try to go too left field with the music or go over people heads with the music I want to just keep the classic kind of feel with the Hip Hop music and to make a dope, good Hip Hop record and I think I pulled it off good. Like I said, I got a lot of Detroit artists on there, my man Guilty Simpson from Stone Throw Records. Got Slum Village on the album. I have Fat Ray from BR Gunna on the album. I have Phat Cat on the album. Its just a mixture of a lot of people. A mixture of different artists with different vibes. Like I said its just a dope, classic Hip Hop sounding record.

What are your favorite tracks on the album and why?
My favorite joint I think it would have to beI think it would have to be the song I did with Slum Village because the song features Baatin on it too and hes an ex-member of Slum Village so just to have all three guys on the same song once again. Him and Elzhi & T3 havent done song together since the Trinity album so just to get them all on one song was dope. Yeah thats like one of my favorite tracks on there.

Why was the album released under Fat Beats instead of Barak Records?
Uhh cause Im not on Barak Records. I never was on Barak Records. I worked with those dudes just cause I work with Barak just because Slum Village was on Barak Records and a few other artist was on Barak that I was producing for but I never was signed to Barak Records. I was just an in-house producer for some of the artists and I put out one project under them when I was in this group called BR Gunna and we put out this project called Dirty District under Barak but I still wasnt signed to them. I was always a free agent.

Is there a BR Gunna reunion in your future?
It might be. Hopefully, we can make something happen. We had an album that was damn near done it was like 80% done but it got shelved for whatever reason by Barak so thats another reason why I stepped out and started doing my own solo thing because of that situation. Hopefully we can get back in the studio and make something happen. Like I said, I still work with Fat Ray, whos like the emcee of BR Gunna, so I been working wit him tryna get him in a situation right now. So yeah, like I said, hopefully we get back in the studio in the future.

If you were to be locked in the studio with any other artist, who would they be and why?
Hmmm [sigh] Does it have to be Hip Hop? Or it can be anybody?

It can be anybody.
Uhh I dont know, theres a few different artists, theres a lot of artists I would love to be in the studio with but if I had to pick oneId probably pick someone like DAngelo. A guy thats talented all the way around from live instruments, to singing, to everything. Hes a great talent. So Id probably love to get in the studio with him and try to make something crazy happen musically. So yeah, itd probably be him.

What can we expect from you in the future?
Just more good Hip Hop music. My next few projects coming out is gonna be the sound is gonna be a little different than what Im doing for Popular Demand. Like each project I put out for now on is gonna sound different from the last. I have one project with Guilty Simpson and Sean Price, you know the Boot Camp Clik, and theyre doing a duo album together and Im doing most of the production. Im a do a little emceeing on it but Im a do the majority of the beats so got that dropping, hopefully we can get that out by the summer. Besides that I got another project coming out with an Aftermath artist, Bishop Lamont, out there on the west coast. Me and him are doing a project called Caltroit. Its gonna be Cali artists and Detroit artists mixin them up on one project just to try something different. Hopefully that can be dropping this summer too. We almost done with that. What else? Working on a new Slum Village. Like I said got Pharoahe Monch album coming up and I got two tracks on there. One called Lets Go another one called Bar Tap. Yea thats about it so far.

Do you have anything youd like to add?
Umm I think we covered everything. Yeah, Popular Demand out now. Go get it, support good Hip Hop. Support independent Hip Hop.

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