A few days ago, I had the opportunity to talk to multi talented producer, rapper and instrumentalist Black Milk which was our second sit down in three years. The Detroit emcee who is currently on a North American tour is set to release his new album No Poison No Paradise on October 15th and was kind enough to divulge details regarding the sound of it.
He also discussed what he’s doing different this time, the possibility of a future collaboration with Eminem, why he usually ends up not working with mainstream artists, if he considers himself underrated and much more. Enjoy the read.
HHNM: What up sir, how’s it looking?
Black Milk: Everything good man, I’m on this road, in Vegas right now. Glad to talk to you.
HHNM: It’s been 3 years since we last connected for an interview. At that time, you were working on Album Of The Year, Random Axe and Melanie Rutherford’s EP. How have things changed during these years and are you happy with your progression as an artist?
Black Milk: Yeah man, definitely. These past few years, I’ve just been focusing on the engineering side of things, more than the producing side of things. Just wanted to take some time to perfect my sound sonically and better that part of my talent. But this new album is a mixture of all the sounds I’ve experimented with in the past — little bit of Soul, the live instrumentation stuff, the electronic stuff but everything is a lot more polished. Everything is put together better and I think I’m at a point where I’m mastering that. I’m also messing around with new sounds but for the most part, I wanted to make an album which is not too far left. Just wanted to make some good records. The next one I drop will be a lot more out of the box.
HHNM: I’ll be honest with you, ‘Tronic’ remains one of my favorite albums of all time but ‘Album Of The Year’ didn’t reach that level for me. What can fans expect from your new album ‘No Poison, No Paradise’? Will it be more mainstream?
Black Milk: (Laughs) That’s crazy man, I guess the stars were aligned when I made that album. But this album, I won’t necessarily call it more mainstream sounding but it has a mixture of all the elements that my previous albums had. Like the single that I released ‘Sunday’s Best / Monday’s Worst’ was more voice sample driven. Then I have a record like ‘Ghetto DEMF’ featuring Quelle which is upbeat, electronic, ghetto Detroit type of sound. I have variation of sounds on this album. Like I said, I’m already working on the next album — I’m already 7 records deep where I will be experimenting a little more.
HHNM: I see. You usually end up producing the entire chunk of your albums. Is this one produced entirely by you as well or do you have any guest producers?
Black Milk: Yeah, all the tracks are produced by me except one. This band from Detroit, Will Sessions, they produced the record ‘Deion’s House’. That’s the only one I didn’t produce. I actually went through my past albums and critiqued them and came up with stuff that I did do right versus things I did wrong. I tried to make it sound right this time.
HHNM: I remember you made me hear some bit of Mel’s project. When is that expected to be released?
Black Milk: Ah, I’m gonna probably drop that in December or January. I’m gonna put it out as a Free EP. The one I sent you is the exact version how I will be dropping it. If I do do physical copies, it will be limited edition type of release.
HHNM: Okay nice. I know you get asked this question a lot of times but when are we going to see an Eminem and Black Milk collaboration? The world needs to hear that.
Black Milk: (Laughs) Man, I really don’t have any control over that but of course, that will be an interesting collaboration. Plus of course, Em is one of my favorite rappers, like top 3 rappers for sure. That will be a dream collaboration for me.
HHNM: Yeah, you need to make that call to Denaun ASAP.
Black Milk: (Laughs) Oh man, yeah. I know he’s aware of me, he knows who I am, he has praised me in past articles but let’s see how it goes.
HHNM: Till this day, you are very selective with the people that you work with and hardly collaborate with mainstream rappers & producers. Is that a conscious decision or are you just comfortable that way?
Black Milk: Umm, I won’t say it’s a conscious decision, I don’t have anything against working with mainstream or major label artists but I naturally just end up working with people from the underground to artists like Sean Price to Jack White. End of last year, I was able to get in the studio with Lauryn Hill which was pretty crazy too. I just end up being in different situations which is not the normal path for other musicians.
HHNM: Your intros to albums are generally pretty outstanding. Are you going crazy on the intro to ‘No Poison, No Paradise’ too or does it have a different feel this time?
Black Milk: I don’t know if I want to call it “crazy” (laughs) but umm, I don’t know how to explain this. It’s interesting you’re asking me this. What you gotta understand about this album is that this album is a little bit more conceptual than my previous efforts. The entire album, I’m telling these different stories through this character named Sunny. It’s a lot dreamy too, where you feel like you’re in the character’s dream and a take a journey through his younger years all the way to his adult days and how life experiences affect him. So it’s lot of story telling on this one, it’s just not me rapping about rap. The intro is high energy type production and telling listeners how I’m gonna take it for rest of the album. It’s kinda hard to explain, you gotta hear it.
HHNM: Cool. So is it that you actually decide to make intros from scratch or do you just select a track from your recordings and make it the intro by tweaking it a bit?
Black Milk: You know, every time I go into an album and go through the beats I have kept for it, I always know when I hear a beat if that track is going to be an intro for the album or not. I get the feeling immediately. When I made the ‘Long Story Short’ beat or the ‘365’ beat, I knew that would be the intro and I never change my mind.
HHNM: You’re one of the most underrated people in Hip-Hop today according to me. Are you okay with that tag or do you wish more people recognized you?
Black Milk: You know, the underrated tag gets thrown a lot these days for me but I don’t necessarily think the word underrated is correct. I think people are more so just unaware. If you’re a music listener who is just exposed to the commercial side and you don’t take time to listen to stuff outside of that, you may not know me. But people who have heard my music or do know me, rate me pretty well so I don’t really think underrated is right to describe my situation. But I’m never worried, I just think I’m just fortunate enough to make music that I believe in and that I want to and still make a living out of it. Make albums and tour in America and overseas, I can’t really complain. I still have a lot of supporters. But if mainstream success ever comes or a major label situation arises, I’m not gonna turn away from it if the deal is right.
HHNM: I wish you all the luck. Well, thanks for taking out the time today to chat with me. Good luck on your new album, you know I can’t wait to hear it.
Black Milk: Oh man, I really hope you like the direction of this one. I want to add that the tone is a bit darker this time and my vocals are more calm and laid back. It’s a different vibe, can’t wait for you to hear it.