Hip-Hop first met Black Milk as a producer. He showcased his production on Slum Village’s Detroit Deli and Dirty District Vol. 2 as well as Lloyd Bank’s diss track “Death Wish,” amongst other projects. He eventually revealed more of his rapper persona with last year’s Popular Demand, and recently followed up with October’s Tronic. While the rest of hip-hop has come down with the Auto-Tune virus, Black Milk departed from the soul sample-driven sounds of his previous works and employed more live instrumentation, embracing the use of both vintage and modern synthesizers while exploring a more orchestral song structure without abandoning his trademark sound. Often touted as a pioneer of the future Detroit sound, he remains modest and low-key but allowed XXLMag.com to step into his world.
XXLMag.com: Your album is very electronic hence the title. So is Tronic a way to describe your new sound direction?
Black Milk: What you hear on the album is basically the Tronic sound. It’s a variety of not just electronic music or futuristic sounds, but of different styles and genres of music in one. The album came through real electric, that’s why it’s named that. Tronic basically just means a new sound. I was influenced a little bit by electronic and abstract records and obscure loops that I was finding at the time, but you still got the soul on there, you have the funk on there, you got the rock on there. It’s a variety of different sounds.
XXL: What different artists did you use when you were crate digging for samples?
BM: People might not even know the names. I was listening to a little bit of Kraftwerk, a little bit of Stereolab, a little bit of Tomita—that’s just the other shit. When it came to funk, I was listening to James Brown and stuff like that. [And] The Alice Parsons Project for the Royce Da 5’9” joint. I just got up on that group this year [they’re] these crazy rock artists.
XXL: People consider you the future of hip-hop when it comes to Detroit, but did you feel slighted by not being chosen for XXL’s Freshman Class cover like some other artists?
BM: I wasn’t mad. Even though I still feel like I’m new to the game, I really didn’t feel any kind of way about it. I did have a XL [rating] inside the magazine so I wasn’t trippin’ too much.
XXL: Who gets more respect, Black Milk the rapper or producer?
BM: Definitely the producer. I don’t even mind that. I just rap cause I can and that gives me a way to do shows and get on the road and perform for the people and see the crowds [with] people’s hands in the air [and] singing the words to the songs. If I didn’t rhyme I wouldn’t be able to do that.
XXL: Do you feel Detroit hip-hop is slept on?
BM: I’m not saying that we don’t get no type of love or no type of exposure. I think on the underground Detroit murdered almost everything. When it comes to the underground scene we do our thing from the beats to the MCs. But we need to take it a step further and try to do it on a bigger level and a bigger scale and get more exposure and get more fans because the underground is cool but I feel like more people need to hear the music that we’re bringing. I feel like we do get slept on—not actually by the people but, the media, the BETs, the MTVs [and] the record labels. I’m not saying that I’m really pressed to get on a major label, I’m not even pressed to get on BET or MTV but it’s just the fact that I know industry people in big positions. They feel what we doing, they love what we doing but it’s like, ‘damn show some love.’ You got the power to put us in a better position and have our music heard by other people so do that. I still don’t understand that but I know it’s all business. I ain’t really trippin’ but I know I’m not the only person that feels that way. There’s other cities that got talent but still get slept on.
XXL: Who are some other Detroit artists that you would cosign?
BM: There are a few artists that I think are dope. One of the artists I’ve already been working with is this cat Fat Ray. He’s one of the dope MCs out of Detroit. We got this other new cat named Danny Brown. He’s funny because he got a voice that’s so animated and his style of clothes is off the wall. He reminds me of a hipster type artist but he’s on some street shit
XXL: Speaking of hipsters, what do you think about the ‘hipster’ term being applied to hip-hop and where do you fit in?
BM: I don’t have nothing against the hipster movement. I don’t know how they feel about being called hipsters, though. I just use the word because that’s the word that everybody else is using and that’s how you can recognize a certain group of artists and a certain style of music. It’s just like the backpack label. You might not actually walk around with a dirty backpack on and fatigues and Timberlands but just because you like a certain style of music that’s what a lot of people label you as. Yeah, it’s messed up, but some of them dudes are real dope lyricists and I don’t know if they like that label or not. Where I fit in, I’m on music shit. A lot of the stuff I hear from them dudes, no diss, it just has a certain sound, and it’s like one set sound. Me personally, I don’t have one set sound. I’m on some musical type stuff where I listen to all types of artists and I’m trying to experiment with all different types of sounds and really make my own lane. I’m just trying to make timeless music. And a lot of music that’s being made—whether it’s backpacker or hipster or whatever you want to call it—they’re not trying to make music that’s gonna be around for another ten years. A lot of people are just making music to just get that quick dollar which is cool if that’s what you’re in the game for but me personally I’m not in the game for that. I want my records to last and have a long shelf life.
XXL: Going back to Detroit artists, what’s up with T-Baby?
XXL: I know you’ve seen the “It’s So Cold In The D” video?
BM: Aaw, man! You see what I’m saying? Everybody jumped on that. Everybody knows about that video and it’s the wackest thing ever. How did that get exposure? It got such a buzz but other good artists can’t get on. I don’t understand. That shit was crazy, but it was funny as hell.
XXL: You should hook up with her. What’s good with an Auto-Tune Remix?
BM: I was gonna put out a free download project called FAT, and it stands for Fuck Auto-Tune. I’m still deciding if I’m gonna do it or not. Nah, I’m not gon do that, but I don’t really feel the Auto-Tune thing. I like when T-Pain does it. For some reason his melodies sound good when he does it. But I think some people should kind of leave it alone. If you mess up vocally while you’re recording it makes it sound worse, so I don’t mess with the Auto-Tune thing. Hopefully it dies out soon. —Starrene Rhett