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Spread the FEVER: On tour with Detroit hip hop artist Black Milk

Spread the FEVER: On tour with Detroit hip hop artist Black Milk

I’ve rarely met a hardcore hip hop head that didn’t know the name Black Milk, a.k.a. Curtis Cross. First introduced to the world by beloved and fellow Detroit producer J Dilla, Black Milk started his career doing production with the well known hip hop group Slum Village.

With his first solo studio album release Popular Demand back in the mid-2000s, Black Milk was a welcome addition to artists that were not only evolving the sound of hip hop at that time, but had been reinvigorating the Detroit area with the likes of Eminem, D-12, and Royce da 5’9” prior. It was a peak time for hip hop and I remember all the Motown comparisons that gladly came with having several Detroit hip hop artists all creating a buzz.

Not a lot of producers can also confidently boast being able to rhyme as well, but over the years Black Milk has shown talent and growth in both. Going back over his discography, you can hear how his delivery is smoother; his writing has stepped up but honestly I’m not expecting Nas lyrics from Black Milk. Not every artist needs to be a lyrical virtuoso for it to be a great song, but regardless Black Milk puts out dope records. Don’t let his tutelage under J Dilla mislead you; his musical styling and voice is his own. My favorite album by far is his 2010 effort, humbly entitled Album of The Year. Somehow he combined that rawness of the hood with live instrumentation that, in my opinion, is usually best known and executed by The Roots. That album game me a similar feel. Hip Hop is a genre known for sampling so not every artist can transition well to live music in a way that sounds dope without sounding like a completely different person all together. Black Milk did it effortlessly – the entire album gave you a concert feel and the track “Welcome (Gotta Go),” is bananas.

It is my personal theme song and when the zombie apocalypse comes, that’ll be the song playing during my Negan scene when I take over.

His newest release FEVER is a fitting piece that showcases the evolution of Black Milk as an artist in general. It’s more of the live band feel with even better, more centered lyricism than we usually see. It’s thoughtful, touching on topics like police violence and the political climate. You can tell he’s been inspired to say something, and the best music comes from that sort of genuine expression. It still has that jazzy fire though lacking the hard knock I’ve come to expect from him. Don’t take that as a bad thing though, this sound is more cohesive that way. Take standout track “Drown.”

It is a
quintessential Black Milk song that serves as a perfect sample for a new listener. The beat is crazy, with switch ups galore and lush sounds that force you to listen several times to catch everything; the drums are whew, and then he delivers lyrically. It still a hard track but I appreciate less boom bap on a song like that where his cultural and political musings could get lost in all that sauce. This project also showcases his band Nat Turner, featuring bandmates Daru Jones and Chris Dave, two drummers whose work I follow as well. His prior release was an instrumental album with them (something every good producer should do at least once or twice in their career) called Rebellion Sessions that should get equal spins as well.

Right now you can catch all that heat and see Black Milk on his summer FEVER tour.


Tour Schedule:


High Watt  Nashville TN, US


Kings Raleigh NC, US


Rock & Roll Hotel Washington, DC, US


El Club Detroit MI, US


El Club Detroit MI, US


Adelaide Hall Toronto, ON, Canada

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