Black Milk: 100 and Two Percent

When Slum Village needed a post-Jay Dee sound, they found comfort in two fledging Detroit producers, Young RJ and Black Milk. Known as BR Gunna, the duo not only produced slept-on gems like 2005’s self-titled Slum album, but they also released Dirty District compilations that keep that D’s name alive on the underground. Through all […]

When Slum Village needed a post-Jay Dee sound, they found comfort in two fledging Detroit producers, Young RJ and Black Milk. Known as BR Gunna, the duo not only produced slept-on gems like 2005’s self-titled Slum album, but they also released Dirty District compilations that keep that D’s name alive on the underground. Through all of this, Black Milk had a hand in more records than most 30-something producers by his 21st birthday.

Few knew he could spit just as well though. Now, since BR Gunna broke up, Black Milk has been busily producing for everybody from Pharoahe Monch and Lloyd Banks to Phat Kat and Slum. While he was placing beats, Black also gained a solo deal through Fat Beats Records, who recently released his Broken Wax EP just a few months before they intend to drop a full-length on the Detroit area-code, 3-13. Now just coming into his own, Black Milk tells AllHipHop why he’ll never sour. You were supposed to have a joint on Lloyd Banks’ album. What happened with that?

Black Milk: That was a crazy situation that happened with his s**t. The Lloyd Banks thing was like…I got him the beat, and they said he was using it. He cut a song to the track. Then they called me back a few weeks later saying, “The content of the song, the s**t he’s talking about, we’re not trying to start that up again…” if you can read between the lines…[Interscope] asked him to cut a whole new song, so… Do you think it’ll appear on a mixtape? I know you won’t get paid for it if it does…

Black Milk: I hope it does leak. That’s better for me. I wouldn’t care. It was a thing where I was lookin’ forward to it, but whatever, s**t happens. I still send [G-Unit] beats. It ain’t a big deal to me. With BR Gunna and Slum Village, we’re used to seeing you on Barak Records. What motivated you to go to New York and take your EP to Fat Beats Records?

Black Milk: It wasn’t nothing against [Barak] beefwise, the business wasn’t right over there. I was never signed to Barak, I just worked with ‘em for Slum Village. That’s what that was. It was a situation where we were about to have a BR Gunna album come out, and a lot stuff just kept getting pushed to the side. The business wasn’t right, the money [wasn’t coming]. I had to step out of a situation that was holding me back. Plus, when the BR Gunna didn’t come out, s**t was done. I was like, “What am I gonna do now?” That’s when I put out my own lil’ solo compilation, Sound of the City last year, and it made a nice lil’ buzz on the underground level. That’s how Fat Beats came along and hollered at me. There were other labels, but Fat Beats was pushin’ a lil’ harder than everybody else. F**k it, let me roll with them. Your partner, Young RJ, is the son of Barak Records’ owner. Because of those differences, what’s the state of BR Gunna?

Black Milk: Uhhh…I’m not gonna say we’re not ever gonna make a BR Gunna album [again]. For one, BR Gunna was three people: Me, RJ, and Phat Ray – he was the rapper of the group. I still work with Phat Ray, tryin’ to get him in a situation. But the whole BR Gunna situation, ever since I stepped out, I’ve just been blessed with a lot of s**t comin’ to me, opportunities. Once I said, “Let me do my own thing,” stuff just started comin’ to me to easy. That let me know then that I could do this s**t on my own. That’s not to say I don’t ever wanna work with them cats again, like I said, Slum Village will always be my n***as, whatever label they on. Young RJ, it’s no beef between me and him. N***as just grow apart. Hopefully we can get back together and do some s**t, I ain’t countin’ nothin’ out. They were recently interviewed in Elemental Magazine, and they create custom marketing and promotion strategies for each release. Given that Broken Wax is an EP, what’s its specific approach?

Black Milk: At Fat Beats, they’re a label that really specializes in still putting out vinyl. It was a thing…all the music that I ever came out with, not the Slum s**t, but my personal s**t from Sound of the City, I never had nothin’ on vinyl. Everything was on CD or on the Internet. I was gettin’ a lot of hits from DJs saying, “We like your s**t, but we can’t play it, ‘cause you ain’t got no vinyl.” That was one reason I put together the EP. Plus, since my album was not dropping this year, I gotta come out with somethin’ to hold the people over. So I came out with five new tracks, took a few from Sound of the City, threw it all together, and putting it out on wax. Detroit rappers have always been able to speak to the streets and underground Hip-Hop purists at the same time. We’ve seen that in Phat Kat, Baatin, and even Royce Da 5’9. When you’re writing your lyrics, which audience do you have in mind?

Black Milk: We have a problem with that. With me, it’s a lil’ different. I do try to keep that balance there. The beats might sound so-called “underground”, “backpack”, or whatever you might call it – they not commercial beats. But most of my lyrical content be on some regular s**t, everyday s**t that you would hear from Jay-Z or any n***a on the radio. I talk about chicks and havin’ nice s**t and stuff like that. It’s just that them the type of beats I like to make. But the raps, they regular. I’m not a really a so-called “conscious” or “political” type rapper, that’s cool, but that’s not really me. Detroit, we the type of city where there’s a lot of street s**t goin’ on, a lot of negativity. I’mma rap about a lot of the s**t that go on here in the D, which is not no pretty type city. [Laughs] It’s a lot of f**ked up s**t goin’ on…like anywhere else. Ten years ago, Los Angeles was the Hip-Hop Mecca. Then, ‘Pac died, Snoop went to New Orleans, Suge went to jail, Dre hibernated, and Cube made movies. Your city saw two of its icons die this year in Proof and Dilla. Eminem has all-but retired, and Royce is on his was to jail. With all that going down, how can you and the next generation hold the mainstream attention?

Black Milk: Like you said, when Dilla and Proof passed, it was a real blow to the city. The city was already kinda in a slump, ‘cause n***as was really tryin’ to make a Detroit movement happen. You had all the other [regions], but we was really tryin’ to pull it together. When Dilla passed, it was “Damn. What the f**k now?” When Proof passed, it really f**ked up the city. N***as started leavin’ the city. It got real gray, real depressing. It threw me off too. It threw me off of focus. But I looked at it like it should give me even more drive to do my thing and hold the torch for these cats – not just me, but other artists too. But I’m up and coming, I’m a new face, I’m young, new name, I’ma really try to do my thing and push hard – not to put Detroit on the map, if it happens, it happens, but just to be that next artist and put out good music. When Slum Village got “EZ Up” onto the Chevrolet commercial, that was your music. Did it benefit you much?

Black Milk: It did, and it didn’t. [Sighs] That’s another thing. I really didn’t have too much to do with it, that was really a label thing. It helped Slum a lil’ bit for they [self-titled] album, and got ‘em some tour s**t. The album didn’t do as well as it should have, ‘cause of the label s**t. We didn’t have no video. What the f**k? It was a great album, one of Slum’s best. Lucky enough, Chevy hollered at us, ‘cause we really would’ve been f**ked up. It shined a little light on us, but it wasn’t like major labels was comin’ out [saying], “Who produced the track?” On Dirty District Volume 2 you were able to work with MC Breed on “Dat’s Fa Sho”. That’s somebody who we’ll never see on Hip-Hop Honors, but tell me, as a Michigan dude, what he means to the region and what it was like working with him…

Black Milk: It was shocking, but at the same time, he was so cool, that it was just like another regular dude to come in and record with us. I thought about it while he was in the booth, “This is MC Breed!” It kinda did hit me. We workin’ with a n***a, he told us some s**t about the industry, just puttin’ us up on game. At that time, we was really just doin’ s**t, we didn’t know nothin’. He was puttin’ me, and Young RJ onto the ropes. It was real dope workin’ with that dude. Unfortunately, he gotta go through the s**t he goin’ through now, because we was gonna produce his solo album. Hopefully in the future, there will be some time.