Black Milk: Carrying the Torch

It’s often hard for young artists to break away from comparisons to the artists that inspired them, as flattering as they may be. In light of his early work with Slum Village, and being from the talented yet relatively untapped city of Detroit, Black Milk has been striving to carry the torch that J Dilla […]


often hard for young artists to break away from comparisons to the artists

that inspired them, as flattering as they may be. In light of his early

work with Slum Village, and being from the talented yet relatively untapped

city of Detroit, Black Milk has been striving to carry the torch that

J Dilla lit, without riding any coattails. Sure he’s being heralded

as the next big Hip-Hop act to emerge from the Motor City, but these

days he’s just happy to finally have the name Black Milk speak for



he couldn’t be happier with the response he’s received so far for

his solo album Popular Demand, he’s also feeling blessed about

the results of his recent European tours. With plans to produce albums

from Sean Price, Guilty Simpson and Fat Ray, as well as the official

Caltroit mixtape with Bishop Lamont set to drop in December, 2008 is looking

to be a big year for the 24-year-old. Driving the I-95 in Detroit on

a Friday night is where caught up with him, and here’s

how the conversation went. You were overseas

touring in October. Tell me about the experience you had performing

and getting to see another part of the world. Black Milk: That was my second

time going over to Europe this year, and it was way better than the

first time. The first time it was live, but this second time was even

crazier, because every show was sold out, or damn near sold out. Every

show the club was filled up. Me, Guilty [Simpson], and Sean Price all

did our thing, every set was vibing and people was just enjoying it.

I hit up a few spots I didn’t get to hit up, finally hit up Paris

and couple other spots. Paris and Amsterdam was two of the livest shows

out of all, but it was crazy. I feel like

growing up listening to Detroit radio, and they put me on to a lot of

artists but really never gave us the exclusive Detroit stuff. They definitely

weren’t first place I never heard Eminem or Slum Village. I haven’t

been at home for few years, but is it still the same thing? 

Black Milk: Yeah it’s basically

still the same man. Detroit got a lot of talented artists, from Hip-Hop to R&B singers and all of that. They might show you a little

love every once in a while, spin a record or put you in the mix show.

But other than that, not rotation. You not gonna get none of that, just

what you see on 106 and Park or MTV, what you hear on the radio from

big artists. It’s kind of shocking, because there’s a good amount

of artists in Detroit doing quality music, so you would think they’d

play some of that stuff or at least fit it in with the other artists

in rotation. But it’s still the same basically. To tell you truth,

they showed me a little love through the connections I had with the

radio at 98 WJLB, they were playing “Sound The Alarm” for a while.

Most of the time in the mix show, but they was still playing it, so

I couldn’t be mad, you know what I’m saying? (Laughs) It’s a shame

they don’t do more. 

Black Milk: Especially after

you got other cities that do it. When you see down south, how they do

it in Atlanta and other cities, they got their movement. You’d think

that another city would do that for their artists, when you’ve got

quality artists. It’s enough of us out here. But I don’t know man,

it’s a different thing up here. It’s up top. It’s been

nearly two years since the passing of J Dilla. Is the Detroit community

finally coming to terms with no longer having the legend around? 

Black Milk: It’s been a minute,

so I guess people is starting to get closure with it. Ain’t nobody

forgot about him or Proof, if you go to the Hip Hop spots we’re still

spinning Dilla records and Proof records all night. So we ain’t forgot,

but we’re kind of coming to closure. Ain’t too much mourning like

around the time when it happened. We’re always going to be repping

them two dudes. For those that

don’t know, how much of an influence was his music as far as coming

into your own as a producer? 

Black Milk: Dilla had a bigger

influence on my music than any artist in music history. Him and Prince,

the two dudes I look up to a lot. He made me want to start doing beats

basically, when I heard Slum Village. Before I even met those dudes,

I was listening to those dudes through my boys and cousins, they was

into Slum like that and put me on. And I realized it was different than

what you usually hear in Hip Hop, and I just grew attached to it. So

he influenced my style hella big. Even though I’m coming into my own

sound, you’ll still hear that Detroit bounce. I’m not the only artist

or producer he influenced, but yeah you’ll hear that a little bit

in my music. You said before

that you feel like you’re starting your career all over again now,

trying to make a name for Black Milk the solo artist and producer. You

feel like it’s working now? 

Black Milk: Yeah man I do.

People are starting to recognize me for what I do, and separate me from

the whole Slum Village thing, Dilla thing, B.R. Gunna thing, and look

at me as Black Milk. So I feel good, I feel like I’m doing what I’m

doing and accomplishing what I need to. But I still ain’t met my goals,

I’m still not all the way. It’s working out good for me now though.

Like when you can go overseas and rock shows by yourself to 500 people

and up, that means you doing something. You’ve got

to be happy with the consensus that Popular Demand was one of

the better projects to come out this year. Did you really expect that

type of response from the project, or were you prepared for the worst?

Black Milk: I kind of expected

people to enjoy the music. I’ve been producing for a minute now, and

most of the stuff we’ve been putting out people like it and take to

it. They cop it, whether it was stuff for Slum or B.R. Gunna, people got

it and we never really got no bad feedback. So I didn’t really have

any worries about the album. The only worry I had was when the album

got pushed back a few times. To me, it was old because it got pushed

back like 6 months from the original date. So I’m like music changes

so much, especially with me, cause I’m changing my style up or come

up with something new almost damn near every few week. So I was hoping

the album wouldn’t sound dated when it came out, but people still

took to it and I got good feedback from the record so it was dope. How do you feel

about the way Fat Beats Records is working as a label for artists like yourself? 

Black Milk: When I signed to

Fat Beats, I kinda knew what it was. I knew they was going to do what

I needed them to do on an underground level. I knew I was going to have

to put in a lot of footwork myself and be on the grind myself, because

I knew they was only going to do so much. But like I said, it did good

man. We shot a real dope video for the first single “Sound The Alarm,”

and when we did that and put it on YouTube, we got so many calls from

people. MTV and even BET hollered at us. MTV hollered first like “Yo,

we want the video.” It wasn’t like the real MTV, but like MTV Jams

or one of the lower ones But it was still dope to be on MTV’s radar.

So the only thing we had to do was shoot a clean version of the video,

and that was where the dilemma came. The guy that shot the video did

it all on green screen, so it was hard for him to go back and take the

bullet scene out, or any gun gestures out. It was hard for him to go

back and re-edit all that, because he was done with it. But now we know

(Laughs). Let’s talk

about the Caltroit mixtape you did with Bishop Lamont. That must

have increased your fanbase substantially. 

Black Milk: Yeah, I was reading

a couple message boards on sites where the song was up, and people was

like “Who’s the Black Milk cat?” They knew Bishop, but I was new

to them and they was saying I was dope on the verses or whatever. I

didn’t see nothing negative, so it’s opened me up to a whole new

fan base and given me more exposure. Bishop’s on Aftermath, so that

in itself is going to have certain people checking for you that wouldn’t

usually. Caltroit is still getting a lot of buzz, we did the internet

download thing. The CD should be dropping in December with none of the

talking over it, and the mix and mastering is going to be nothing like

the grimy version that was on the internet. The quality version sounds

way better than the one from the net. That was the plan from the beginning,

leak it out and give people a little taste of what it is. We got Cali

artist, Detroit artists, even some East Coast artists on there, it’s

just a real good project. How did that

even come together? It seems like it’s bridging a big distance between

you guys geographically. 

Black Milk: I met Bishop at

the Slum Village video shoot for “EZ Up” in Cali. Matter of fact

I had my “Sound of the City” project out that I was pushing, and

he was one of the cats I gave the CD too. We talked for a minute and

exchanged contacts, and when I got back to the crib we stayed in contact.

Unfortunately when Proof passed, he came out to Detroit for the funeral.

Me and him kicked it a little bit and recorded a couple songs, and when

he went back my manager had the idea like “Why don’t you do a project

together on some Cali-Detroit s###?” And we thought the idea was dope,

so there it was. I went out to Cali, recorded a few times out there,

we were sending tracks back and forth. That was how we got Caltroit It’s cool

when your manager can come up with a few ideas, remind you why you’re

paying them. 

Black Milk: Right, right. That’s

my manger all day, he just be brainstorming. Matter of fact, he’s

the one that came with the idea of the Guilty Simpson/Sean Price album

with me producing it. So that was another one of his ideas that I give

him credit for.”Bad Man”  Fat Ray ft. Guilty Simpson   Produced by Black Milk

“Sound the Alarm” Black Milk ft. Guilty Simpson