A CONVERSATION WITH BLACK MILK AS HE RETURNS TO PERFORM IN HIS HOMETOWN
This weekend, acclaimed producer and rapper Black Milk is performing a double show in his hometown at El Club. With a stellar lineup of local support and a fresh album, Fever, these shows are a must-see for longtime fans and new audiences alike. To celebrate the occasion, contributor Broccoli spoke with the Detroit native about his musical progression, his love for Detroit, and more.
Do you remember what the first album you ever purchased was?
Black Milk: I remember the first album I ever had, rap album, I think it was Bone Thugs-n-Harmony, their first album East 1999, back in like 5th grade.
If someone had never heard your music before, what’s the first thing that you would show them?
I would probably introduce them to the newer stuff and then tell them to work their way back, versus starting from the beginning. So start with Fever, then go backwards from album to album. I would rather somebody hear what I consider to be my best. I just feel like I’ve progressed so much since the beginning, so I’d rather have them jump in with where I’m at right now as an artist. That way they could listen and see the growth from beginning to end.
That’s interesting- I usually do the opposite in order to see the progression. Sometimes listening to the old stuff can cause people to feel some nostalgia for it, so with starting from the most recent changes the experience.
Yeah man, exactly.
So with Fever, I read that it was a deliberate change in vibe for you…
…and there’s also an evolution of combining live instrumentation with production, with various musical and lyrical elements- how does this project fit in with the rest of your discography?
In comparison to everything I’ve put out in the past, this album is the first one where I’m speaking more about the times that we’re living in. My last couple records were more personal in a way, this one is more about this era and the things that are going on in the world, just giving my perspective on certain topics that we see in the headlines today. But even though the lyrical content is kinda heavy, I feel like the music is more on the melodic type of vibe, so it’s somewhat of a contrast.
Going a bit deeper into the interactions between the live instrumentation and the production elements, how has that evolved? What role did it play in this most recent album?
Ah man, I feel like it’s so many different styles. With each album, I try touch on whatever the inspiration is at the time, or try to go to the next thing that I’ve been working towards. With this one, I feel like in the current state of music, everybody seems like they’re more on a vibey type of wave, so I feel like I wanted to take that idea of making something that is sort of laid back and smooth, but doing it my own way. From a production/sonic standpoint it’s more chill, it’s not too many super aggressive hip hop records on this one, which is different from my previous work.
So you’re doing a two night show run at El Club this weekend, in your hometown, you’ve got great local talent supporting you on those lineups. How did this come together? What are you excited about for this weekend?
Coming to perform in Detroit is great, I’m always excited to do a hometown show. At the same time, it does put some pressure on me, because that’s the one show that’s the most important to me out of any city that I perform in. I put the most time and effort into preparation for my Detroit shows because it’s home, I gotta put on the best show I can at the crib.
In terms of the other performers, like Supakaine, Phil Swish, and all that, I’m just tryna show love to some of the newer artists that are coming up and doing their thing, hopefully giving them a chance to play in front of a dope crowd. Same thing with Sam Austins, I’ve had him perform on the road with me in some of the major cities (New York, Chicago, LA, etc.).
I like to show love if I can to newer artists- just give them an opportunity. Especially when I enjoy their work, all the artists that I’ve mentioned I really dig what they do, so it’s easy to just ask them if they wanna come and rock it. So yeah man, hopefully it’ll be a good couple nights, I expect that it will be, especially for my first time performing at El Club.
If you could imagine being in the audience at one of your shows, what do you hope that experience would be like?
Ah man, I think mainly I’d want to walk away feeling like, “that was one of the best shows I’ve ever experienced,” you know what I’m sayin? Especially when you’re in the hip hop space, you can expect a certain kind of show with most of those acts, so I like to be somewhat of a pleasant surprise. Ultimately, I want people to feel like they want to see it the next time I come to town, like they’re tryna catch a set next time they get a chance, that’s the real goal.
It must be interesting for you to be making music right now, given the current landscape in hip hop (compared to the era that you grew up in) and the fact that those two styles can often be at odds with one another. Can you talk a little more about that aspect of your process?
I feel like I just try to be honest, all of the work that I do comes from that type of place. I always try to stay aware of what’s going on with the current sound of music, and I try to find elements of modern music that I like and incorporate that into what I do. I think that’s the way I keep it fresh and interesting. Someone that might not be the biggest hip hop purest can come across my music and still enjoy it because there are aspects of modern influences that they are familiar with, and with people that are more into other types of music, they can also find elements of it that they can get with.
In the end, the most satisfying thing is continuing to push the envelope, making music that stands out in comparison to the rest of what’s being released right now. That’s my mentality: do what I do, but still be aware of what’s going on, and see if I can make it into my own. When you walk into one of my projects, you’re basically listening to me create something out of all of these sounds that I am a fan of. I feel like I’m lucky to be a person that turned something that was once a hobby into a career. At the end of the day I’m a real fan of music, not just a hip hop fan, so in my work I want people to hear all of the different types of music that I love, whether it’s rock, funk, soul, hip hop, jazz, all of that. It’s going to be a hybrid of all of those things.
What would you tell people to do in order to prepare for your show?
Be ready to see a show that’s energetic, something that will take you on a bit of a roller coaster ride in terms of music, and of course be ready to watch some amazing musicians play and have fun. It’ll be pieces of my newer catalogue, some of the older things I’ve done, tryna mix it up as much as possible, and we’ll just have a great time overall.
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