Black Milk - Album of the Year

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4.25

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Channeling his energy into Album Of The Year, Black Milk highlights his past year on a 12-track album that shows his growth as an artist and a person.

For the amount of work that Black Milk released two years ago, championed by his widely-acclaimed album Tronic, 2009 felt like the Detroit producer/emcee was in hibernation by comparison. Respectfully so, other events came to the forefront, including personal woes, touring, and delays on future projects. Channeling his energy into Album Of The Year, Black Milk highlights his past year on a 12-track album that shows his growth as an artist and a person.


As if it would be any surprise, Black Milk’s beats for his new album raises the bar for any producer that considers themself a worthy peer. Recapping the past year on “365,” he combines up-tempo drums with sparse horns that properly fit the bounce of the record. Black Milk then delivers a dose of audio ecstasy with “Keep Going” as explosive crash cymbals and throbbing bass drum kicks take the record to the next level. Here he highlights the live instrumentation that has been incorporated into his compositional arsenal as of late. Much like the adventurous trial of his crawling synth melody behind Tronic’s “Bounce,” Black takes another step into experimental land with “Gospel Psychedelic Rock.” While the clash of genres takes some time getting used to, ultimately this is a musical tangent that is worth exploring.

Throughout Album Of The Year it’s evident that Black Milk’s microphone skills have improved as well since his last offering. Sure, he at times makes punch line blunders like on “Warning (Keep Bouncing)” (“I hate niggas, need to get Alife like the clothes” and “Not Stevie, more like Wonder 'cause I’m all about the bread”). However, he steps up when it counts, specifically his bar-for-bar battle with Detroit brethren Royce Da 5’9’’ and eLZhi on the menacing cutthroat record “Deadly Medley” .

Not only that, but Black Milk has been able to turn his once-simplistic formula into something much more substantial. No better example of this turns up than on “Distortion,” a telling record that reveals his bout with stress and depression following a near-fatal stroke to his manager hex murda, as well as the untimely deaths of Slum Village member/friend Baatin and his aunt. Not to say that one single event was more important than the rest, but it’s clear that hex murda was heavy on his mind while writing this record. Seeing him in his possible last days, Black Milk painfully raps, “My nigga dying on his hospital bed / He laying there, I’m hoping he hang in there / They say he might not make it, they don’t even care / Don’t even know people consider him as a pioneer.” Along with his distinct delivery, “Distortion” may be Black’s most engaging record yet.   

While no track off Album Of The Year should be described as “throwaway,” a few records do sound less exceptional than the rest. “Oh Girl” fits this label as emphasis on the opposite sex puts the track in subject matter limbo. Though there’s nothing particularly wrong with the effort, it feels out of place, especially in between “Keep Going” and “Deadly Medley.” Then there’s “Round Of Applause,” a celebratory record that lasts a little too long. This time around the featured offbeat drum pattern comes off as sloppy rather than in the pocket.

With a career that spans nearly a decade, the album-ending “Closed Chapter” arguably takes its place as Black Milk’s magnum opus. Supported by a serene guitar riff and tempered drums, he reflects on his path to success. Humbly thanking his lucky stars, he rhymes, “Wish my nigga Proof was living to see this / Wish that nigga Dilla could hear this new shit / Set out all my dreams, set out all my goals / Wished for a lot of things, came for what I asked for / Only God knows where this roller coaster ride goes / But reaching those dreams the only thing I know.”

After listening to Album Of The Year, it’s easy to understand why Black Milk chose such a boastful title to represent his latest work. Whether he spent two years or four months creating this project, the effort behind it is palpable enough for someone to realize that he lives and breathes music. The same could be said for his producing influence and Detroit counterpart J Dilla. Let’s just hope listeners give him due respect before it’s too late.  

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88 Comments

  • jack johnson

    this album really wasn't that good, i think hiphopdx got the rating right

  • Larry Alvarez

    def album of the year !! F that critic ... haters.

  • Dumpology

    Should have definitely got a better rating.

  • P

    Da shit! The best rap out!

  • John Doe

    Fuck critics.. not because I don't agree with the review.. just that music ain't objective.. so getting a perfect five doesn't mean shit

  • Antonio

    http://badgerherald.com/artsetc/2010/09/14/black_milks_latest_d.php actually want to give it 2.5, but we don't round up for the sake of the art. it's 2010, if your lyrics aren't all there, gotta acknowledge it.

  • ettes

    Props for the hard work that has clearly gone into this record.

  • ShystyOne

    GREAT MUSIC! SOUTH EAST MICHIGAN STAND UP

  • P Ethier

    Favorite album thus far this year. Production 5/5 Rappin' 4/5 The production work on this is ridiculous. Nothing comes close in this genre in 2010. Rappin wise, he holds it down. His delivery and flow are good but he needs improvement lyrically. Still a huge step up since Popular Demand. When is the industry going to wake up and reach out to him for beats. So many beats on there would be perfect for people like Jay-Z to rap over.

  • Anonymous

    It Truly is the Album of The YEAR!!!

  • jake

    4/5 for Deadly Medly alone...Elzhi is arguably my fav underground emcee (top 10 overall living imho)...CANT WAIT til his next solo...Wish he would join Shady w/ Slaughterhouse and bring Black Milk to replace Dre when he officially retires...Elzhi, Diabolic, Crooked I (and the rest of Slaughter is dope as well), Louis Logic, One Be Lo, Brother Ali, Rhyme Asylum, Juice, Percee-P, and AOTP click make up my top 10 underground emcees (or clicks)...Honarable mention to RA the Rugged Man, Sean Price, MF Doom, Copywrite, Skyzoo, Roc Marciano, Blac Sabbac to name a few

  • Laron Cue

    Ha ha! As bugged as it's gonna sound, I agree with "Balls"! Not totally about the Black Milk thing, but 100% behind that DJ Lord Ron for Album of the Year nod! That and the Planet Asia/GCM album are in the running! Have to hear the rest of the Black Milk joint tho...that Deadly Medley is sick!!

  • DJ Lord Ron

    Whoever goes by the name, "Balls". I want to thanx that person just for acknowledging my album. I don't believe in "Album Of The Year" or awards (My opinion). Too many talented people are left out and art is about expression. I respect all who express in public with their art. My journey has been a long road traveled without the loan/assist of a major/independent record deal. My street/independent machine has been me and a few who have contributed to my progession over the years & I say BIG up and respects 2 them! I don't think Black Milk's album was meant to say his joint is truly album of the year. His meaning is something different. I don't truly think he's arrogant to say his album is, but I don't know dude like that either. People tend to take issues/matters out of content instead of getting the actual facts. I'm humble when people listen to my works and I thanx them for listening & buying. I stay in my creative lane. I respect many in the art world. Thanx "Balls" for acknowledging my album. Peace. DJ Lord Ron Universal Zulu Nation Note: Peace to Black Milk on his new release!

    • Balls

      DJ lord Ron? Haha, for real? That's what's up! Yo man, I had never even heard of you before until your new album. That's shit is crazy! Ur like the second coming of Premier! I just found ur older album and there are some hot ass beats on there too! Keep doin ya thing!!

  • balls

    One more thing...the album of the year may be going to DJ Lord Ron's, "Environmental Shape Sounds." Those beats are off the meatchain!!!! Best beats I heard in years!

  • balls

    Haha, you people are so lost, it's sad. This album is so average that it sucks! This shit is BASURA!! Only good tracks are Deadly Medley, and the bonus track, "warning.".... Black Milk, you a goddamn hit or miss for me. You are WWAAYYY too overrated, my G. Step ya goddamn game up!! This shit ain't even CLOSE to being the "Album of the year!"

  • Dean Lindo

    i love this album, big fan of black milk,although i think tronic was slightly better, but you cant deny his growth lyrically, the beats are always stellar, i wished the full version of "til the AM" was on there

  • sharpsh00ter155

    deadly medley is the best song of 2010, by far. its something about that i can listen to it over and over again.

  • giantspitter

    Shit gettin ugly like lady gaga's wardrobe

  • fashionablylate

    completely justified in the title.

  • DMV Dave

    Is BM from the D or the D.Dot? Cause his drums are on sum Go-Go shit for real! Only Best Kept Secret (the beatsmiths who did Wale's first 'Nothing' tape and should've done Wale's debut) got a similar sound; and them nigs sample from Junkyard & etc. With all respect. Milk needs to bring that funk down to the Real Dirty District!!

  • noc313

    every listen it gets better! live show was crazy in detroit! one of my favorite shows of all time, the live band really helped!

  • Bucky

    After the first listen... Half way through the album I thought it got a little repetitious. Not that it's a bad thing since the music itself is dope. Just his rhyme style and lyrics get a lil old. Still give it a 4 cuz it's a lot better than 90% of everything else that came out this year. Popular Demand is definitely my fav album from him so far.

  • jack johnson

    the more i listen the more i realize this album was a disappointment. 2.5 - 3 stars the lack of subject matter really let it down

    • vintaje

      Okay, so i'm finally listening to this album and I have to admit that this is a straight album. The samples(sorry folks every thing is a sample unless personally created from nothing) are cool. The live drums definitely drive the album. The rhymes are rudimentary considering the fact that Black has been rhyming for quite some time now(probably 9 years or so now). As an artist, the goal is to grow and get better, well Black's subject matter is holding him back at this point. He did well with switching to live drummers cause his drums were getting stale; a la 9th Wonder and/or DJ premier. So we shall see...I hope that his next album, should he release one, will display some type of growth lyrically. Because contrary to those that are 'true' fans, dope beats/music should never make an album 'classic'....

  • YaBoy_Mal

    shit is official.and sun stepped his pen game up ten fold.im voting 4 but its really 4.5

  • Ray

    Great body of work! the production as usual is impeccable while hes growing as a rapper.

  • black

    Yoy Cant Give Black Milk Less Than A 5...Album Is Dope

  • Jesús Diaz

    He should stick to produce and let real MCs flow on his beats. Drums are amazing, lyrics not so much.

  • MikeSchpitz

    Black Milk is about to be one of hip hop's most sought after producers. He's gonna be right there with Nottz and DJ Khalil. I bet some more mainstream cats take a chance on him too. The beats on this shit are incredible. Lyrically Black Milk is definitely able to carry a whole album easily. Best producer/rapper out right now although Kanye will probably get the popular vote. Album of the Year is right up there with The Roots, Damian Marley and Nas, Freeway and Jake One, all of which are right behind Big Boi

  • Phumie

    Edwin 'No relation to Joell' Ortiz is wrong about 'Round of Applause', those drums fuck up sum shit. Plus 'Oh girl' is a chick track that didn't have me skipping ahead. After hearing this BM - not 'Ye, not Nottz (Rah Dig's joint was disappointing compared to this), and not faggot-ass Timbaland - is the best producer [mo' than a beatmaker] doing it now. If Milk's not better than Dilla, he's the closest one...nuff said.

  • H2O_atlanta

    It's called "Album Of The Year" becuz he spent a year's time making it. He doesn't clarify this on the album but I think he should have. It would've taken some weight off of people's expectations. It's still dope... but like others have said, it doesn't rank high in subject matter.

  • Charles ExSavior

    On production this is a 5/5 album... nothing in 2010 comes close to this sound thus far. Lyrically it's Black Milk showing you a lot of progression since Popular Demand but it's still not a "wow" factor yet. Overall: 4/5

  • LeftHook

    I'm still not really a fan of the subject matter, because most of the time he's just spitting random lines about how he's so dope, killin the game etc. I'll say it again... Rappers stop rapping about rap! That said... I'll give it 4.5 simply off the production alone. IMO he's head and shoulders above every other Hip-Hop producer right now. I think DJ Khalil and Nottz are pretty close, but I think BM just took it to another level this time. I disagree with the review though. Round of Applause is my favourite track. Oh Girl is sick too I don't care what anyone says.

  • AbuKalthom

    this album deserve more than 3.5

  • MP

    I totally agree with 3.5 for this album. I've listened to it a couple of times and I still can't hear anything that makes this album better than Tronic by any means. Maybe I have to listen a little deeper, but so far....

  • Aymen

    I actually thought this album was alot better than Tronic...alot more polished and creative...great mixing as well...I give it 4 stars.

  • Articulate1

    Not sure if its the album of the year but "Deadly Medley" just might be song of the year...that beat is pure flamez and all three rappers destroy it.

  • Monday

    It's kool yo. I rather have Milk craft beats for Ehlzi & Royce... And do a spot verse. Thats when he's @ his best

  • SAVAGE44

    its alright album nothing great tho

  • Music-Head

    I disagree with this review.. Every song minus the Oh Girl track is a banger.'Round of Applause' is not at all out of place and anybody who knows anything about music knows hip-hop shows are way better with live instruments (ie. Roots!). I say he's headed in the right direction

  • Anonymous

    NOW WHERE IS THAT RANDOM AXE ALBUM?????????

  • +1 this cd is just alright

    This "album of the year" is exactly what the hater on black milk's own skit says it is. Album of the week. Ive forced myself to listen to it repeatedly and its just not that dope. His drumming skills have evolved but his lyrics havent. I guess its back to bumping the fat ray/black milk cd.

  • FRoSTYtheSNoWMaN

    Album is Dope! Love the live instruments. Dude is ill on the boards, I can listen to BM's instrumentals all day. Is he the greatest MC? No, but dude can flow. Black Milk always comes original and reps real hip hop. He's not just a producer or a rapper, he's a musician. Deadly Medley is ridiculous.

  • kps

    3.5 are you kidding, 5. never heard beats like this.

  • Sam Red

    The music was truly amazing on this album, He's the best hip hop producer out there right now. However his rhymes still haven't matured to the art of storytelling. Throughout the album he's tellin us why he's so ill and why other cats are losers and its kinda hollow. He only talked about like 3 things, girls baatin, hex, and why he's killin everybody. I'd like to see him improve lyrically and stop his one dimensional rhymes, or he'll be known as the dude wit dope beats that just glazes them over with repetitive rhymes.

    • jack johnson

      totally agree, same thing puts me off Royce and this the main thing putting me off the album, i wanna hear songs with real subject matter not just freestyle type subject matter where you just rap lines about how ill you are. its a shame too coz he's such a good producer and does have good skills, just doesn't have much subject matter

  • tiquang

    lots of good stuff on this. wish i could go to the release tonight at southpaw but i got back to back shifts.

  • skeezy

    Popular Demand was still his best album and a CLASSIC...I wish he was still making beats like that...

  • ksleep26

    Whoever said tronic was better than this, kill yourself lol this cd is retarded.... and i liked popular demand more than tronic anyway! as far as this one goes, its a 4/5 in my book

    • EddieMurrrphy

      everybody liked popular demand more than tronic dumbass. but yeah this album definitely edges tronic in my book too

  • Art Y-Rap West

    I'm gonna have to listen to this twice cuz I'm so lost in the beats, I gotta catch everything again, but I hear the growth definitely. I think that's a sign of a great album.

  • Robert Laryea

    honestly lets be for real... i love black milk but this cd is only alright. the beats are lets say... very different not necessarily wack but just different than what im use to with black milk. i liked tronic it was the beginning of his transition into his new sound but thi is completley different i just cant rock to it. im still bumpin kill devil hills and metahistorical both are fuckin bangin!!

  • dat nigga from detroit

    im not surprised niggas at hhdx are to pussy to give an album anything above or below a 3.5, great album though

  • Miha Tomsic

    C'mon son, everything said in review was good, how can the grade be 3,5/5?? What are the flaws? I understand that it isn't flawless, far from it, but it deserves a 4 just after the first day of bumping it. It might grow on me for half a grade...

  • obatron1

    I'm with holding my stars for now. Just not as into this album as I am into the rest of Black Milk's catalogue. I'm hoping this joint grows on me (like Tronic did) because so far I'm only liking a couple jams. Saw Blank Milk when he came to Cali and it just seemed like he was doing way too much with the added instrumentation (his drummer can be a bit too busy for me at times). As a fan I am still willing to give this joint an honest listen.

  • J Riv

    This is a amazing album from Black Milk from beginning to end and it shows his growth as a MC and the production was bananas. I'm from Detroit and he is one of the nicest coming out of the D. Elzhi is the best MC from the D and Royce is a close 2nd with Finale. But to have elzhi and royce on deadly medley was genius and black milk didn't even get out outshined on it. My detroit people need to support real detroit hip-hop!!!!!!!

    • Anonymous

      You right my dude One Be lo is one the nicest on the mic coming from the Great lakes because his solo debut S.O.N.O.G.R.A.M. is incredible and he is a ill lyricalist.

    • RIP_Proof&Dilla

      Although not from Detroit One Be Lo from Pontaic maybe a sicker lyricist than Royce.

    • 905

      Chyea Elzhi is nice...you might even say he's one of the best rappers in the world, not just the D.

  • c/gaddic

    I agree Tronic is better Don't get me wrong incredible beats as usual and that "Distortion" is a fuckin classic but i think the rating was just I just hope Dx is a as fair when it comes to lesser inferior artists album is a banger for any rap fan good lyrics and sick beats go cop it Detroit!!!

  • 718rob

    after hearing this album, i realize how much greater Tronic was. Still gonna support, but like Drake... dude should've re-thought his title.

  • Sony P

    smart move using live instrumentation. Great album.

  • Richard Kaliarik

    3.5/5? ARE YOU FUCKING SERIOUS? 4.5/5 !!!! 4 stars is really is too little, not even 3.5/5!!! HipHopDX for the worst reviewing hiphop sites on the whole internet!

  • gimik313

    GO GET ALBUM OF THE YEAR. SMART HIPHOP CATS NEED THIS RECORD IN THEIR LIVES. BM is a monster period. Producer/rappers TAKE NOTES. This is what your albums SHOULD sound like. AOTY