The Motor City is currently experiencing a regional renaissance, perhaps inspired by the tragic losses of Proof and J Dilla in 2006. With Detroit’s golden child Eminem making a brief but memorable return to rap recently, former Slim Shady co-conspirator Royce Da 5’9″ wreaking havoc in the mixtape game and the disciples of Jay Dee making waves throughout the underground scene, Detroit is having its own golden era right now.
Another talent to emerge from that pool is producer Black Milk [click to read]. Perhaps the most directly connected of artists to come from the house of Dilla, the talented beatsmith has drawn comparisons to the late great with his sonic compositions found everywhere, either locally with Slum Village and Guilty Simpson [click to read] or across the country with Lloyd Banks and Bishop Lamont [click to read]. After his debut album Popular Demand last year thrust him into a larger spotlight, Black Milk returns to his solo roots with Tronic.
Like most producer-on-the-mic artists Black Milk is not the most lyrically gifted but can capably hold his own, and he makes up for those shortcomings – and in some cases masks – with his wonderfully dense beats. After giving a hookless autobiography on the album’s opener “Long Story Short,” Milk goes in on the stuttering lead single “Give The Drummer Sum,” [click to listen] backed by triumphant horns and a quirky helium-pitched hook, spitting, “Got a hotter flow than most of these monotone emcees/simply kick a better hymn, please/get a breath in, just breathe/spotlights, pop life, I’m the next thing.” Crossing the border into Canada, he then links up with Toronto’s Colin Munroe to reminisce about former flings on “Without U.”
Like his previous outing Black Milk brings along some of rap’s finest along for the ride. He links up with fellow B.R. Gunna member Fat Ray on the sinister “Hell Yeah” and rides shotgun with Pharoahe Monch and Sean Price [click to read] on the head-knocker “The Matrix,” [click to listen] complete with a DJ Premier scratched chorus. But although he tries to match wits with Royce Da 5’9″ on the aptly-titled “Losing Out,” [click to listen] he’s simply out of his league against Nickel Nine’s verbal gymnastics: “Let’s talk about makin’ niggas’ hard-earned money yours/puttin’ money on heads like I’m payin’ their barber.”
Tronic is by no means perfect, however. “Bounce” suffers from weak rhymes and an even weaker instrumental, while “Hold It Down” is a sleepy tune loaded with blingy tales, typically conflicted thoughts and lyrical filler. Meanwhile Black Milk’s raps don’t deviate from his flashy raps and insightful rhymes. While they sometimes combine to make a great cut, as evidenced by “Try,” it gets boring and ultimately drags down the album.
With another strong outing in Tronic, Black Milk continues the trend of Detroit’s musical revolution. With its quality beats and above-average raps, Motown has delivered another dope album to go along with their revolution.