What makes Black Milk Black Milk? Well, it’s pure Detroit — it’s the hard but colorful-like-Motown beats he makes, it’s the “psycho” flow he’s got, and it’s even his entertaining skits on Album of the Year as well as his old Myspace account, which gave a shout out to fellow Motor City spitter Dope Head. FEVER offers more of that basic boom-bap blueprint that put Milk on the map and… well, a lot of it, so much so that you almost wish he’d go back to the old days of bullsh**ting about always having a million dollars and sh**. Hey, he’s a musician, not a stock broker!
One thing that plagues Milk now, as ever, is a lack of collaboration raps on his album — remember that Tronic featured a (albeit highly sinister and antipathetic) verse from Pharoahe Monch, but by 2010’s Album of the Year he was bemoaning (or maybe celebrating, depending on how you look at it) the fact that “ni**az don’t wanna get involved wit’ this cancer”. Particularly, on “2 Would Try,” his romantic exploits come off as unnecessary personal detritus, like a retread of “Oh Girl” without the VICTORY, without the swagger, if you will. But still, the beats are rip-tight, with creative little funky bass runs peppered sporadically throughout, and almost every chorus on FEVER seems to offer a catchy, memorable hook here or there.
And maybe that’s just what hip-hop music is these days. As we remember, Milk lost his best bud and budding musician Hex Tricoli in ’09 (which actually spawned the title “Album of the Year” — it was all muse inspirational from a trying year in his life). The real standout is “Laugh Now Cry Later” which shows off Milk’s almost astonishingly temperance of finesse within a song, almost as if the music becomes pop, except for it being so DARK, and entrenched deeply within bona fide urban jazz like The Detroit Experiment, or jazz immersed in some trippy absinthe late-night euphoria. “Laugh Now Cry Later” is a little like Kanye’s “Addiction” actually — not in lyrics but just in feel, an almost jazz-ambient Radiohead-type vapor to float in to the night wholly unknowable. To be sure, it usually takes me a couple listens to fully digest any Milk release, and I’ll go back to this one for the hard beats, the soul, and the fact that it’s the furthest thing from ‘N Sync on the face of the planet, which MOST of us will appreciate, I surely hope.