Back Issue__ Producer Black Milk

July 09, 2009 | By

We heart Black Milk, but above are some pictures he took of things he hearts.

Black Milk served nice and cold.

by: Hana May
images: Gillian Hurd

Black Milk’s job is to combine rap vocals and sound. So we had him create a hip hop sports team for us. Run on over to the gymnasium bulletin board and see who made the starting five, find out who the water boy is and who will be benched!

Producer Black Milk has managed to make his way from the Detroit underground to tour around the world and produce for big names like Busta Rhymes and Slum Village. Yet, when people list their favorite producers, Black Milk isn’t on that list as much as he’d like to be. A self-described producer first, MC second, Black Milk started making music when he was in high school in Detroit. Now 25, it seems like he’s been in the game longer than he has and has gained some serious nods from both hip hop fans and industry authorities. He gleams when he talks about how he’s heard his idol, legend Jay Dilla, rapping over his beats. A young, laid-back dude with an old-school vibe, his production style incorporates electro sounds with a hard bass, suitably repping the Slum Village and Phat Cat circle. In 2007, he released Popular Demand, which earned him the label of ‘next big thing’ and his most recent album, Tronic, received similarly good reviews. But he’s still pushing forward.

Black Milk is currently working on Random Axe, a new hip hop super group, which includes lyrical hard hitters Guilty Simpson and Sean Price. The self-titled album is slated for release for the last quarter of this year.

We chatted with Black Milk about Random Axe, how someone who loves making sound needs some peace and quiet, wanting to work with Eminem, and why some cats aren’t bringing it anymore.

Cookies in hand, new Black Milk is on the way, served nice and cold.

Random Axe came about when you were getting a verse from Sean Price for Guilty Simpson’s album. But you guys have been talking about this project since 2007. You’ve said the album will come out early next year. At this point, do you guys have a date?

We still don’t have an official date. I’m putting the last little tweaks on the mixes and getting the last couple verses from P and Guilt. It’s about 90 per cent done. Hopefully, when I get back, I can have it all finished and ready to turn in by July. By next month, I should be turning it in to Duck Down and hopefully we get it out by the last quarter of this year.

Will the album be titled Random Axe?

Yeah, that’s the name of the group and the name of the album.

You guys have quite strong personalities. There must be some funny stories from the studio.

It’s crazy ‘cause of Sean P. I’m a laid-back dude, Guilty’s kinda laid back, too, but Sean P is such a damn fool, man.

I’ve interviewed him, so I know.

Right. He got all kind of stories about hip hop shit and prison—just nothing but laughs. It’s fun, man. It’s nothing but fun. There’s no tension—it don’t even feel like we’re having competition against each other. On the rhyme tip, everybody just does their thing and gets in their own zone. We making dope music.

Besides the Random Axe project, what else do you have going on?

I’m going to get back on my solo stuff. I don’t have an official title yet, but I’m going to drop a free download with about 13-16 songs with some original music and some of me rhyming over other cats’ beats. I never really did the mixtape thing, I wasn’t feeling that. I’m going to do it on some MC shit so people can hear the bars—my beats overshadow my rhymes a lot of the time. That, plus I’m working on an official project with this R&B singer out of Detroit named Melanie Rutherford.

I actually read that.

Yeah, she was on Tronic, so I’m going to finish that up just to come with a different angle musically. I really haven’t touched that side of the music category—like the R&B. It’s going to be like some dirty boom bap hard beats with some melodic singing over it. That should come out dope.

After that, I’m going to try and focus on my official third album on Phat Beats, so that should probably be dropping next year. Just trying to keep busy and keep dropping music.

What are your studio rituals like? Do you have anything you always need with you?

The main thing I need is I can’t have any distractions. When I go to the studio, I would prefer it to be just me and the engineer. I don’t really like five or six cats in the studio—people talking like, ‘Eh eh eh.’ So that’s the only thing I really need is peace and quiet. I don’t really have rituals; I just do what I do.

You produce and MC. Do you prefer one over the other?

I definitely love the beats and the production over the rhymes. I love creating sound, love hard-hitting drums just smacking through the speakers. Everything about production—I love to go digging for records and finding that new sample that nobody touched yet and crazy shit that make me want to go chop it up in the MPC. Writing 16s—that’s cool. I could do that in 5 or 10 minutes, but the music part—the back drop—is like the most important part of the song, you know what I’m saying?

Personally, who’s been the biggest person you’ve produced for?

Personally, I would have to say Slum Village. ‘Cause everybody know that Dilla was my biggest influence in this music shit here and I was like a fan of their music, the beats, everything. So when I finally got the chance to meet him and work with him, it was like me working damn near with Tribe Called Quest because that’s how much their music affected me. I loved their shit—Fan-Tas-Tic Vol. 1, Fan-Tas-Tic Vol. 2, all that shit. The highlight was working with them and working with J Dilla, getting to hear him spit over a couple of my beats. It was crazy to hear him rapping over that shit today.

Who’s someone you would you like to work with that you haven’t had the chance to yet?

I probably want to get in the studio with Eminem—just to see. He’s back on his MC shit and I’d love to hear Eminem go in on one of my tracks. And probably MF Doom. [Chuckles.]

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