Digging Into The Science Of Beats With Black Milk

Detroit-based producer and emcee, Black Milk is a true master. He transcends all expectations, spinning insightful lyricism with evocative beat production. Black is constantly expanding his repertoire. His recent project with his band Nat Turner, 'The Rebellion Sessions,' is an ode to a pinnacle point in music history. As a live instrumental jazz album, the cross-genre emphasises his talents and thought-provoking intellect as an artist. Black has worked with the likes of Slum Village and Danny Brown, with intriguing collaborations from Robert Glasper and Jack White, further highlighting his artistic diversity. He is set to hit Australian shores with a mix of new beats next month and will be performing at Hudson Ballroom (formerly Plan B Small Club) in Sydney on Saturday 19th November

We chat to Black Milk about his writing process as an emcee and producer, the current hip hop scene in Detroit, and what we can expect from his upcoming Australian tour. Ayla Dhyani writes.

You released your latest project, 'The Rebellion Sessions' with Nat Turner earlier this year. Was it a purposeful decision to pay homage to the Southampton Insurrection? 

In some ways, yes. The founder and leader of the band Nat Turner is Aaron Abernathy, a solo musician and vocalist who has been featured on my albums and has toured with me playing keys and singing since the Tronic days. He named the band after the historical figure Nat Turner who lead a slave rebellion in a time when slavery was considered normal. Nat Turner broke all the rules that were set by the society he lived in by leading his peers in a new way of thinking. Musically, the affiliate of black musicians that are a part of Nat Turner are dedicated to breaking rules set forth by the music industry, the sound of the time, and genres we're placed in. Since the live instrumental project was the first time the band and I collaborated on a full project from scratch, a project that was not a hip-hop rap album that people have come to know me for, it made sense to play off the name.

Tell us about your writing process as a producer and emcee. 

My process is pretty straight-forward. I’m always producing. I make beats every single day that I’m not on the road, so I’ve always got folders of material. I’m not the type of artist who makes 100 songs and then picks the best ones. Once I step into album mode, I take the beats I want, ones that help me tell the story, I write the raps and that’s it. I make just enough songs to make a complete album. I’m pretty decisive in that way.

Coming from a city with such a strong music history, what are your thoughts on the current hip hop scene in Detroit? 

The current Detroit scene is thriving. There’s a lot of diversity when it comes to the types of rap music being made, most still with that edge that fans have come to love from Detroit artists.

You were doing some crate digging in Japan earlier this year. What are the top three records you've discovered recently that have inspired you?

Japan was ridiculous on the record front. Next level sh*t. There are so many stores and so many records. It actually gave me some anxiety, realising I will never have time to see or hear everything (laughs). As far as specific artists or records, I can’t say, but I did get put on to some crazy prog-rock records, which most people know that I love.

Any thoughts on your next project?

My next project will most likely be a Part II of 'Glitches In The Breaks.' It's a raw, hard, “fun” hip hop album with numerous guest features. 

Tell us what we can expect from your upcoming Australian tour.

Fans can expect to hear a lot of unreleased beats and few raps of some of my most popular or most recent rap songs. 

What are you looking forward to most about being out in Australia?

It’s been a while since I’ve been in Australia, so I’m just excited about getting back out there, hitting new cities and seeing how my audience has grown and changed.

If you could go back to any point in your career, would you change anything?

If anything, I might have balanced my rap career with my producer career and produced for more artists other than myself. I just produced the joint “Really Doe” for Danny Brown, featuring Kendrick Lamar, Ab-Soul and Earl, so I’m finally getting around to sending off these batches and producing for others.

What stimulates your soul?

Sounds boring but… production. Like I said, I make beats every single day I’m not on the road. I am almost at a point where I feel just as comfortable making beats on the road, too, which is crazy for me since I’ve been analog for so long. When you dig into the science of beats, the swing, the EQs of the drums, the samples, etc. there really is no end to how fascinating it can be. When you’re in mad scientist mode with it, you will always find something new to obsess over. 

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