Black Milk – Album of the Year / No Poison No Paradise

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Boring rapper with 0 cadence; decent producer. Maybe it’s rude to pick on his most problematic album (the one that preceded this and the ones that came after are all better); maybe I don’t care. Highlights include the one where Black Milk raps the least (“Deadly Medley”, though it’s a highlight mostly because of that sample), opener “365” for its bass squiggles and the Afrobeat “Round of Applause” (where the album’s celebrated live drums shine the most). Maybe “Black and Brown”‘s cinematic strings and “Closed Chapter”‘s delicious guitar too, if only Black Milk didn’t fuck both over by stretching out the beats for 3 minutes more than he should have; “Keep Going” and “Warning (Keep Bouncing)” suffer overbearing beats; “Gospel Psychedelic Rock” doesn’t deliver its promise. Skip straight to No Poison No Paradise from Tronic.

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Reports say he took the three years between Album of the Year and No Poison No Paradise and improved his rapping, and in flashes, I almost believe them: the alliteration in “Ghetto Demf” (“area,” “bury ya bare with a stare,” “flair in the air in hysteria”, “in there fearing ya”); the machine-gun monosyllabism of “Black girl smoke shit, white girl coke strip” from the same song; how he comes in guns blazing on “Sunday’s Best.” But no, Black Milk is still a rapper who has flow (though I can’t hear “Dismal” without thinking that Black Milk listened to Killer Mike’s “Reagan” right before writing) but no personality, no cadence (which would only have helped him play two different characters on “Monday’s Worst”), little diction and fewer literary devices. It’s no surprise that the best verse on the album goes to Black Thought, who brings some really imaginative rhymes to the table.

That this is better than Album of the Year has nothing to do with the rapping; it’s because he took the criticisms of Album of the Year seriously. here, he reigns in that album’s expansive beats into something more palatable, while still pushing boundaries (ie. the 6/8 beat of “Interpret Sabotage”; “Perfected on Puritan Ave.”, which suddenly turns from jazz rap to free jazz; “Sonny Jr. (Dreams)”). I’d personally cut “Parallels” (this guy AB sounds like Bilal if Bilal couldn’t sing) and “Black Sabbath,” which is mostly a hard drum sound that goes on for forever (the Will Sessions-produced “Delon’s House” has better drums in half the time!). Elsewhere, potent synth-lines abound (“Interpret Sabotage,” with its oscillating drums, “Ghetto Demf,” and “Money Bags”) and some nice samples in the mini-concept centerpiece “Sunday’s Best” (which puts you on the pew next to him, just more comfortably) and “Monday’s Worst.”

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