It’s one thing to interview one of the best hip hop producers out right now and someone you stylistically look up to over the phone but to get the chance to meet them in person and do it all again is something to treasure, not only for the experience but as a way of sharing the insights of a talented individual. We got the chance to speak to Black Milk once again before his gig at Scala on 23rd November 2013 and he talked to us about the reception to his latest album, No Poison No Paradise, what he’s learnt from the tour so far and who’d direct his biopic.
Sampleface: What are your best highlights of the tour so far?
Black Milk: Erm… that’s a good question. Surprised you didn’t save that one for later. I don’t know… I mean it’s weird because every show has been pretty damn great and we’ve only got halfway through the tour now. I can’t think of anything right now.
SF: Is there anything you’re looking forward to from here?
BM: From London? Oh, definitely. London is one of the livest crowds and they’ve been supporting me for so long. Every time I come out here, it’s exciting so tonight might be the highlight of the tour. I’ve been excited about this particular show also becauseis on the show, so hopefully I’ll get a chance to meet him. So tonight might have the highlight of the tour. I’m expecting it too [laughter].
SF: Are you happy with how the album has been received?
BM: Aww man, definitely. The response is better than I expected. I’ve seen a lot of good reviews and I appreciate all the love I’ve been getting for the album and I’ve already started working on the next projects for next year so I’m already looking to the future. I know it’s new for some people but I’m like “that project’s old”. But it’s good to see people supporting the album and coming out to the shows.
SF: There’s a been a good response to it over here as well. Have you felt it’s more of a global album?
BM: This album is definitely different to my previous three. This one is a little more personal in a way but not in a literal sense. There’s a lot of storytelling and conceptual things going on but it’s not necessarily taking place in first person even though a lot of the stories are from personal experience. So I guess people might relate more to this album even though people really liked my previous work, I think this album is the most relatable because of the subject matter, where people would be like “I know what you’re talking about” or “I kind of been through that” or “I know somebody like that” so it’s a different kind of connection on this album.
SF: What gave you the drive to start the new album [the next one]?
BM: See, the things is, I took a couple of years off. I did the Random Axe thing in 2011 and 2012, I really didn’t realise any music whatsoever. So I kinda took two years off… well, not necessarily “off”; I was definitely working but in my personal studio, just experimenting and doing different things creatively so I just wanted to take a little time off and perfect my craft a little more. So when I felt like I was in a place to release music again, I was like “you know what? I’m not just gonna release this project, I’m gonna go hard for the next couple of years. Release all this music that I’m sitting on that I’ve been making over the past year and a half so that’s more so what it is, just keeping the momentum going because we all know in this digital era, people forget real fast and their attention spans are real short.
SF: Have you had a chance to crate dig in any of the cities you’ve been in?
BM: I did a little digging in Rotterdam in a spot called Demon Fuzz. That was the only spot I got a chance to visit.
SF: I saw you posted some 45s?
BM: Oh yeah, I posted a few Instagram joints. I found a lot of jams. After leaving that store, that was probably the highlight of the tour [laughter]. I’m such record nerd and I found some jams so I was like “damn, I’m ready to go back home right now”. Forget the rest of the shows, I’m ready to start working on some new shit. So it’s kinda like torture sitting there looking at the bag everyday full of crazy records not being able to do anything with them.
SF: It’s a shame you can’t do it in London because there are some really good places, where we’ve been today.
BM: [laughter] Damn, I don’t think I’ve ever been record shopping out here, all the times I’ve come to London. I feel like I never have a chance because it’s always like this – get off the plane, go to the station, sound check, do the show, go back to the hotel. So I’ve definitely got to come back out here on vacation and just take a week and just dig.
SF: You can spend a whole week just going up and down crate digging.
BM: I don’t even wanna think about it because I know there’s some craziness down here, I just know it.
SF: Is there anything you’ve learnt from either the album or the tour.
BM: You know what? I always feel like I’m learning something, whether it’s something about my live performance and I’m always studying people. How they react to certain things and certain sounds. I’m really observant like that. So I really can’t say what I’ve learnt because I don’t wanna give anything away but I can definitely say I feel like I’ve learnt how to be a better performer just because I’ve been doing so many live shows for so long. Even though I’m still learning, I’ve learnt how to command the stage better and get people’s attention when it comes to the live shows. I would say with the music part of it, I’ve learnt a lot about engineering. That was kinda what I was doing when I took the two years off. It was more so just locking myself in a room and trying to become a better music engineer as opposed to a music producer. I could make beats all day but trying to get to a certain place sonically that I was satisfied with, so that was what was driving me. So I definitely learnt a lot about how to control frequencies and stuff like that.
SF: What country have you not toured yet but you’d like to visit?
BM: I was just talking about this, man – South Africa. I haven’t been over there yet and I’ve had a lot support over there for a while so I feel bad because I’ve never been over there. Still haven’t go to Brazil yet, still haven’t got to Japan get, so those are the three main places I’m trying to get to.
SF: Do you have any particular requirements when you’re at a venue?
BM: I’m not high maintenance like that. I feel like, especially now, I’ve calmed down a lot. It used to be “I need this specific kind of liquor, I need this specific bag of chips and candy bars” but now as long as you have some water and few snacks, I’m good. Possibly some food, some chicken or something.
SF: What albums are you currently listening to at the moment?
BM: Let me see… I was listening to that Acid Rap project from Chance The Rapper. I listened to that a lot. Recently, I was listening to the new Roc Marciano that just dropped, The Pimpire Strikes Back. Denmark Vessey, who’s this producer/MC from Detroit just put out a project called Cult Classic and an artist called Quelle Chris who’s actually on my album. He just realised an album also called Ghost At The Finish Line and I enjoyed it a lot.
SF: Would you ever make music for a brand?
BM: Oh yeah, I’ve already done that. I did music for Chrysler so I’d definitely do that again. That’s a whole other level of money right there. If they wanted to hire me, I’d be like “y’all can do that hip hop shit, I’m about to make these beats for these commercials” [laughter]
SF: If you weren’t involved in music, what could you see yourself doing instead?
BM: If it had something to do with the arts, I’d be probably do something visual. I’m pretty good with the pen. I was doing a lot of that when I was younger before I found the love for music so it’d either be that or something athletic. Before the music also, I was into basketball and all that shit, playing for teams so I probably would have stuck with that.
SF: We often see materialism as a major component of modern hip hop culture. Is that something that’s important to you?
BM: Not at this point. Like I said, I’m so passed that. My first project came out in 2007 (Popular Demand). I’ve seen a lot and been around a lot, I’ve had all kinds of material things so at this point, I invest my money back into my studio and equipment or records. I’m not on finding a crazy car or crazy crib. Like, I’ve had that too – I’ve had trucks and Range Rovers. It’s nice for the moment but I guess that’s just me getting fucking old. I really don’t care about shit but music and being comfortable.
SF: Who would play you in your biopic and what would you call it?
BM: Who would play me? Aww shit… it’d have to be a young actor… or not… Damn, that’s a good ass question. See, the safe answer would be Will Smith but I feel like he’s a little too old so he’d have to play the old version of me. Off top, I’d have to say Will and it’d have to be directed by Spike Lee and I’d probably title it after this album because it kinda explains me and where I’ve been and when I made that title, I was thinking “what would be a dope movie or book name”. Damn, what is that guy’s name? [laughter] I’m gonna stick with Will Smith but if somebody else comes to mind, I’ll let you know.
SF: Do you have one album you always go back to?
BM: My favourite album of all time is Slum Village’s Fantastic Vol. 2. I’ve always listened to that album religiously. I mean, that album changed my life in terms of beats, style and lyrics. Stylistically, I fucking love that album. Another one would be Stereolab’s Dots and Loops album. Prince’s 1999 I go back to a lot, Sly and The Family Stone’s There’s A Riot Going On – that album stays in rotation. Damn, that’s all non-hip hop shit. I can’t really think of none. See, that’s the thing and I hate saying this because it sounds like I’m on a pedestal but I really don’t listen to a lot of hip hop albums like that. Mostly old school shit.
SF: And the last one: do you ever get comparisons with Dilla?
BM: Oh, all the time. I’ve been trying to get out of that shadow since 2006. But it’s cool though because I still see it from time to time but a lot of people are gonna hear some elements that were inspired by him because he’s my favourite artist of all time. It’s not that crazy but at the same time, people are starting to hear the separation from what I do and what he did. I feel like I’m doing things musically that Dilla never touched on so I think people are figuring that out but there are always people trying to put you in a box, just because I’m from Detroit but it’s all good. I kinda just brush it off now and it doesn’t even phase me.