We interviewed Black Milk and asked him about his latest album, No Poison No Paradise, his approach to sampling and some of his favourite albums.
Imagine spending 20 minutes or so on the phone with one of the best producers in the game at the moment, talking about sampling and all things musical. That’s exactly what happened when we interviewed Detroit MC/producer Black Milk. Candid and humble, his answers gave a deeper insight into his newest LP and his general approach to the nuances of creativity. Read on.
1. You recently announced a North American tour for No Poison No Paradise. How are you feeling about it?
I’m feeling good about it. My last solo album came out three years ago [AOTY] so it feels good to have something new to release and promote, some new music, some new sounds, a new direction and it feels good to be able to go out and perform the record. So yeah, I’m definitely excited for people to hear the new music.
2. What can we expect from No Poison No Paradise?
Oh, a little bit of everything, man… especially like my last project. They all had different sounds. You know, my first solo record was more like soul-based, sample-heavy type records (which was Popular Demand) and my second solo album, which was Tronic, was more like electronic, more synthetic type production. My last album, AOTY, it was more live instrumentation so new one, No Poison No Paradise, I kinda captured all three of those feels, from the soul to the electronic stuff to the live instrumentation here and there. I feel like this time, it’s more polished. The engineers are better than they were two or three year ago and everything sounds better and crisper and the beats sound better. On the emceeing side, most of the music on here has a lot of storytelling, you know what I’m saying? A lot of introspective stuff and I kinda created this character that I’m basically telling a lot of my own stories and life experiences through and taking this character and using a lot of other people’s life experiences… It’s kinda like a dream state this character is in and he’s reflecting and seeing all these different moments in his life from a youth all the way to adult life so it’s a pretty different take in a different direction to my previous projects.
3. How did your collabs on the album come about?
This time around, I didn’t wanna get too many rap features but I definitely wanted to reach out to some people I hadn’t worked with yet so I reached out to Black Thought and he came through and gave me a verse for Codes And Cab Fares. I freestyled to Robert Glasper. He and I collaborated on a record where he’s playing keys and I did the percussion and I actually had Dwele come in and play trumpet. It’s more of an instrumental based type track. I had this up and coming artist, MC and producer, he’s also from Detroit called Quelle Chris. You know Quelle Chris? He is ridiculous, you know what I’m saying? On beats and on rhymes. So those are basically the main features and I didn’t want to do too many features because a lot of this stuff is story telling and only I can tell my story.
4. What made you move from Detroit to Dallas?
Um… well you know, personal things made me move from Detroit to Dallas but I still go back and forth every now and again to Detroit. No matter where I go, Detroit is always with me and even with me being here, the environment doesn’t really affect the music to a certain extent so I’m still able to go anywhere in the world, set up my production studio and go in and do what I need to do.
5. Are there any artists in the UK that have caught your eye? What are your thoughts on UK hip hop?
The UK is like, musically, you guys know what’s up. You guys are always a step ahead, even a step ahead of the States a lot of the time. You guys are very into like a lot of that experimental and electronic stuff that I dig also and it’s funny because I have the UK in the back of my mind when I’m making music, especially my electronic-based records. But in terms of new artists, I’m not too hip to who the newest artists doing their thing over there apart from cats like Paul White. He’s one of my faves right now.
6. What was the first hip hop track that caught your attention?
First hip hop track? Wow! I don’t know, man, that’s a good question… I can’t necessarily think of the first hip hop track that caught my attention but I can remember the first album I actually bought that moved me to go and buy it in the record store and that was Bone Thugs & Harmony – E. 1999 Eternal.
7. Do you think it is important to have a musical background, whether it be classically trained or just learning an instruments?
I think at this point in my career, I feel the more information you know, the more advanced you can be and the more tools and weapons you can have in terms of production and music in general. Having that kind of knowledge, it can’t hurt; it can only help you. But at the same time, it’s a good thing that comes with inexperienced when it comes to music, there are a lot of musicians who are self-taught. I’m one of those people, actually. I just play by ear. Especially when I do my live stuff. I get live musicians to replay some of those melodies so some people are just gifted and fortunate enough to have an ear for music without having to be trained or knowing music theory but I’m definitely open to learn, hoping to get trained on certain things with keys, drums, guitar and whatever.
8. If money or availability weren’t an object, what piece of equipment would you want in your studio the most?
[laughs] I would probably get a 100 track Neve Console. Neve faders, Neve EQ’s, Neve compressors… all of that.