Black Milk Interview

– Starting in a basement doing tapes and all, what made u decide to start producing?
Just being around a lot of people that were into HipHop, like my cousin, some of my friends, I was always the youngest person that ran with whatever crew I was running with back then. They were playing stuff from A Tribe Called Quest to De La stuff, Gangstarr, Pete Rock, Slum Village, all that type of stuff. I just got influenced and grew to love it. I was already mc-ing at the time and I used to watch them with their little studio equipment messing around, making beats and what not, and I found an interest for that too. Started messing with it a little bit and it became a little hobby of mine and I eventually took to it and it was taking up most of my time and I found out I had a gift for music. And that’s when I thought I could really do this, for real. And if I worked hard enough that I could make it a career. That’s how it basically started off.

– So you were actually mc-ing before you were producing?
Yeah I was already rhyming like 2 years prior to me getting on the beats.

– How old were you when you started producing?
I think I was….16, 15, it was ’99, I was a sophomore in high school, so it was around ’99, so I was like 15, 16 years old.

– How did you come up with the name Black Milk?
Haha. It’s nothing really deep. It just came cause other artists around Detroit had names that were similar, weird, well I don’t wanna say weird but ..crazy names, like what the hell is that. Like Eminems, and Slum Villages and House Shoes, just people with different, unique names and like I was saying, I was the youngest around that time, and like you know, give me a crazy name like everybody else too and Black Milk just came along. Plus the beats is nasty know what I’m saying? That’s a lot like Black Milk. The beats is crazy, I think it goes hand in hand with the music, cause the music is nasty also just like the name.

– Slum Village sort of discovered you through the tapes.
Yeah I hooked up with Slum Village in like 2000-2001, they got my beat cd’s through one of my cousins, one of my homies that went out on the road with them, they were roadies and went out on the road with Slum Village in the summer on one of their tours. And they had a couple of my beat cd’s with them. So Slum heard them and got back to Detroit and they got at me. They were like, we wanna mess with him, so I got up to the studio and played some more beats and they ended up picking two tracks for their Trinity album. That’s the first time I sold beats, those were the first beats I sold. That was to Slum. One of the songs is called “What is This” and the other one is called “Trinity”, the actual title of the album. After that I been working with them ever since.

– How was that though, working with Slum, cause that kind of opened doors for you.
That felt great working with Slum, cause I was already fan of their music and Dilla and all. I had bought “Fantastic” volume one and two, all of that. So it was just an honor to be working with them dudes. They gave me a little exposure when the album came out. And then “Detroit Deli” came out, the album after “Trinity”, and I got a chance to do the majority of the production on that album. That gave me even more exposure. Cause at that time I was in a little group called B.R. Gunna. And ….

– Wait, wait, you are running ahead of my questions.
My bad, I am already jumping the gun, I’m sorry, but so yeah, that’s what happened. Haha!

– I was gonna ask you, how did u get up with Young RJ to form B.R. Gunna?
That was through Slum Village also, he was working with them, he was one of the guys that was working on the productions. Then he came in on the Trinity album just like me. The Trinity album was for the majority produced by these cats named Wajeed and Karriem Riggins. After that, they got a little buzz off of the Trinity album. So they went off and did their thing in HipHop. And it was really just me and Young J left to do the production for Slum Village. And like I said before, Detroit Deli came out and we just did the bulk of the album, we were the only two doing beats anyway, we might as well be a beat-duo. I would bring a beat to the studio and he would do something to it. Or he would bring a beat to the studio and I would throw a bassline to it, so we were like, we might as well be a beat team. That’s how that B.R. Gunna thing came along. And we put out one project called Dirty District Volume 2, to showcase our music outside of Slum. And we had this lead, basically the voice of B.R. Gunna, which was this guy named Fat Ray, he did the majority of the songs of our project. So that gave us a little buzz, that was another project that gave me a little more exposure.

– What’s the biggest difference between B.R. Gunna and Black Milk?
There isn’t really a big difference, its about making that feel good music man, that’s what I always been about. Making sure the music, it has a type of soul feel to it but still hard hitting steel with that street edge, with that Detroit bounce to it. Still has that energetic feel to it. We always been like that, so the sound is really not that different from what I was doing with B.R. Gunna and from what I was doing in the past with Slum Village stuff. The majority of my music is that soul music but with that energy to it, with that feel to it. So it’s really not a big difference.

– “Sounds of the City” is labeled more of a mixtape than an album. You released it on your own label Music House Records. What was the purpose of that album, other than it being your first solo project?
It was basically starting all over for me. That was around the time when I stepped out the B.R. Gunna situation, the Barak situation. And I was like, I gotta put something out. Man, let me tell you the story. We had a B.R. Gunna album that was supposed to come out. But it didn’t come out, it got put on the shelf for whatever reason by the label. I was signed with the label but we were still gonna put it out. It was 90 % done so when they did that and we got pushed back, I was like, man I can’t sit here and wait. I need to be heard, my music needs to be heard, my name needs to be put out there. I am tryna be one of the new guys in the HipHop game that’s doing his thing and comes with dope music. I need to keep the buzz going, so that’s why I basically put together Sounds of the City. I had different Detroit artists from around the city that I like and thought was dope and wanted to showcase too. So I put them on the album and just put it out. Just put it out to get a buzz around the D. I got a little hook up through the internet and sell it on the internet and it made a nice little buzz for me on the underground. People were saying I was one of the dopest underground releases in ’05. It did me justice and after that I been doing well, kinda good ever since and the buzz been continuing to grow. The buzz been growing ever since then.

– What are your thoughts on being compared to J.Dilla or Madlib?
I look at it as a compliment, just to be compared to Dilla or for a person to even think I am close to that level musically is a compliment. But at the same time I really don’t like to talk about it cause that’s not what I’m tryna do, I’m not really tryna be Dilla. I’m not tryna do what Dilla did. Anything that I wanna copy that Dilla did, is being consistent of putting out good music like year after year after year. You really never heard of a wack Dilla record. His whole resume is just good music and I want that to be the same way with me. Like whatever artist I work with, it has to be good music and that’s what Dilla did, he was just consistent. And that’s what I’m tryna do. But other than that, I can see why people compare us, cause we both from the D, both work with the same people, both mc slash producers. But it’s whatever, it’s cool man. I’m just glad I got the chance to work with him. And him basically giving you that co-sign like “I’m feeling what you doing”, that makes it even better. Cause there are some people out here, that, you know, sometimes I see someone say, or somebody on the internet is saying “Some people out here say you tryna be Dilla, biting Dilla,” whatever, they tryna throw the little hate in there. They try to talk me down a little bit. But I look at it like, Dilla gave me the co-sign man. He said that what I was doing is dope. If I had never worked with him it would have been a different story. But I had the chance to work with him so it’s all good man.

– How did you decide which artists to work with for the Broken Wax EP?
You know the Broken Wax EP was really something I just put together real quick to keep the buzz going cause I didn’t have no music released in ’06, until I put out Broken Wax in November ’06. I basically threw that project together in a couple of weeks, two, three weeks time. Got my man Denaun Porter from D12 on there, got my man Nametag on there who did a couple of songs for the vinyl of Sounds of the City. So it was basically to keep the buzz going, to show I am still working, “Here’s some new music, here’s some Black Milk music.” People were feeling it. It’s building up the anticipation even more for the album.

– Are there any more projects in the pipeline with those artists?
I work with Denaun Porter every now and then with some beats shit, he hooked me up with the Pharoahe Monch thing, I got one on his album.

– Yo that was going to be my next question again, you keep getting ahead of me.
I am sorry, I been doing this so much I already know what’s coming and I am just saying it automatically. My bad haha.
But yeah, I am also working with my man Fat Ray, me and him are working on a project. It’s another dope, just ridiculous Detroit MC that’s up an coming. And my man Nametag, also from Detroit. That’s the two only artists I am working with that’s out of the D right now.

– Didn’t you do some tracks on Phat Kats new album?
Oh yeah yeah! That slipped my mind. I got 4 joints on Phat Kats new album.

– So how did you get up with Pharoahe, I guess that was through Mr Porter?
Yeah it was haha. It was real dope working with Pharoahe. He been on a lot of people’s top 10 list of dope mc’s, not that’s just out right now, but dope mc’s period. It was real dope working with him. Just to be on the comeback album, he been away for a minute, I am glad I am a part of it.

– You worked with some other artists as well. Was there a difference for you in working with artists such as Lloyd Banks and Canibus, in comparison to the type of artists like Slum that you had worked with on the regular before?
You know each artist got a different vibe, whether they are in the same lane or not, like these beats I keep for myself, Slum Village probably wouldn’t like them if I gave it to them, it’s still like soul but it’s different. It’s a different vibe. Like putting out stuff with Pharoahe was on some classic HipHop sound, that classic HipHop sound I wanted to give him. There’s this joint I did called “Let’s go”, it got that rock sound to it but got that classic HipHop feel to it. On the other hand somebody like Lloyd Banks it’s gonna be more on some street shit but you know, with a little HipHop twist to it. So yeah each artist got a different vibe.

– Then Fatbeats got a hold of your sound and were interested in you, how did they approach you and what made you decide to get with them?
Fatbeats seen what was going down with “Sounds of the City” and they was already fans of the music, they heard a bit and were familiar with me through stuff I did with Slum and some other artists and they were like “Yeah man, we are fans of what you’re doing. We love to help you push your projects and put it out there to build the buzz and build your name a little bit more.” And the deal was cool, the deal was right so I took the deal, it was legit. It was really because they said they wanted to push what I was doing, just as much as how I wanted to push it and I was doing it by myself. They said whatever you wanna do and wherever you wanna go with your music, take it there. So I was like ok, I can mess with this.

– Popular Demand is going to be your next solo release album, on Fat Beat Records. I like the thought behind the release date, that’s real clever.
You know that was by accident. Fatbeats just called me one day and said they got the release date and it was March 13th. And I’m like cool. Like, I didn’t catch on to it, til a couple of days after, when my manager called and said “You know March 13th is 3.13.” And I was like Yo that’s crazy as hell. We called the label and they didn’t even know it either. Man that was perfect that was a match right there. We thought man that’s something special. Haha. That was a sign right there.

What happened with the track with One Be Lo?
It’s still on there, it’s the bonus track on the album. That was the last song we did on the album. It’s something we did at the last minute. It’s an idea I had, actually an idea Fatbeats had and I was like ok lemme hurry up and put something together with Lo and we make it a bonus track or so. So that’s what we did. It’s one of my favorite joints on the album too. Lo did his thing.

– What happened to your own label Music House Records? Are there any other artists signed to it, or are you looking to sign artists?
I still got the Music House, I am not too focused on it, cause right now we releasing this album through Fatbeats, do my next couple of albums through Fatbeats. I am still doing the Music House thing, probably put out some other artists. But right now, it’s hard being a business man and try to focus on the music at the same time. I try to balance it all out. I am so focused on the music right now, I really don’t got much time for it. I let Fatbeats do that for now haha.

– In a recent interview I did with Sean Price, when Boot Camp was performing here last month, he said he was teaming up with Guilty Simpson and that the whole album will be produced by you. Besides this one, do you have any other projects lined up? How do you find the time to do everything, since you said you were trying to balance things out.
I don’t know how I make time to do everything I do, I just do it. There are a few projects I am working on right now. From that one to another one with this cat from Aftermath Records, this guy named Bishop Lamont. What else….there’s something else I am working on right now but I can’t think of it right now. I don’t know, I just work haha. I am always in the lab, always in the studio.

– How do you decide on which project to take on or not? Is money a deciding factor or do you have to have a feel with the artist, musically?
It’s not really the money thing. I am at a point where I just wanna do these dope crazy projects. I had a feeling, I’m gonna do more of these collab type of projects, like it’s me and Guilty and Sean Price, me and Bishop Lamont you know. Doing the best of both worlds typa thing. I think that’s gonna be the new thing. People are more excited of buying those albums, then just buying the solo album. “Two people teaming up, I wanna see what that sounds like. Who is doing the beats? That’s gonna be crazy.” That’s where I’m at right now. I just wanna see how it turns out with both of them dudes on the same record with some beats I probably wouldn’t do normally for myself. The beats are gonna be totally different then what you hear me do for Slum or for myself. I just like to keep doing music and being creative. It’s not about the money. Without the money I would still be doing music.

– So what is a reason for you not to take on a project, to turn down a project?
Hmm, a reason for me not to take on a project? If I didn’t like the artist and if there wasn’t no money involved at all. That would be a reason for me not to take on a project. If I don’t make one dollar and if I am not feeling what the artist is doing, nah I’m straight. I gotta enjoy the artist, I don’t have to be a fan of the artist but I gotta like what he is doing as an artist. But if it ain’t one or the other, nah I’m straight. Or they gonna have to come with a reaaaal big check, if they were wack, for me to work with them. Hahaha.

– I know one of your favorite artists of all time is Prince, in what way would you like to work with him?
Shit in any way. If I could just sit in the studio and just watch him work, I would be satisfied. I mean that’s Prince. He is one of the artists that’s my biggest inspiration. I listen to his music a lot, I am just influenced by what he does, to see how creative he was with the music. So yeah it would definitely be an honor to work with Prince someday. I wouldn’t say it’s farfetched but it’s probably impossible.

– You are Black Milk, nothing is impossible.
Haha yeah, you’re right, but I never really seen Prince work with HipHop artists, he tried to rap on some of his own records but that’s about it.

– But Prince is a very innovative artist, that’s why he has been so long in the game. So who knows?
You’re right. So hopefully I could do something that reaches Prince’s ears and make him go like “Hey what is this?” That would be great.

– You were labeled the next rising star of Detroit that will go national, yet you are already beyond national, you are international. How does it feel to have accomplished so much in a relative small amount of time in this business?
Uhm, I guess I don’t really see it like that. Like man you did a lot in the past 7-8 years. I don’t really look at it like that. I am blessed to have this talent to do beats, the people I been able to work with, and the stuff that I have accomplished. I am appreciative of all of that. But I don’t know, I just don’t look at it like that. Like “man I made a lot of moves and blah blah”.

– I don’t mean that you have to feel good about yourself, more like, if stuff like that happens so fast, it can be overwhelming.
Yeah, but like I said, I actually don’t look at it, like how outsiders look at it. I would probably look at that if another young artist is coming up and be like yeah he doing his thing. But it don’t seem that way to me. I am still here in the D, I still run with the same crowd. I haven’t seen the other side of it yet. Put it like that, I seen a little bit of the other side, but I haven’t really seen the other side of the HipHop game yet, reap the benefits of it. I have, but not in a major way. I feel like have accomplished something, but not to an extent where I can pat myself on the back and sit back. I think I’m doing my thing and I’m just glad people are feeling my music. I am just glad people are feeling what I am doing, that’s the best way I can explain it.

– Maybe you should tour more outside of the States and see what kind of impact your music has outside of the US borders.
To tell you the truth, I think that’s what it is. I don’t really do a lot of shows. I do a couple of spots here and there. And I haven’t been on a tour for my own stuff. Until then, that’s probably what it is. So I can really see people appreciate what I am doing. But I haven’t seen it yet so I haven’t really felt it that way.

– You will experience the impact. I already told you that people over here were disappointed when they had to return the tickets to your show.
Yeah man, when you said that, I felt bad for real, I was like “Damn, is it like that for real?” I probably would end up telling my manager like “Let’s try to make a way and see if we can get out there”. We didn’t have plane tickets, nobody had called us, we just someday seeing something on MySpace that I am performing overseas. And I’m like “What? Am I?” I wish someone had told me that, now I gotta make a way over there haha. I gotta get over there for real. Let’s make that happen!

– If you had to choose between producing or mc-ing, which would it be?
Producing. No question. I rather do beats than rhyme. I love to rhyme but I got a bigger passion for making the music and creating sounds and just creating beats. I love to go to the record store and sit in the record store and listen, til I find that new loop or crazy sample I wanna take home and work with. I love that.

– Did you sample Prince?
Nah I never sampled Prince, it’s hard, it’s weird to sample him. You can’t really sample him, I mean you can but…it’s not the type of stuff I would rap over. I might sample his drums but I really don’t even do that cause it’s so eighties and synthetic and I don’t really use a lot of synths in my music so yeah, I don’t sample Prince haha.

– 2007 is going to be the year of Black Milk. Agree or disagree?
I agree. I’d be crazy to disagree with that. I do see the buzz grow more and I see more people paying attention so I think this is going to be my year. Get a little bit of my sound on and do my thing. People be checking for me so they finally know the name and the face and the music. 2007 might be that year.

– The video from you and Guilty Simpson just got out, that video is dope. Who directed it?
This guy here in Detroit actually did that, Anthony Garth. Real dope. He is the best video guy out here. Did stuff for Slum Village and for a lot of people, rock groups like The White Stripes and people like that. I love him cause he likes to work with up and coming artists that he knows have potential and talent. It ain’t about the money and he will be like I give you a million dollar looking video. So yeah that’s my man Anthony Garth, he hooked that up.

– Besides the upcoming projects we already spoke about, what are Black Milk’s own ideas for the near future?
I got a few things up my sleeve, few ideas on where I wanna take the music. I plan on doing an instrumental album. Just the music, no vocals really just live instruments, I wanna do more live instrument takes with the music. Like I said I got a few ideas. I’m gonna come with some more creative stuff. My next album, I think I am kind of done with that kind of sound of music, that sound of HipHop. I feel like I accomplished that and people knew me for that sound for a minute so I’m gonna reinvent myself after this. It’s gonna be something fresh and new in whatever years to come, whatever projects to come.