There are few people in hip-hop more technologically savvy than Detroit’s own Black Milk. So when we were looking to explore the intersection of music and technology, we knew who to call. With his sixth solo album, No Poison, No Paradise, set for release on Oct. 15 under Fat Beats and Computer Ugly Records, we caught up with the eclectic, top-tier producer to discuss his love of analogue instrumentation, his growing fascination with digital instrumentation, and what fans can expect from the new LP.
Interview by Zoy Britton (@ZoyMB)
In your instrumental album Synth and Soul, your song “Computer Ugly” seems like a complete homage to your love of analogue instrumentation. In a recent interview you mentioned that the MPC3000 is your favorite drum/sample machine. Did you use that machine to create a lot of songs on No Poison, No Paradise?
Yeah, I used the MPC3000 for the last two or three projects I’ve done. Synth and Soul was completely done on it. I think the first project I did on the 3000 entirely was the one I did with Danny Brown a couple of years ago, Black and Brown.
Your song “600” off Synth and Soul sounds like some epic violin solo gone digital, which is reminiscent of classical inspiration. Then on the single “Perfected on Puritan Ave.” off No Poison, there’s a lot of jazzy instrumentation going on. My question is who or what is your inspiration here?
It’s funny because I love jazz music, but I haven’t really gotten a chance to build an extensive and in-depth catalogue of jazz music to get really familiar with jazz musicians. Of course I know the greats—[John] Coltrane and [Miles] Davis and those kind of cats—but it’s funny because I’m not a huge jazz head like that. But the older I get it seems like I’m starting to take that time to get into the jazz genre and understand who’s who, what’s what, and who is behind different albums.
For the last few years most of my time has been spent doing soul records, electric records, prog rock, so I’m just now getting into the jazzy stuff and samples like that. I kind of steered away from the jazz when I first started because it seemed like the jazz music had kind of been run through by hip-hop music and sampled a lot so I kind of, when I go to the record store, go for the weirder records that other producers probably aren’t using.
Can you name some specific artists or pieces that influenced No Poison? Like any artists or tracks you had on loop during the making of the album?
I feel like for my last solo album, Album of the Year, I watched a lot of live performances and bands from the ’60s, and that’s why that album had a lot of live instrumentation. But on No Poison, No Paradise I just started; there wasn’t really any album or tracks that I specifically listened to, I just listened to a bunch of beats and started putting lyrics in and it just all came together. I didn’t even have a specific sound in mind, this album is more so a collage of my last three solo albums where I got a little bit of influence from [various genres].
What brought you to this jazzy sound then? On “Puritan Ave.” there’s even a brief jazzy interlude where it’s just like a chorus of saxes going crazy. What brought you to that point musically?
Yeah, for that particular song that’s definitely the moment in the album where things get a little jazzy because of what I was saying in the track, just kind of reminiscing about being back in my old neighborhood, being young and what not. That was kind of the background music I was hearing in my head; what I heard the song being told over, something dreamy and jazzy. I was thinking somewhat of a Spike Lee type film in the record, but I know that [in Lee’s movies] in the background he has like a jazz theme going on and that’s just kind of what [I had in mind]. Like if a Spike Lee movie was written via a rap song. But yeah, that’s one moment in the album where things get a little jazzy. It’s probably the only moment or like two times that happens in the album, but I like to mix it up and that was just the song I decided to put out.