Great piece from Detroit’s own, and Slap Session performer, as he talks sampling, beats and the magnitude of Detroit’s legacy on the music industry. Peace to Mass Appeal.
During his recent press run in New York City, Mass Appeal sat down with Black Milk at a bookstore in Midtown Manhattan to talk about his personal growth inside and outside the booth, pro tips on finding unique samples, and the time he thought that someone was catfishing him as Jack White.
Mass Appeal: How do you like New York so far?
Black Milk: This New York is hell, man. A lot of walking. Of course, I would come when it’s cold…
But you’re used to it, I’m sure. Let’s jump into this album. It’s a different concept album from No Poison No Paradise. And in a way, I kind of see it as your homecoming, where you revisit images of growing up in Detroit.
I didn’t really go into it as a concept album. I don’t even really consider it a concept album. No Poison No Paradise was definitely more conceptual where I created an actual character. But this one is a continuation of No Poison, but I’m not telling a story in 3rd person. It’s 1st person this time around. I didn’t have a literal concept for this album to have. The title, If There’s A Hell Below, definitely represents that for some people they feel like they’re already in it. I was trying to tell different stories about different environments where you could possibly feel like you’re living in hell and trying to find happiness in it.
I’m a little older now. I’ve been telling people, I’ve reached an age where I can look back and reflect a little bit on what I’ve been through, whether it’s the music industry or life in general. I never really reflected that much in my early, previous albums. These last couple albums, I’ve gone there creatively. I think it got to do something with age.
Although Detroit is your hometown, so it might be a little conflicting, but thinking of the album title, was that living hell for you? Do you have a love/hate relationship with Detroit?
At times, yeah, man. You kinda get frustrated with how things like art and how the city is represented. Like everyone left Detroit, hung to dry. A lot of it has to do with the people that sit on the city council and not taking care of the business. That part is really frustrating, but then you got the love for Detroit because of the kind of attitude you develop, coming from a city like that…that underdog mentality and also appreciating a city with a rich history of music. Especially as an artist, there’s no other city I’d rather be from. I feel like it has the richest history in the world.
The sonic landscape in Detroit is crazy just within EDM and hip hop. What was that like, growing up with so many kinds of sub-genres?
I looked up to all of the guys that came before me: The Ems, the D-12s, the Royce Da 5’9″s, of course Slum Villages, J. Dillas, Phat Kats. I looked up to all of those dudes. When I got on the scene, it was after the whole hip hop shop movement, like what you see in 8 Mile. I came up after that era. I was too young to see that time in the mid-’90s. I took what they laid down and progressed it even further, in my own way. To this day, I feed off the energy of other artists in Detroit. It’s dope to see, right now, artists like a Danny or Dej Loaf. The new artist now is creating a sound that’s not necessarily the “typical” sound of Detroit. When people think of Detroit, they either think of Eminem and D-12 or Slum Village and J. Dilla.
Speaking of Dilla, you have a very unique sound in production and I always wonder where you get your samples from. From what I hear, apparently you get your samples from European Rock bands?[Laughs] I always try to pick up the rare records that seemed like everybody else is overlooking. Doing shows in Europe, traveling to the U.K. or Russia, I try to find time to dig over there. You gon’ find some artists that never crossed over here to the states and be able to chop the hell out of it. People would never know what you fucked with. I’m a digger to the heart, whether it’s from the stores to YouTube. I come up with a lot of dope stuff off YouTube.
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