Between Jay Electronica, Freddie Gibbs, and now Black Milk, Decon is stealthily snapping up the premier blog-rap prospects who lack mass appeal (read: not Southern or sensitive singers).* Beyond superficial differences, there’s little different in the approach between Black Milk and say, Big K.R.I.T. Both rapper/producers bump up against the boundaries of well-established regional styles, share self-aggrandizing lyrical tendencies, and are most notable for their sample-driven production prowess. But Krit gets Def Jam money while Milk scavenges the few remaining Okayplayers willing to part with an Alexander Hamilton.
Whether you prefer one to the other depends largely on whether you prefer the South to the North, Slaughterhouse to G-Side, ride music or mechanical funk, donuts to dumplings. Even their acolytes agree that neither artist will replace Dilla or Pimp C, but both provide an adequate substitute and thus, inspire overheated rhetoric. In the typically tedious marketing materials supplied to stoke the hype machine, Milk has been touting his move towards sample-free production–a move that mirrors Dilla’s work in the wake of 48 Hours. And like most message board messiahs to emerge in the last few years, Curtis Cross seems eager to expand on the legacy of James Yancey.
With lurching uppercut drums that could fit in at the Low End Theory, Milk understands how to fill the frozen tundras of his beats. Like Dilla, his style is unmistakably Detroit–full of ghostly synths that whistle like wind through abandoned buildings and early techno rhythms. His flow’s greatest asset is that it devours empty spaces–filling it with battle rhymes and tough talk. The album is called Album of the Year and it has guest spots from Elzhi, Royce, and Danny Brown. It probably won’t supplant Big Boi’s opus, but judging from the excised cuts and early leaks (see below), it will at least have a good shot at being September’s album of the month. At the very least, it will warrant as much attention as K.R.I.T. Wuz Here. Comfort food for the malcontents. The good thing about rap in 2010 is that even if the stakes are munchkin-sized, there is a room for all flavors.
* Electronica is obviously from New Orleans, but other than a desire to call out the RZA for interview comments made a decade-ago, his style is closer to MF Doom than anyone sub-Mason-Dixon.