BlackMilk_RR2smTosten Burks is lusher than you ever expect.

It’s as easy to make fun of Black Milk for so much Dilla apery over the years as it is to tease anyone who is so directly a product of his or her influences. Joey Bada$$ isn’t just like a golden age five elements snob, he is one. Chicago drill is heavily rooted in Waka and Gucci Mane. Captain Murphy is Quasimoto. The problem has just always been that the Detroit producer tends to be so by-the-numbers about everything. No one was dustier than Jay Dee, Black Milk sometimes feels sponsored by Pledge. OCD production with everything perfectly placed. Nothing ever creaked.

Though maybe all he ever needed to get his hands dirty was a change of scenery. After moving to Dallas a little less than a year ago, he started producing for the creative house Computer Ugly. From a bare apartment furnished with a studio throne, boxes of 12-inches, and not much else came the jittery, juicy instrumental project Synth Or Soul, twenty-two minutes of pulsing, funky stutters, richer and lusher than you ever expect.

And now we have “Perfected,” a cagey bit of soul straight off Puritan Ave on Detroit’s West Side–Curtis Cross looking over his shoulder, realizing you don’t realize you’re from the ghetto til you get a little older. The calamitous jazz outro, a groovy emotional eruption, is an especially awesome musical moment–Black Milk bashing all the drums as he reflects on this realization. The storytelling is some of the producer’s best, probably for the same reason the beat is so compelling. Sometimes you have to pull away from home to reflect on your roots. All Black Milk ever needed was some distance.

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