W.L. : How did you get into music in the first place?
BLACK MILK: I got into music through family and friends of mines; they were already making beats and rhyming. And I just took it on, was interested in it, got into it and eventually took it serious, buying my own equipment and working with other artists. The people I sold my first beats to were Slum Village, so after I did that I knew I wanted to take it seriously. And that was around 1999/ 2000.
W.L: You were rapping before you were producing. How come you were known as a producer first?
BLACK MILK: Maybe because that’s what got me into the music industry, selling beats. Like I said, Slum Village was the first that got beats from me. I just had more passion for making beats than rhyming. I just wrote lyrics because it was fun, just on the side. Making beats, that’s my love.
WL: So what made you go back to rhyming now?
BLACK MILK: (laughs) Few people told me to stop being crazy and keep writing. So I just continued to write lyrics and come up with concepts and just write my own songs. Certain beats that I make, that people might not pick, that I hear certain flows and rhymes over I just make a song to myself. So that’s how alot of my songs come about. And that’s how basically I put my album together.
WL: You were in the group B.R. Gunna. But that didn’t really work out. I don’t know if you can say it got put on hold..
BLACK MILK: Yeah..We had an album basically done after we had done this project „Dirty District Vol. 2″, we had a B.R. Gunna album done. But for whatever reason, the label that was going to put it out, Barak records, they pushed it back, so at that time I was really trying to make a name for myself, to get out and get the buzz going. I had to step off for a minute. I went and did my solo thing after that incident with Barak. That’s when I came with a project called „Sound of the city”, that was in 2005 and after that I was getting a buzz for myself in the underground and cats were feeling what I was doing. And that’s when Fat Beats, the record label that I’m on now, came along and picked me up.
WL: Do you think there is a chance that there will ever be another B.R.Gunna project?
BLACK MILK: I’ll never say never but right now, probably not. I’m doing my thing. You know it was three of us, it was me, Young R.J. and Fat Ray. I still work with Fat Ray right now. I’ll be putting out a project with him, hopefully soon. But other than that, the B.R. Gunna name, I ain’t really involved in a part of that right now. It’s all me.
WL: How did your relationship with Slum Village start?
BLACK MILK: Same thing, through a mutual friend and a cousin of mine. When they were out on the road, they went out on tour, they were roadies. They had a few of my beat cds out there. This was around the time when I first started doing beats. They had a few of my beat cds. Slum heard it, T3 and Baatin heard them and when they got back to Detroit, they hit me up, like: „Come to the studio, we heard some of your beats, we want to hear more of your stuff.” I went up there, played some more beats. That’s how it went down. They picked a couple beats for their album „Trinity”. I had two beats on there, one called „What is this” and another song called, self-titled „Trinity”.
WL: When J.Dilla stepped back from working with Slum Village, did you feel pressure? You were making alot of beats for them at that time and did you feel pressure to keep the high quality they had from working with J.Dilla?
BLACK MILK: It really wasn’t pressure like that, more pressure came from working with T3. I had to think about him being in a group with one of the best producers ever, so he wanted a certain type of beat all the time. So really it was a pressure coming from him, just to have a certain quality of beats that he liked. Because, like I said, he was in a group with Dilla. Me and Young RJ, we were still kinda new at making beats and still trying to find our sound. It wasn’t hard, it was just alot of work. But we eventually put out some good albums, „Detroit Deli” and the self-titled „Slum Village” album. We made it happen. So yeah, it wasn’t too much pressure.
WL: You did the track „Action” with Slum Village. How did you get them to reunite with Baatin for that song?
BLACK MILK: That was easy. It seems like alot of people say it’s hard to get Baatin in the studio to work with him because he’s out, doing his own thing. I just hit him up like: „Come through, I want you to jump on this joint that I’m about to do with Slum.”. And he came through, it was easy. I called T3 and Elzih, they were down to do it. It wasn’t brain surgery, they just came to the studio, knocked it out and we had a joint, like a „Reunion Pt 2″.
WL: What made you pick that beat? Because, I personally, think that beat was very unusual for Slum Village.
BLACK MILK: That’s the reason why I picked that beat because I didn’t want to give them the typical sound people are used to hearing them on. I already knew I was going to have them featured on the album. And whatever joint I put them on, I wanted it to be real energetic and kinda different from what they usually do. That beat reminds me of some shit like something Just Blaze would’ve did or something like that. So I was like, yeah, I’m gonna put Slum on this joint. It’s real up-tempo and has alot of energy in it. It’s one of my favourite joints on the album.
WL: How did J.Dilla influence you and how did he influence Detroit?
BLACK MILK: I think, if I had never heard Dillas music, I probably wouldn’t be doing beats. He was the biggest influence on what I’m doing right now. Besides cats like Pete Rock, DJ Premier and stuff like that. But Dilla, his sound was so foreign to me when I first heard it, just so different than everything else I was used to hearing. So I just took to it and fell in love with his sound, and like I said, fell in love with his beats, which made me interested in doing beats. Like: „Let me see if I can do this, let me see if I can create music and different sounds and just compose music period.” So, he was a big influence on what I’m doing right now and had a big, big influence, had a big impact on Detroit, just because he created a sound and it was known as the Detroit sound. Nobody had had that sound that Dilla had at the time, the sound he made. So he basically put Detroit on the map in a way with that sound. So I’m saying, R.I.P to Dilla
WL: Definitely.. I read that you’ve made beats for Lloyd Banks, and people like Canibus. Is that a challenge for you, making beats for people who don’t really make the music that you make? Is that a welcome challenge?
BLACK MILK: Nah, because as a producer, me personally, I’m always doing different sounds. Just because I work with Slum Village majority of the time, my beats aren’t gonna sound like that. I like all different kinds of music, I like the Slum sound, I like the street shit, the G-Unit stuff. I like everything, man. From the underground to the mainstream, I like alot of different types of music. It comes out in my beats, I don’t just do one sound, I make different genres of music. I can sell a beat to a G-Unit artist, or I can sell a beat to Slum or Pharoahe or someone like that. You know, it don’t matter, I can do it all basically.
WL: So you would make beats for whomever you’re feeling?
BLACK MILK: Yeah, if I’m feeling their music, I can definitely make a beat for them, it really don’t matter. So hopefully, you know right now I’m just trying to work with everybody that I feel as an artist is talented and could make a marriage with my beats. I’m trying to work with everybody
WL: Could you see yourself making Neo-Soul tracks, like Dilla did?
BLACK MILK: Yeah I could definitely do that. It’s not too hard. My style is more up-tempo, I try to keep energy and just feel good, but it still has soul in it. I could definitely do stuff for R&B singers. I really plan on doing that for my next album anyway because I didn’t work with alot of singers on this album. So yeah, I will definitely do it for the next album.
WL: I was thinking about the albums Dilla produced for Erykah, or D’Angelo. Talking about Neo Soul.
BLACK MILK: Yeah, just being on some more laid back, a little more mellow, little more musical, because right now my music is very sample-heavy. But I’m really gonna get into it for the next album. I’m in the process of trying to find a singer anyway, that I can work with all the time, and just bringing an R&B artist out or Neo-Soul artist out, whatever you want to call it.
WL: Back in the day producers weren’t really getting their shine, they weren’t mentioned alot and people didn’t really know about them. But nowadays you see producers in the videos, everybody knows the producers name now. What do you think caused that change?
BLACK MILK: I guess the producer felt like he wasn’t getting enough shine or getting enough love. I feel like, I’m not saying this because I am a producer, but I feel like you wouldn’t have no song if it wasn’t for the producer. It would be all lyrics. So it’s good for a producer to get his shine, get his credit. I ain’t one that really wants to be all in the videos like that, if I produced an artists record, but I still want my credit just due. It’s a different time now, producers are getting their shine, and everybody knows the producers name, especially the big producers. It’s good man.
WL: At the moment the whole rap game is very over-saturated. We got rappers coming out daily. Where do you see the rap game in, lets say about five years?
BLACK MILK: Five years from now..I don’t know man. Hopefully it’ll be in a better place than it is right now, especially on a commercial level, I feel like on a commercial level it’s not versatile enough like with different genres of music. I’m not mad at the stuff they play on the radio, the stuff they play on TV, on BET, the MTVs. I just feel like it’s not versatile enough. But I know the only way that will change is if the people that’s in charge change and feel different about the music. So hopefully that will come around, but you do got artists that are doing it big and making a name for the type of music I do and just underground in general. You got people like Common that are coming out doing their thing. People that are creative and stay reinventing what they do, so you got people like him, you got Kanye, people that are doing their thing in a certain genre but they’re doing it on the mainstream level and are touching a bigger audience. So hopefully shit comes full circle and it will be back how it used to be in the 90s and stuff.
WL: Me, personally I believe that’s exactly what’s going to happen.
BLACK MILK: Yeah, fo sho.
WL: What do you experience as the more creative process, making beats or writing lyrics?
BLACK MILK: I’d say the beat making. Making a track and producing the music takes longer than writing a song. Like, I can write a song in a couple hours, no longer than a day. But making beats, sometimes it takes 15 minutes to make a beat, sometimes it’ll take a couple days, two or three days, I just leave the machine on, just add the same sample in there, the same drums, just trying to make something happen, so the music process definitely takes longer than song writing.
WL: But how can you express yourself better?
BLACK MILK: Yeah, probably writing, because you actually are telling people what you’re feeling at the time. People probably don’t know if you were in a bad mood or a good mood when you make a beat. So yeah, writing is, you’re actually telling people how you feel in the moment.
WL: How do you see the rap game nowadays, from a producers point of view versus a rappers point of view versus a fans point of view?
BLACK MILK: I don’t know man. It depends on what type of music you like. I know me personally, I think, like I just said a minute ago, it could be better but I see it going for a turn for the best. But then again, as a producer, everything starts to sound the same to me at times, just listening to the radio, watching the videos on the screen. It’s like, damn, people are not creative, the artist is not being creative anymore or trying to come with a different style. It’s like, aight this is the new thing, this is what’s gonna sell us a million records, let’s do this sound. I hate that type of shit. Just following the trend. And I know it’s probably fans that look at the game like that too, that’s probably why record sales are so shitty right now. Hopefully it’ll get better soon.
WL: Are you still a fan before an artist?
BLACK MILK: Yeah I’m still a fan. There’s still good music out there, Common just dropped his album, a dope album; got Kanye coming, I know his album should be dope. You still got good music, it’s just that you gotta find it.
WL: Yeah, you gotta dig.
BLACK MILK: Yeah you gotta dig. Just like me, I feel like I put out a good album but it’s not gonna be promoted like a mainstream artist so you gotta go dig and find it. Cats like me, cats like Stones Throw artists. It’s alot of good music out here but you just gotta find it.
WL: What’s up with the Sean Price and Guilty Simpson album, is that being worked on?
BLACK MILK: Yeah, that’s being worked on right now. We got 10 songs already so hopefully we can get it out by the first quarter of next year. We’re trying to finish it up probably by November. Sean Price came to Detroit and worked with us and we knocked out some songs and got alot of work done and we got some joints. I’m real excited about this album, it’ll show another side of my producing skills and rapping skills and all that so it’s gonna be dope.
WL: It sounds like a crazy collabo. I mean Sean Price and Guilty Simpson, that’s dope. What kinda sound can we expect from that?
BLACK MILK: It’s not gonna be the usual style of beat you would hear Sean P rap on or Guilty rhyme on. I tried to take a little bit of a different approach with the beat.
WL: And they both got different styles.
BLACK MILK: Yeah, they both got different styles but I know people know Guilty for being hard, edgy. They know Sean P for being the same way. So I know people would expect us for every song being just hard, street and just guns busting all day, but it’s not gonna be like that. We got songs with concepts, we’re gonna have a couple songs for the chicks. It’s still gonna be what we do but we’re trying to flip it in a certain way so everything don’t sound the same. Like I said, I’m real excited about this album, we got some joints man, we got some heat. I wish I could let people hear it right now.
WL: By the end of the year we should be able to hear something, right?
BLACK MILK: Yeah, we’re trying to put out a 12″, we want to put at least one or two singles out by the end of this year. We should have a couple singles on 12″, on vinyl before the end of the year.
WL: And when is your album with Bishop Lamont coming out?
BLACK MILK: We’re trying to get that out the end of this year actually. We’re basically done with that album. That came out real well. That’s another side of my producing. I can say it’ll probably be like the commercial side of what I can do. Still doing what I do but just with a commercial feel to it. We got people on there like Ras Kass, we got Royce 5’9 on the album, matter of fact they are on the same song which is fuckin ridiculous. We’re doing a joint with Pharoahe, we got Busta Rhymes on the album, alot of people, Lady Rage is on the album. We got some old school west coast cats and we got the new school, up-and-coming artists, so it’s alot. It’s gonna be a good look for the both of us.
WL: This is your first tour in Europe, right? How do you experience the scene over here?
BLACK MILK: Europe is the shit. I love it. (laughs) I love it over here man. Just because, like I always heard, they appreciate Hip Hop so much more over here. I heard that by people that I already knew, that had been over here before. So for me, to come over here for the first time this year and experience it, has been great. I didn’t even know I had so many fans over here, so every different spot we’ve been to all over Europe, I’ve been getting love from everybody. People knowing the album, people got the album and just be like „Man, we love what you do”. That’s big man. I love it.
WL: What else can we look out for, are you working on any other projects than the ones we talked about?
BLACK MILK: Yeah, we’re trying to hurry up and finish the new Slum Village record. Hopefully they’ll have the album out next year, I don’t wanna say what time, but hopefully by the summer they’ll have a new album out. And I’m doing some stuff with Pharoahe Monch right now.
WL: He’s working on new stuff?
BLACK MILK: Yeah, I’ve been sending him beats back and forth and keeping in contact with him. He’s doing his thing. We got about five new joints already, so hopefully we can put out an EP or something. So, him..What else? I’m working on my new record.
WL: When is that coming?
BLACK MILK: I’m trying to come out the same time I did this year, first quarter. So probably March, April. Guilty Simpson, I got some joints on his new album, that should be coming January of next year. That’s about it, all I can think of. It’s alot though.. (laughs)
WL: Can you already say anything about what the Slum Village record is gonna sound like?
BLACK MILK: You know, Slum Village, every album they do always sounds different than the last. They never put out the same sound of album. So this one is gonna sound different than the self-titled album, the last album they dropped. They wanna go for a little more of a, I don’t want to say commercial feel, but they want their sound to reach a broader audience. I don’t want to say Pop, but something like how the Black Eyed Peas do. They’re taking a new approach with their music but it’s still the same, T3 and Elzih doing their thing, Elzih coming with the lyrics, T3 coming with the crazy styles. I heard some of the joints already, they got a couple joints with people like Super Producer Dave West, they got some stuff with of course me, with a few people. So it’s gonna be a new Slum Village like always. It’s dope.
WL: Any closing words?
BLACK MILK: The album is out. Popular demand. My album is out. It’s still doing good, after six months it’s still moving nice units. So, go get it. Popular demand, the album is out right now.
WL: Thank you very much.
by Wanja Lange
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