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There are many reasons why Black Milk has become the most consistent and trustworthy producer on the present hip-hop scene, but if I had to choose two things only, I would pick name, first of all, the drums, which are by far the best in the genre, shaping some beats that nobody can imitate or improve on in terms of forcefulness and drive. And secondly, on a more philosophical tip, his ability to modernise and revolutionise from within the system of symbols of the boom bap with an experimental but retro sound that is turning the scene upside down.
His presence on sporadic productions by groups or MCs with good taste alone is in itself reason to pay attention, but when the Detroit beatmaker sets sail with his more personal projects, we have to sit up and listen closely. After “Album Of The Year”, in my humble opinion the best album of 2010, it seemed like Black Milk was going to take a break in order to put an album in perspective that to this day still holds secrets, but apparently, the artist thought otherwise: Here we have “Random Axe”, the notable debut of the super group formed by himself and MCs Sean Price and Guilty Simpson, two heavyweights of the underground.
A project that wants to prove the popular belief (justified, if we analyse history) that super groups are doomed to fail and disappoint. In that sense, Random Axe show that the most important aspect of this kind of concepts isn’t the collection of illustrious names but the level of interaction, understanding and consistency between the different artists. Black Milk serves up a varied and elastic collection of devastating beats so that he, also acting as an MC, and his two partners in crime can play around as they please. The point of the invention is mainly the internal logic their respective lyrical discourses and flows have together, as if they had been working together forever and the project weren’t “a project”.
Musically, “Random Axe” isn’t an “Album Of The Year”. But that’s not what you want from such a project, anyway. The Detroit artist has wisely chosen some beats that are less complex and baroque, possibly influenced by the presence of two street rappers and by the need to produce a more conventional sound, and he has escaped from the parameters of excellence that preceded him naturally and with honesty. The merit and correctness in all this is that, even in a more orthodox and simple frame of mind, in a context of aesthetic normalisation, hip-hop according to Black Milk keeps it boundary-breaking and innovative credentials untouched, contributing another astonishing, quality chapter to the recent boom bap crop. And J Dilla, wherever he is, looks on, smiling proudly: his best student hasn’t disappointed.