Album Review: Black Milk – FEVER

by Dustin

FEVER

9/10

Detroit. One of the meccas of hip-hop. For years the city has churned out phenomenal talent like flowers growing through the cracks of the extremely rough social climate. Since the turn of the millennium, Black Milk has been honing himself as one of Motor City’s finest artists. Working with prominent local names such as Slum Village, Danny Brown, Guilty Simpson, and Royce da 5’9”, he became known as a production wizard before moving into solo rap releases in 2005. His career has been one marked by superhuman craftsmanship, particularly following the release of Tronic in 2008. Black Milk has been an artist to never settle, striving to push his style to new places with each new drop. Just shy of four years since his last rap release, Black Milk stepped out of the shadows with a new offering of tracks; one that may only have been his most bold step forward in the name of musical progression.

FEVER was a sonic departure for Black Milk, at least regarding his rap releases. While it moved away from the alternative street-hop sound, he had crafted on No Poison No Paradise, and If There’s a Hell Below, it built upon the distinctive flavor of the Nat Turner collaborative effort, The Rebellion Sessions. This will likely be a sticking point for some, and admittedly it did make for a confusing initial listen; however, once that shock wore off, the album felt incredibly well put together. It doesn’t take a hip-hop aficionado to recognize that Black Milk has been a production powerhouse for many years, but he still managed to find a point of ascension for FEVER. The instrumentals on this album were fantastic. Through the process of chopping tracks recorded by his actual band, Black Milk gave the beats a sense dynamic liveliness that would otherwise be difficult to accomplish using samples. It created an intimate environment, much like watching a jazz-rap show at a small venue. Additionally, he didn’t entirely abandon the classic boom-bap undertones that have become a signature of the Michigan region. The record maintained a needed sense of familiarity. There was a wonderful balance between genres that often gets lost on artists when they move into new territory. While the jazz and funk elements were certainly prominent, FEVER remained hip-hop at its core.

The production oddities didn’t end there, however, as the vocals on this release were handled uniquely. Black Milk felt to be a little further back in the mix, doing away with the stark contrast between emcee and instrumental. This had some interesting consequences. First and foremost, it gave the album a flawless aspect of cohesion. The way Black Milk allowed himself to be enveloped in the beat made it sound as if he was more at home than ever before. There were no moments that felt as if the beat selection was questionable, a true hat tip toward the attention to finer detail. Secondly, it created an environment in which it became possible to end up fully lost in a track as the listener. There was an ethereal beauty to each song, with the individual pieces joining forces to create a rich final sound. While this may have made it hard to firmly hang onto Black Milk’s lyrics at first, with subsequent listens it became a true marvel to appreciate.

Making it all the more worth taking time was the fact that Black Milk’s performance as an emcee remained solid as ever. There’s something to be said about knowing when to keep it simple, and he has proven time and time again to be a master of that art. While admittedly more ambitious on FEVER than some of his past work, Black Milk’s flows never attempt to overwhelm. They were tight and complementary to the chilled out production. At the lyrical level, he opted to focus on his strengths: observant bars and social storytelling. Verses were packed to the brim with quick poignancy, and tracks such as “Foe Friend” highlighted his ability to craft interesting stories out of the day-to-day. What FEVER lacked in bombastic vocals was made up for in spades with unmatched consistency. There isn’t much else that can be said. Black Milk was simply extremely sharp for the entire duration of the project, and that’s an underrated quality for an album to possess.

Unfortunately, FEVER was the sort of album that will evade a good handful of listeners. It felt distinctly removed from the path Black Milk was on, and if fans don’t approach it with an open mind, it likely won’t land with them as well as it could. This is “unfortunate” because beyond that surprise it was truly a pleasure to experience. Spinning it with expectations checked at the door made it evident that this is a special record. A potential candidate for album of the year, assembled by one of hip-hop’s most artistically attentive minds. Black Milk once again found a way to push the envelope, a remarkable feat for an individual with an already fantastic track record of releases. Bravo.

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Retrospective Review: A History of Violence, by Kuniva

by Apu

HOV

On December 16, 2014, Kuniva released his official debut studio project, A History of Violence. It followed a long stream of mixtapes (Retribution, the Midwest Marauders series, and the Lost Gold mixtape). Unlike the music that was on the mixtapes, Kuniva used all original production (primarily handled by Block Symfany, a production team composed of Rio Da Ghost and T.Boyd out of Michigan), and made actual fleshed-out songs, rather than just long verses and freestyles. Overall, it’s a very solid solo offering. It set the stage for him to grow and dig deeper in his later material.

The best part of this project to me is how Kuniva put it together. It sort of sounds like he sequenced the album very deliberately. The first 4 tracks seem like they’re from the perspective of a younger, more rowdy Kuniva. Those tracks tend to celebrate the street life. It opens up with the posse cut “Michiganish”, featuring Aftermath artist Jon Connor, Mass Appeal’s Boldy James, and Detroit legend Guilty Simpson. It starts things off fairly simply, being a competitive cypher of sorts. The following few songs, “Born Like This”, “Where I’m From”, and “Baileys In Bangkok,” all have a similar sort of vibe. They’re cocky and rowdy. They sound a little ironic and tongue in cheek, almost as though Kuniva was trying to rap the way a younger kid would rap. The content and the way it’s done makes me think he was talking about the street life, from the perspective of a kid living it, rather than someone reflecting on it.

Then comes “Derty Headz”, which is a very powerful song dedicated to fans of his and D-12. It has an anthemic hook and verses that drop all sorts of history about his career. He talks about Proof recruiting him for the group, the beef they’ve had, and the adversity they’ve faced from within since Proof passed. This song is the major turning point in almost every way. Here, flashes of reflection and maturity start to show up. From track 6 onwards, it seems to shift to his perspective now as a man nearly 40 years old after having seen massive success with his group, mournfully reflecting on the hard times in life but looking ahead with a drive to keep moving now that he’s out. “Light Work” and “Where The Hoes @?”, both offer fiery production and strong verses delivered with the hunger and confidence of a man who has seen his fair share of hardship. The title track, which is quite possibly the most personal and poetic song Kuniva has ever released, has him speaking on his past up to the point when Proof was murdered in chilling, almost uncomfortably rich detail, his voice oozing pain over him reflecting on it, and the album ends on “Shoutout”, which sounds like where he’s at now, looking forward into the future with hope after everything he’s been through.

The music on this project is good. There’s no denying that Kuniva is a strong rapper and has been doing nothing but improving since D-12 World. His delivery has become a lot more convincing and his writing has gotten sharper. The production is great too. Block Symfany (and Enrichment, on the title track) were able to provide Kuniva with a backdrop that deviated from the typical D-12 sound. It gave Kuniva the chance to step out of that style and develop his own identity, which is something that he hasn’t had the chance to really do much in the past outside of his Retribution mixtape. I think the first half of the album is a little shaky and unfocused at points, but every song from “Derty Headz” onwards is great. The title track might be one of my favorites of the entire year of 2014, period.

However, what really makes the album good is how it lives up to its name of being a “history”. Kuniva put the album together to actually make it almost like a song-by-song history of his life, from rapping competitively at the Hip-Hop Shop and living in the streets, to when D-12 were at their peak, and ending it with an adult perspective on life. It’s really special, because oftentimes artists don’t do that kind of thing when putting their projects together. You generally hear about Kendrick and the like putting their albums together in a manner like that, but honestly, Kuniva managed to pull off an album concept as well as anybody else. Even if it wasn’t fully intentional, he still clearly had an idea of progressing the sound and content of the project in a way that made sense, as opposed to putting the songs together in an arbitrary order and releasing it onto iTunes. That, to me, is what really makes it good, and not just another hip hop album.

10 Questions with Detroit’s Fatt Father

by Dustin & Apu

FF

Those in tune with the underground scene in Detroit will recognize the name Fatt Father. He has worked with hip-hop artists like D12, Elzhi, Black Milk, and Sean Price (just to name a few). On top of killing features Fatt Father has carved out a fan base through his solo releases and group projects with Detroit rap quartet The Fat Killahz alongside King Gordy, Marv Won, and ShimE BangO.

We were lucky enough to land a small question and answer session with him leading up to his new album, Veterans Day. Once again, I would like to extend our thanks to Fatt Father for taking time out of his day to do this! We’re a small blog of fans, and it is definitely appreciated!

If you’ve never listened to his tunes, definitely give them a listen (and check out the interview below)!

EN: Who would you say are your biggest influences musically?

Fatt Father: Notorious BIG, Scarface, Royce da 5’9”, The Fat Killahz, and The Temptations. I listen to soooo many different artists and genres of music, my list could actually go on forever but those are a few of my favorites!

EN: I thought “They Know” was fantastic, can we expect more music like that from you and D.R.U.G.S. Beats on Veteran’s Day? How would you describe the sound of the album?

Fatt Father: It gets even BETTER! “They Know” was actually just a warm-up… It is no where near what we’re bringing on Veterans Day! D.R.U.G.S. Beats is one of the dopest producers out there and he’s “Dr. Dre Approved” [laughs], so you know that he’s a beast. The only way to describe this album is “classic”, and that’s what we we’re shooting for. Veterans Day features The Fat Killahz, Kuniva (of D12), Royce da 5’9”, Elinor Wyn, Chordz Cordero, and many more talented individuals.

EN: I know you’ve worked with a variety of different artists like Black Milk, D12, Guilty Simpson, and more, but do you have a collaboration with another rapper that stands out to you as a personal favorite?

Fatt Father: I would have to say “Grime” from my Fatherhood album because it features Guilty Simpson, Sean Price (Rest in Peace), and Roc Marciano. These are 3 emcees that I respect and look up to, so whenever I hear the song it feels like I’m the little brother that finally got the chance to hang out with my big bros and we all did our thing!

EN: Who would be your dream artist to collaborate with?

Fatt Father: Scarface! I just feel like Scarface is never afraid to put his heart on the track and I’m the exact same way so I believe that we could create some AMAZING MUSIC!

EN: Can we expect another Fat Killahz release in the future?

Fatt Father: Good question! [Laughs] I actually don’t know. It would be dope, however, everybody’s occupied with life and individual projects so if time permits, I truly believe that none of us would have a problem with making it happen, but until then we’ll just have to wait and see

EN: On the topic of the Fat Killahz, I have to ask: is King Gordy as wild in person as he comes across on record? He’s always seemed to have that rock-star attitude.

Fatt Father: He is absolutely insane but he’s my brother so I’m forced to love him! [Laughs].

EN: Are you and Marv still planning to release music as The Twin Towers? I really enjoyed that Ca’Mon song with Ro Spit when it came out.

Fatt Father: Yes we are! We just have to finish up a few more songs and hopefully it will be released after we both drop our solo projects that we’re wrapping up.

EN: On twitter and in your music you’ve always come across as an incredibly supportive parent. If you could give one piece of advice to all the dads out there, what would it be?

Fatt Father: Take advantage of EVERY moment that you get to spend with your children and NEVER take time for granted!!! I love to see my children smile, so I try to make them happy as much as I possibly can.

EN: I’m a big fan of food, so I thought we could touch on food for a second. What what the most delicious meal you’ve ever eaten?

Fatt Father: I don’t know but I can guarantee that it had bacon on it! Bacon is absolutely amazing and if it was legal to marry it, I would have no problem giving bacon my last name! [Laughs].

EN: One last question: If you had to choose, would you rather eat bacon cheeseburgers or bacon wrapped shrimp for every meal during 2016? I’m a bacon cheeseburger man, personally.

Fatt Father: I would go with the bacon cheeseburger, but I would definitely try to trade in the burger patty for more bacon! [Laughs]

EN: I’d just like to say on behalf of myself and Extraordinary Nobodies, thank you so much for your time. It’s a pleasure to be able to interview you for our site.

Fatt Father: Yo, thanks for reaching out! I appreciate all of the love and support! Check out FattWorld, Veterans Day COMING SOON!!!