It’s been a busy few months on the hip-hop front, with a whole host of (disappointing) albums dropping over the summer (Yeezus, MCHG), but the last few weeks have seen some of the year’s best releases with Drake’s Nothing Was The Same and Pusha T’s My Name Is My Name. Among all the hype about these industry heavyweights’ respective albums, October 15th saw the release of Detroit MC and producer Black Milk’s fifth solo album No Poison No Paradise – a dark horse in the fight for album of the year.
Black Milk – No Poison, No Paradise
With most of the ‘A-list’ artists releasing albums (and most being flops), Curtis Cross aka Black Milk’s offering, No Poison No Paradise, has calmly arrived while everyone is disputing album of the year, and it has as strong a claim as any for that title.
He already went for the prize once in 2010 by naming his album Album of the Year, but this time around with No Poison No Paradise he’s focused more on the narrative and delivered a mature LP with great beats and lyrics that give insight into Black Milk’s upbringing and personal life more than his previous releases have.
13 tracks in length, No Poison No Paradise is solid throughout with no fillers, just goodness. The opening track Interpret Sabotage is a dope introduction with a beat that sounds like it could be taken from a video game soundtrack and Mel delivers on the soulful chorus. The piano and crisp drums on the brief but brilliant Deion’s House come before Codes and Cab Fare, the Black Thought-featuring joint. There’s a drop in energy while Milk & Thought spit dark verses over a murky backdrop.
Track 4, Ghetto DEMF, harks back to Cross’ earlier material using a more futuristic sound reminiscent of his Tronic album, while the smooth Sonny Jr. (Dreams) comes like an instrumental break where Dwele and Robert Glasper get to show off their musicianship on the trumpet and keys.
Up next is the album’s standout piece, Sunday’s Best/Monday’s Worst, the lead double single for the LP and one of the best singles all year, with a quality music video to match. The soulful production is something that has rarely been heard this year, incorporating church organs and a gospel choir while Black Milk tells a story from his youth. Check out the official music video.
“It’s never to late to get your values straight”
The double track is followed by another near ‘perfect’ moment with Perfected on Puritan Ave., a retrospective, jazz-tinged joint with a crazy acid jazz outro filled with trumpets and crashing drums. Black Milk puts his message across about getting out of the hood and making the most of his successes.
“You don’t realise you from a ghetto til you’re a little older”
Dismal is another of the album’s darker moments; an eerie, sinister sounding track where Black laments the life he once knew of being broke (stream it below). The form continues through Parallels which, in contrast to Dismal, has a funky neo-soul vibe and is another album highlight. The Dilla inspirations shine through with this one and guest artist Ab hones D’Angelo on hook duty.
X Chords, the second instrumental track, saves the rapping and gives the album a bit of fresh air before Black Sabbath comes in featuring Tone Trezure (who could easily be mistaken for Bilal). This is probably the album’s only misstep, and maybe the weakest point but then the synths and neck-snapping drums of Money Bags (Paradise) come to bring the album out on a very high and heavy note.
As with all his records, No Poison No Paradise shows Curtis Cross’ poise and strength as both a producer and rapper. It’s hard to pick out a weak moment on the album, and this is quite easily the Detroit man’s best project so far. The middle portion of the album just shows Black Milk at his best and it’s clear why he is so well respected for his artistry and discography.
He’s by no means the most gifted MC around but he keeps it simple and lets his music do the talking, crafting beats that paint pictures and tell stories as he compliments them with his bars. There is a degree of experimentation and he pulls it off, keeping his signature sound that has earned him countless props over the years in tact. The Fat Beats artist has shown impressive progression with his projects that not many others can match and on this album he has drawn from each release to create a well-rounded effort.
Both with Album of the Year (2010) and No Poison No Paradise (2013), Black Milk has been pitted against heavy competition from the likes of Kanye West (MBDTF, Yeezus), Drake (Thank Me Later, NWTS) and more, and both times he has held his own. This year though, he has come out very much near the top of the pile with his 5th solo album, one of the best releases all year.
Agree, disagree? Who dropped your album of the year? Drop a comment below!