Black Milk performs at MI Fest in September 2011. (Adam Graham / The Detroit News)
Black Milk has a new home, a new album and plenty more music on the way, but first up is a return to Saint Andrew’s Hall.
The Detroit rapper-producer’s last performance at Saint Andrew’s Hall was a career highlight for him, which is part of the reason he wasn’t in any hurry to return to the vaunted downtown venue.
“I was like man, how do you top that?” says the Detroit rapper-producer, on the phone last week from a tour bus in Tennessee. He says people still talk to him about his last show at Saint Andrew’s, a release party for his “Album of the Year” record in Sept. 2010, where everything seemed to come together in just the right way, from his performance to the atmosphere to the fans.
Tonight, the 30-year-old born Curtis Cross returns to the scene of the crime. Saint Andrew’s will be buzzing as Black Milk performs in support of his new album “No Poison No Paradise,” even though he says he’s not trying to top his last show at the Hall.
“This time around, it’s going to be more so about celebrating the new album,” says Milk, who released “No Poison No Paradise” on Tuesday. “And also being able to perform in the city, because I don’t do a lot of shows in Detroit, so it’s cool when I get a chance to perform there.”
The concert is more than just a hometown show, it’s a homecoming: Last summer Black Milk moved to Dallas, where he recorded “No Poison.” He followed his girlfriend down to the Lone Star State, and he says he’s enjoying the chance to “breathe some different air” after living in Detroit his whole life.
“No Poison No Paradise,” Black Milk’s fifth album, is still very much a product of Milk’s Detroit upbringing. The album has a strong electronic influence, and the track “Ghetto DEMF” pays homage to Detroit’s techno music heritage, which Milk says was unavoidable growing up. Elsewhere, the companion tracks “Sunday’s Best” and “Monday’s Worst” trace the path of a young child from his church upbringing to the reality of street life, subjects which hit very close to home for the rapper, no matter where they were recorded.
“I feel like I’m at a place in my career, and musically, that I can go anywhere in the world and record and do what I want to do, where my environment doesn’t really affect what my outcome is,” says Milk, who released his debut album, “Sound of the City: Vol. 1,” in 2005. “Detroit is in me. I’ve been in Detroit my whole life, so no matter where I go, that sound is in me, that energy is in me. I can’t take it out of me, no matter where I go and make music.”
He says “No Poison,” which follows a loose narrative theme, is his most cohesive project to date.
“This new album represents me, and I’m in a place now where I feel like I have total control,” says Milk, who was influenced by the production style of the late J Dilla. “You hear elements of my previous works, from the live instrumentation stuff to the the raw hip-hop soul samples to the electronic-type music, but I feel like it all sounds more put together this time around, because I’ve mastered some of those elements and things about my style.”
He’s using those tricks and pushing forward with several new projects. Aside from “No Poison,” Black Milk is seven tracks deep into his next album, which he plans to release next year. And in December he’s putting out an EP he produced for Pontiac singer Melanie Rutherford that stretches his boundaries, musically. “It’s definitely a different turn for me, in terms of something that’s outside of rap music,” he says.
Milk, who recorded two tracks with Jack White in 2011, says he’s also got a few undisclosed collaborations in the works that he’s hoping to release soon.
“I’m not playing this time around. I’ve been recording a lot of music,” says Milk. “This is probably the most music I’ve recorded at one time in a long time. I don’t think I’ve ever been this active and this busy.”