During the last years, producer Black Milk representin’ Detroit turned out to be an insider due to his unique production style and sound. While other producers focused on synthesizer sounds and recycling of used-a-hundred-times-before loops, Black Milk was still getting his fingers dusty while diggin in the crates, always looking for some gems to chop up. Together with Guitly Simpson and Sean Price, BM was in Cologne, Germany, to heat up the crowd for the upcoming Pharoahe Monch gig. He took some time before the performance to answer some questions about his person, his new album and his productions – read on!
Crate Kings: For those who might have never heard of you, please introduce yourself!
Black Milk: The name is Black Milk, Producer from Detroit.
Crate Kings: You’ve just released your Album “Poplular Demand”. How’s the feedback been so far?
Black Milk: Popular Demand got a good response from the people. A lot of people put it as one of the best underground records that came out in 07, ya know? It’s always good to hear that.
Crate Kings: I was pretty glad to see there’s a 2007 dated Producer album that is completely sample based. How important is diggin’ and sampling to you?
Black Milk: It’s real important, man. I love coming up on that new wax, the new vinyl, some new loops. Whatever genre of music, it always feels good to got to the studio, hear the records and make some new shit. Sampling is a big part of what I do even though right now I’m getting into a little more live instrumentation. Ya know, I got some livemusicians coming in for some of the projects I’m working on to put in a new twist on the productions and showing the people I ain’t one-dimensional. Sampling records is not all I can do. But it’s still gonna be hard, still gonna be edgy, still gonna have that street vibe.
Crate Kings: But you won’t come out with Lil Jon synths and 808s, won’t you?
Black Milk: Naah (laughs). I got a couple of joints like that but I’m not gonna take it like there, for real! I mess with the synthetic sounds sometimes, the 808 and all that, but I’m only gonna do it for a couple of joints, there won’t be a whole album of that.
Crate Kings: You’re very focused on sampling Soul records I guess…
Black Milk: Whether I use some electronic or synth sounds or I’m playing that 808 clap it’s always gonna have some soul elements, ya know? That’s what I started off doing and that’s what I’m still doing.
Crate Kings: Is there any city in the States you would state as your favorite diggin-spot?
Black Milk: I probably got to say…It depends, ya know. Different places got different types of wax. L.A. and New York are one of the best places so far…
Crate Kings: …But New York got expensive as fuck lately…
Black Milk: Yeah, New York is expensive with it but it’s all good. The recent place I hit was Toronto. There was this recordshop in Toronto I hit and there was just jewels, ya know? I only had like 15 minutes to shop and I left the recordshop with 10 records and every last record had some shit on it. Toronto is my favorite place rite now and I’m planning to go back there real soon. I forgot the name of the spot…"Cosmos" or something…something with "cos" in it…
Crate Kings: You better don’t state the name!
Black Milk: It’s all good, man. I don’t mind spreading the name of the shit. You gotta have skills to do that beats anyway.
Crate Kings: Do you just dig for records to sample or are you also lookin for some rare Hip-Hop records?
Black Milk: I started with diggin for all the classic joints, stuff that is real rare and hard to find. I’m starting to get my DJ skills up to part right now, so I’ve been doing that a lot recently.
Crate Kings: Do you have a favorite era regarding HipHop?
Black Milk: Like almost everybody else, the 90s. It had the best music. The music, the beats sounded analog, beefy and big, pause. It was street and grimey but still had radio play. You don’t see too many cats doing that grimey underground hard HipHop nowadays on TV or hear them on the radio.
Crate Kings: Any most sought after records rite now?
Black Milk: What I’m looking for rite now? Old soul 45s. In Detroit we got that recordspot where they got all that groups from the 60s and 70s from Detroit that never blew up and never got knows outside of Detroit. I’m trying to get down on these right now.
Crate Kings: Who are your personal influences when it comes to producing?
Black Milk: Number one is J.Dilla. Everybody knows that or should know by now J.Dilla was the biggest influence on the beats. Aside, Pete Rock of course. The soulfulness of his beats and his sample selection is incredible. Also. Dj Premier regarding his unique way to cut a hook and his Drums. That’s about the top3 – Dilla, Pete Rock and Premo…And Prince! Shout-out to these dudes!
Crate Kings: What kinda equipment do you use? I remember seeing a video of you with Sean P. in the studio and I’m pretty sure I spotted Pro Tools there…
Black Milk: Yeah, I use Pro Tools and the MPC 2000XL, that’s what I do my beats on.
Crate Kings: Did you ever try the 4000?
Black Milk: Yeah, I tried the 4000 a couple of times but I haven’t bought it yet. I know that’s the best one, that and the 3000. But I’m so good and comfortable on the 2000XL right now…
Crate Kings: You never worked with the SP1200?
Black Milk: I used the SP a couple of times, but I haven’t used it in a few years. I gotta say lately it’s been the 2000XL, Pro Tools and a couple of synth-keyboards. I’m working on a new keyboard Korg just came out with called "OASYS" and old records. A whole lot of old records, that’s about it.
Crate Kings: How many records do you own?
Black Milk: I don’t even know. To tell you the truth my selection is not even that big like some people might think. I got at least about 5,000 records. That’s not a lot at all, that’s baby compared to other dudes. Compared to dudes like Pete Rock, Q-Tip or ?uestlove… their record collection is crazy, but I’m getting there ya know? That means a whole lot of good music to come from me cause I’m still experiencing this whole thing.
Crate Kings: Do you always clear samples?
Black Milk: Certain labels clear samples if they got big enough artists. All the stuff I did for Slum Village for example got cleared. But my personal LP…I ain’t cleared nothing for "Popular Demand", nothing for "Broken Wax" and nothing for "Sound Of The City". That’s like straight underground raw shit.
Crate Kings: You also sampled tracks including their vocals and pitched them up. Even with these vocals on it is still quite hard to track down the original song you used…
Black Milk: Ya know, when I sample stuff I chop it up to death. I only gotta chop about a second of sumthing. I never take a whole loop. I might have two banks or sumthing cause it’s so chopped up to give me more room to work with, instead of just loopin it for 4 or 8 bars…
Crate Kings: You never did that? That’d be pretty dumb in some cases!
Black Milk: I did it a few times. If I find a sample that is ridiculous dope I just say "fuck it" and loop it but sometimes you gotta make sumthing out of nothing.
I might hear a sample that is not great but I chop it and make it great.
Crate Kings: What can we expect to hear from you in the near future?
Black Milk: We got the Sean Price, Guitly Simpson and Black Milk Album that’s coming out on DuckDown Records. I’m doing a lil bit of rhyming, but i won’t doing that too much. I’mma stick to the beats and let Guilty and Sean doing their thing.
We got the Guitly Simpson album "Ode To The Ghetto" coming out on Stones Throw in February ‘08. I got about three or four Beats on that Album. I got that "Calitroit" Album with my man Bishop Lamont with Cali-artists and Detroit artists. Just look out for other projects!
Crate Kings: Aight, thanks for the interview!
Black Milk: I gotta thank you, bro!