Published Aug 06, 2019Rap's most eclectic producer sets his sights on yet another genre, and once again draws on that style in inventive and exciting ways. This time, Black Milk's muse appears to be R&B, making DiVE a deep decent into mellow grooves, soothing rhythms and swaying melodies. And it sounds like nothing else in the prolific beatsmith's extensive catalogue.
Yes, unlike some of the Detroit bred producer's most renowned prior genre-hopping — the electronica he engulfed for his 2008 breakthrough Tronic, or the funk and rock he cherry-picked from his backing band on 2010's Album of the Year — DiVE grafts hip-hop onto a different genre, rather than bending that other style into punchy samples and other rap conventions.
The abundance here is dedicated to sheer singing as opposed to rapping — those croons coming from the producer himself, along with some of the best voices in the game, like BJ the Chicago Kid and Sam Austins — not to mention the moody, immersive slow jam vibes, all set this release far apart from Black Milk's beloved early backpack-rap-indebted releases.
Here he's cutting the tether and drifting into an R&B orbit. Prime example: "Black NASA," a track poised for the pop charts thanks to fellow Motor City artist Sam Austins singing yearning, high-pitched lines about shooting for the stars and not needing a figurative NASA, or any government program, to reach that stratosphere.
And there's more deep lyricism on DiVE. Despite Black Milk's newfound and well-fitted affinity for R&B, there is also enough fiery spitting on this LP to satisfy all but the most narrow minded rap purists, who would rather keep spinning Album of the Year than follow Milk's laudable recent growth. They'd be missing out if they skipped "Save Yourself," what with its soothing keys and bass, which is juxtaposed with percussion that shuffles like it's spooked and unsettled. On that DiVE key track, Milk spits winning lines like: "This life is filled with landmines, could be your last steps / That makes me stomp even harder on this terrain I'm given."
Meanwhile the strutting staccato bass notes and coiling guitar sample, along with the jabbing drums, serve as a perfect backdrop for Milk's assured rhymes on "If U Say," On it, he rhymes: "Granddad couldn't talk back in the day / So I say a lot of things that he couldn't say" as if he hopes to carry the baton from Civil Rights freedom fighters. On "Black NASA" he unspools vulnerable prior trauma, rapping: "Those days that'll make you wanna shout / Thirteen, had to be the man of the house." And the percolating rhythms and declarative, speak-spitting of Phil Swish, along with Milk's own lyrics about struggling at a minimum wage job, all evoke Outkast's "Git Up, Git Out" on DiVE highlight "Swimm."
Other key DiVE tracks include the uptempo "Blame," which boasts exotic, light-on-its-feet production well-suited for island vacations under sunny skies; the melancholy funk of "Out Loud," which climaxes with a dazzling guitar solo; and the simmering, endlessly danceable "Tyme."
Indeed, Black Milk has taken a deep breath for DiVE, and this bold headfirst dip into R&B proves he can make a satisfying splash in myriad genres. (Mass Appeal)