Music

Black Milk Gives 'Em 'Hell'

Much of If There's a Hell Below's themes relay anxieties buried deep, manifested as sound when they are unearthed.


Black Milk

If There's a Hell Below

Label: Computer Ugly
US Release Date: 2014-04-14
Amazon
iTunes

Despite the fact that he’s been working steadily these last 12 years, Black Milk remains one of hip-hop’s most underrated artists. The rapper and producer began his solo career with the decidedly conventional 2005 release Sound of the City, which featured the burgeoning hints of the artist’s tweaked genius throughout. His follow-up, Popular Demand (2007), was another set of squarely hip-hop tunes which were slightly distended by some of the out-there production.

It wasn’t until 2008’s Tronic that Black Milk crossed the threshold of hip-hop convention and more than a few eyebrows were raised. An odd, surreal meshing of hip-hop and electronica, the chilly, metallic synths provided the rapper with an unusual dimension of space with which to explore his pondering rhymes.

Harder, syncopated funk featured on his next outing, 365, employing a much more live feel before he would return with the nightmare-infused No Poison No Paradise, an utterly bizarre descent into a hip-hop no man’s land of permanent twilight and android groove. Still trapped in a phantasmagorical limbo, Black Milk would transmit from this musical internment the mellow comedown of If There’s a Hell Below.

Now somewhat humanized after the robotic takeover of his last few works, the album levels all the rapper’s influences down to a mid-tempo hum of rhyme and groove.

Full of colour and texture, the beats on If There’s a Hell Below are constructed like prisms; they pulse coolly with the fluid dexterity of skilled production while perfectly retaining their diamond crystalline shape. Rhymes are at once lucid and knocked about with shuddering abandon and the chilled grooves are turned over with a precision mathematical. Much of the album’s themes relay anxieties buried deep, manifested as sound when they are unearthed; they burble up to the surface with a sonic language lean and Technicolor.

As Black Milk’s work becomes ever more experimental, moving further into the worlds of jazz and electronica, his use of melodic structures has become more pronounced, such as on the album’s single, “What It’s Worth”. A gently pillowing groove of soft funk, the single reveals the rapper’s primary vocation of musical reinvention: to flood hip-hop’s nerve endings with a vibrant sensorium, resulting in sound you can see and feel.

Music


Books


Film


Recent
Books

Ivy Mix's 'Spirits of Latin America' Evokes the Ancestors

A common thread unites Ivy Mix's engaging Spirits of Latin America; "the chaotic intermixture between indigenous and European traditions" is still an inextricable facet of life for everyone who inhabits the "New World".

Film

Contemporary Urbanity and Blackness in 'New Jack City'

Hood films are a jarring eviction notice for traditional Civil Rights rhetoric and, possibly, leadership -- in other words, "What has the Civil Rights movement done for me lately?"

Books

'How to Handle a Crowd' Goes to the Moderators

Anika Gupta's How to Handle a Crowd casts a long-overdue spotlight on the work that goes into making online communities enjoyable and rewarding.

Music

Regis' New LP Reaffirms His Gift for Grinding Industrial Terror

Regis' music often feels so distorted, so twisted out of shape, even the most human moments feel modular. Voices become indistinguishable from machines on Hidden in This Is the Light That You Miss.

Reviews

DMA's Go for BritElectroPop on 'The Glow'

Aussie Britpoppers the DMA's enlist Stuart Price to try their hand at electropop on The Glow. It's not their best look.

Film

On Infinity in Miranda July's 'Me and You and Everyone We Know'

In a strange kind of way, Miranda July's Me and You and Everyone We Know is about two competing notions of "forever" in relation to love.

Music

Considering the Legacy of Deerhoof with Greg Saunier

Working in different cities, recording parts as MP3s, and stitching them together, Deerhoof once again show total disregard for the very concept of genre with their latest, Future Teenage Cave Artists.

Music

Joshua Ray Walker Is 'Glad You Made It'

Texas' Joshua Ray Walker creates songs on Glad You Made It that could have been on a rural roadhouse jukebox back in the 1950s. Their quotidian concerns sound as true now as they would have back then.

Music

100 gecs Remix Debut with Help From Fall Out Boy, Charli XCX and More

100 gecs' follow up their debut with a "remix album" stuffed with features, remixes, covers, and a couple of new recordings. But don't worry, it's just as blissfully difficult as their debut.

Television

What 'Avatar: The Last Airbender' Taught Me About Unlearning Toxic Masculinity

When I first came out as trans, I desperately wanted acceptance and validation into the "male gender", and espoused negative beliefs toward my femininity. Avatar: The Last Airbender helped me transcend that.

Interviews

Nu Deco Ensemble and Kishi Bashi Remake "I Am the Antichrist to You" (premiere + interview)

Nu Deco Ensemble and Kishi Bashi team up for a gorgeous live performance of "I Am the Antichrist to You", which has been given an orchestral renovation.

Playlists

Rock 'n' Roll with Chinese Characteristics: Nirvana Behind the Great Wall

Like pretty much everywhere else in the pop music universe, China's developing rock scene changed after Nirvana. It's just that China's rockers didn't get the memo in 1991, nor would've known what to do with it, then.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.