Detroit producer and MC Black Milk always seemed much more honored than annoyed when his work was compared to that of the late J. Dilla, so don’t think the sonic surprises on this 2010 effort are driven by a desire to end the association. That said, Album of the Year is a distinct break from the smoky Detroit funk Dilla championed, as it pulls inspiration from the worlds of rock and funk-rock. A four-man live band is employed to provide the guitar crunch and acoustic drum fills, but instead of the organic Roots style, Milk cuts these recordings into a stuttering and loopy soundscape that’s entirely hip-hop. These block-rocking beats are irresistible and instantly gratifying as tracks like “Oh Girl” feel both new and comfortable on first listen, but thanks to the man’s growth as a lyricist, the album is also a rich experience that rewards on every return. Chalk it up to the 12 months of personal turmoil and joy referenced in the album’s double meaning of a title, as both are communicated vividly. The Funkadelic-meets-Hendrix “Distortion” is the swirling, chaotic, and best example of the man dealing with the bad, while “Round of Applause” uses Afro-pop to deliver its flashy tale of taking the Detroit sound to the world. Get ready for some wicked humor too, as “Deadly Medley” throws insults like “ugly as Lady Gaga’s wardrobe,” and anyone who savors the sound of the drum will find the producer is a wizard at capturing it. This a major step forward and for the adventurous hip-hop fan, it could very well be appropriately titled.
AllMusic Review by David Jeffries