Black Milk

Fever

  • AllMusic Rating
    8
  • User Ratings (0)
  • Your Rating

AllMusic Review by

Black Milk intended to work with brighter colors for his first rap album since If There's a Hell Below. Instead, as related in "But I Can Be," he found himself facing a canvas, "four in the a.m.," illustrating something grim: "You're now witnessin' a child born out of smoke clouds and brown liquor without mixture." In this context, Black's choppy delivery over a lurching rhythm conveys a state of agitation, like he's ruminating while losing sleep in a stifling, cramped room with a busted air conditioner. The album's title evokes the temperature and its maker's creative state. Black has so much on his mind that he allows no space for guest verses. Social media fatigue, cultural thievery, police brutality, performative activism, and self-absorption are covered in the pensive "Laugh Now Cry Later" alone. In the needling "True Lies," he targets the failures the educational system and organized religion. On "Drown," built with a rhythm that churns so tight that it could snap, Black narrows it down to racist authorities: "Fuck you, fuck your law, fuck your protocol." What isn't bleak is just as powerful. "Could It Be" has a dreamlike Saturday afternoon glide and a message of community upliftment, while "2 Would Try," with twisting drums and dubbed-out Afrobeat horns, temporarily takes the album in an intimate direction. All the material is driven by Daru Jones and Chris Dave's knotted and labyrinthine percussion, Malik Hunter's bobbing and melodic bass, Ian Fink's atmospheric keyboards, and secret weapon Sasha Kashperko's spidery jazz guitar. Black's trippy post-production touches, however, cast the musicians' loose-yet-tight interplay in a kind of gauze that adds to a solitary feeling verging on claustrophobic. Original background vocals contributed by Dwele, Ab, and Sudie tend to sound almost as spectral as the sampled voices, which are misshapen to resemble smudged doo wop instead of mid-'80s vocal jazz and mid-2010s dream pop. The supplemental voice that's clearest and most emblematic of all is that of a plainspoken woman, captured from what sounds like a news report, which punctuates the tragic narrative "Foe Friend": "We are really not survivin' here, and...we would like to live, you know?"

blue highlight denotes track pick