Black Milk

If There's a Hell Below

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Six albums in and Detroit producer/MC Black Milk is a familiar enough fellow that loose, wandering albums like this can use his essence as an anchor. If the songs here weren't so developed and (mostly) learned, If There's a Hell Below could be passed off as outtakes and extras from his previous discography with Gospel samples, Detroit bangers, new wave joneses, and Milk's own clumsy, yet charming, lyrics all figuring into the career-encompassing mix. "Story and Her" comes off as early Black Milk where the worthy Dilla worship and sexual teenage come-ons aim right for the hips and/or panties, but "Quarter" with Pete Rock is the kind of grim, grown-folks business ("Let me show you something, how to get the green, now/I guess you old enough, you turnin' fourteen, now") that fueled his 2013 LP No Poison No Paradise. The techno spirit of Tronic reappears on the ghetto tech grinder "Detroit's New Dance Show," an homage to a classic Detroit teen TV show filled with electro, Kraftwerk quotes, and Gary Numan-styled robot funk all going for that electrifying mojo. The Random Axe era is represented by the return of the supergroup for the off-center "Scum," but this game of matching tracks to their previous albums isn't as fun as watching the kaleidoscope spin. That avant Axe number is followed by Bun B testifying like a street preacher on the broken Gospel called "Gold Piece," because anything can happen on album where Milk sounds like Black Sheep's third member ("What It's Worth") and a beautiful, swaying nu-jazz number demands highlight status ("All Mighty" with Gene Obey). Sense of purpose gets eclipsed by sense of self on If There's a Hell Below, but Black Milk deserves to ride the vibe of his previous work more than most. Consider this a returning fan's album, and then go about becoming one.

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