Black Milk has already proven that he can work with artists from all over the country -- evidenced especially well on his mixtape with Bishop Lamont, Caltroit -- but The Set Up, which puts the producer/MC back with B.R. Gunna-mate Fat Ray, shows that he's still at his best when he's with his fellow Detroiters. Black's beats complement Fat Ray's sonorous baritone extremely well, like on the excellent "Look Out," which is all floor toms and light spacy synths, the simplicity in the arrangement only serving to accentuate the rhythm in the rappers' flows. There are still plenty of Dilla-inspired tracks here, like "Outro," "Not U," and "Get Up," the latter of which especially seems to be Black Milk at his most natural, the kind of beat that comes out of him without having to think much about it, but The Set Up also finds him stretching out in other directions. "When It Goes Down," with its quirky samples and keyboard lines, could easily be a Madlib record, while the fullness and richness of "Take Control" sound more like something Nicolay or even Just Blaze might make. "Badman" features Guilty Simpson, and is harder and darker than the rest of the tracks on the album, but "Get Focus," with Phat Kat and Elzhi, is more appropriate for a member of Slum Village, and the contrast between these two tracks -- both of which also fit well on the album -- is just another sign of Black Milk's versatility. The challenge here, then, is whether the lyrics are able to keep up with the production, and while thematically things stay pretty much the same (general boasting, life in the ghetto, etc.), the rapping usually serves to enhance the songs. In the aforementioned "Badman," Fat Ray compares mixing "gangsta with gospel" to "selling cocaine out of Costco/Or eating shrimp-fried rice at a Roscoe's," while on "Ugly" he tells other MCs to "rap like a southpaw, and bring your right in the game." He's smart and quick and he plays off his producer well -- the result of their previous work together and knowledge of each other's styles, no doubt -- making The Set Up a very strong album, one that reinforces the immense talent of all players involved.
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AllMusic Review by Marisa Brown