After four days of intensive listening, I think I just might have a new favorite Black Milk project! It’s not Album of the Year. It’s not Black and Brown (although as soon as my next Danny Brown craving kicks in, it very well may revert back to Black and Brown). As of right now, Fever is my favorite Black Milk release to date, and I’m here to make my best case for it.
First thing’s first: the instrumentals. Nearly every beat on this project is immaculately written and produced (I’m not too big on “DiVe” or “Laugh Now Cry Later”, but as far as the rest of the tracks here, you really can’t go wrong). Their strength lies in their loose, playful sensibility. This contrasts with much of Black Milk’s back catalogue—up until now, I’d always felt that his forte was the type of tight, punchy arrangements found on songs such as “Losing Out” and “365”. However, it just goes to show how talented the guy is that he’s able to approach music from a completely different angle and still yield fantastic results.
Playfulness aside, this album is far from a walk in the park. Black Milk’s subject matter doesn’t always match the mood of his music, and to me, that’s where things get interesting. “Foe Friend” juxtaposes sunny, sing-along choruses with tales of broken friendships (sort of a sister track to Oddisee’s “You Grew Up”, another great take on the subject). During my first couple of listens, I was too busy grooving to “Drown” to notice the points it was making about systematic oppression. The whole thing can be somewhat disorienting at first, but I’ve grown to love it. He’s still acknowledging the darker aspects of life (which he explored in excruciating detail on his last full-length, If There’s A Hell Below), but this time around, he’s coming at them with an unrelenting sense of optimism in tow. You can hear it all over the place—in every joyful little guitar lick, every bubbling bass line, every skittering drum pattern. That’s bravery. That’s perseverance.
This is one of the most consistent, powerful hip-hop albums I’ve heard this year. From what it sounds like, Black Milk hasn’t even begun to peak yet. I’m looking forward to seeing what he does next, as should you. (“But I Can Be” “2 Would Try”, “Will Remain”) B+