Review Summary: eatin' on perogies / goose mixed with sobe / smokin' on an oz / pimpin' like an og
I'm questioning whether Black Milk is trying to evoke a double entendre by naming his record "Album of the Year". The intention of speaking on the year of events that lead up to "Album of the Year" is referenced in the first track on the album. A skit after the track 'Black and Brown' mocks the notion that the name stems from Black Milk thinking he released the best record of 2010. Though he attempts to make his intent obvious it seems the title of his album has had enough ambiguity to prompt comments. Constant criticism of the record in various publications seems to revolve around how the record is not the best hip-hop record of 2010. The disconnect between the reviewers and the subjects discussed on "Album of the Year" is shocking. It provokes myself to question if many reviewers even listened to the record before writing up their reviews. "Album of the Year" or not though, Black Milk's latest work is another step in the progression of the Detroit hip-hop scene.
Black Milk's struggles over the past year are examined throughout the record. Issues discussed stem from his new found popularity to the death of his Aunt and Slum Village's Baatin. The album is clearly rooted in the artist overcoming the hardships of his life. The main theme on a few of these tracks could be summed up as "*** 2009". Black Milk switches up his style of rapping which give the album a more personal feel than his previous work. Black Milk's attitude towards hip-hop does seem to refute the ideas of him naming his newest album, "Album of the Year" due to self indulgence. Instead he, seems centered on expanding his textural landscape as well as improving his MC skills throughout the record. The goal of "Album of the Year" is easily summed up as an artist in transition. Tracks like 'Over Again' tread this topic questioning his typical behavior and examining what Milk's next step should be.
Black Milk's effort on "Album of the Year" should silence his critics. His sound has finally come out of J Dilla's shadow and into its own. His raps subject matters have extended past simple braggadocio. Most surprisingly is how quickly he has achieved his progression. The evolution seen from "Tronic" to "Album of the Year" took hip-hop legends like Madlib and Dilla nearly a decade to reach. Black MIlk's career was previously met with skepticism in terms of longevity. He was seen as a replacement producer in Slum Village and then in his solo work as yet another Dilla clone. Over the past two years his image has changed most importantly because of his willingness to constantly experiment. He mastered soul samples on "Popular Demand" and then made an album complete devoid of them with "Tronic". "Album of the Year" seems focused around maintaining a musical legitimacy in his beats. It isn't surprising that many of these tracks come off sounding similar to The Roots in terms of productions. Touches like the extended guitar solo on 'Distortion' really show how far ahead the beats are on "Album of the Year". Key inclusions like live drums throughout the record also reflect nuances from his previous works (i.e. 'Hell Yeah' off of "Tronic") that have become full fledged aspects of the "Album of the Year" sound.
'Closed Chapter' closes the record with a collaboration from Mr. Porter. The beat evokes the guitar heavy tracks that populated the mid-'90s hip-hop scene. Mr. Porter makes another case for his love of extremely long progressive hip-hop beats after the brilliant Pharaohe Monch track 'Trilogy'. Much like 'Long Story Short' summed up Milk's career 'Closed Chapter' seems to sum up the events and feelings that have passed since the release of "Tronic". Black Milk knows where he is poised in terms of his legacy, but at the same time he knows he hasn't fully reached the production level of an artist like Pete Rock or DJ Premier. "Album of the Year" certainly makes a case for his continual progression into one of the best producers in the hip-hop game. Maybe next time out he'll release the 'Album of the Year', but for now we just have one of the best of 2010.