11:15pm, Scoot Inn
With basement minimalism and a sincere tip of the cap to mentor J Dilla, rapper/producer Black Milk earned his distinction as the young torch-carrier of Detroit's iconic snare-smacking sound. He released two LPs in that vein, 2007's Popular Demand and 2008's Tronic, before taking a giant leap on last year's Album of the Year. The LP incorporated live instrumentation to push the envelope in ways Detroit's underground hadn't yet seen.
"Album of the Year's sound was definitely experimental," agrees the rapper born Curtis Cross. "It was really the start of me testing the waters of what I can do and how I can incorporate live music with what I do on the drum machine."
Such a progression usually leads to further experiments, but Milk's looking at AOTY's afterlife as a chance to return to his roots.
"Ask people about their favorite artists and it's usually the early albums they enjoy the most," he says. "Not that I don't enjoy how I'm progressing, but I always want to take people to a place musically where it feels familiar."
He got his first chance to revisit that old vibe on his most recent project with Sean Price and Guilty Simpson as Random Axe. Longtime collaborators on each other's solo works, the three just finished recording an album they hope to release by summer. Milk says that, while live instrumentation plays a part, Random Axe's musical composition is decidedly geared back toward drum machines and samples.
"Sean P and Guilty, those are some raw rappers. So I knew this was gonna be a raw project – straight beats, straight rhymes. It's going to have that familiar feeling of straight boom-bap with a little sprinkle of that live shit to keep it funky. You know I got to have that bounce." (Also: Sat., 9:20pm, Billboard Bungalow @ Buffalo Billiards)