Detroit’s own Black Milk is back with his second album in as many years, once again questioning why he’s not at an elevated status within the Hip Hop genre. ‘If There’s A Hell Below’ is a follow up to last year’s ‘No Poison, No Paradise’ and continues in much of the same vein with regards to lyrical theme and production sound, almost serving as a double album.
‘If There’s A Hell Below’ introduces itself in very cinematic fashion, with the overall theme of the album being presented to listeners instantly. As you may have guessed from the album’s title, there is a darker tone to most of this project with regards to production and lyrical content, which has been a familiar trend to Black’s last 2 efforts, with both encompassing various religious references. Despite his darker subject matter, Black Milk retains the ability to produce what I like to call that ‘ignorant neck-breaking bump’ with his beats, preserving the type of sound that lead people to identifying him as the closest thing to Dilla, since Dilla. This is evident on ‘What It’s Worth’, where Milk questions if it’s worth his efforts making the music he loves if he does not receive the proper praise. This song is one of the various examples how Black Milk’s lyrical ability has vastly improved over the past five years, finally matching up to his production that has always been outstanding.
As found on all of Black Milk’s albums, he offers listeners instrumental pieces, which on this occasion comes in the form of ‘Hell Below’. This dreamy, jazz inspired concoction offers a light yet hard listening experience, that’s difficult to place, but there’s no doubting it’s significance. Another highlight is ‘Story And Her’ which allows Black Milk to tell us of his relationship with a female, split into two parts, the night before & the morning after. The aforementioned partition makes for a magnificent piece of storytelling with the instrumentation setting the scene wonderfully, making it a contender for my favourite track on the album. It faces competition for that title from the Bun B assisted ‘Gold Piece’, which instantly has the feel of an ‘OG’ classic record, with Bun performing one of his better feature verses that I’ve heard in recent times.
Not for the first time, Black Milk has delivered an entertaining, cohesive project that has me scratching my head as to why he’s not widely considered one of the best producer/rappers currently doing his thing. And with that being said, next year will mark the 10th year since his debut album ‘Sound Of The City’ was released, so he is by no means a newcomer. Perhaps he’s destined to be underrated for his entire career?