We live in a time of musical taste pretention, where it can be dangerous to speak the words, “I love his new stuff.” However, leave it to Black Milk (real name Curtis Eugene Cross) to drop a 2018 album so engrossing that it induces a thrill to speak its fresh tracks. The Detroit rapper/producer dropped his seventh album earlier this year, Fever, which is his first studio album since 2014.
Black Milk has made his reputation as a legend by providing lyrics dripping in timely social and economic critique over beats that thump originality like very few others. Before the musician brings Fever to Larimer Lounge next week, we got him talking about the creation of his latest sounds and what keeps his genius pumping.
303 Magazine: Do you feel that you receive love from Denver?
Black Milk: Yeah. This is probably my fourth time through Denver. Every time we have performed out there it’s been real dope.
303: Fever is your first full-length album since 2014’s If There’s a Hell Below, which seems to be a larger gap for you than with prior studio projects. Can you expand on what might have taken more time?
BM: I think one of the things is that you tour for a year and then try to get back into a groove to make an album. All of that stuff takes time, in addition to finding the inspiration as to which direction you want to go in musically. I am never too calculated, I have an idea, but I just go with the flow that the music comes to me.
303: Fever encompasses the rare ability to make the listener want to reflect as much as it makes them want to dance. What would you say is more important to you as you are creating new music?
BM: With this one, I was more conscious of going into the album trying to make a feel good, upbeat vibe. I think the production came out that way but the topics that I was talking about were pretty heavy. I had to tell me perspective on what was going on in the world.
303: Exactly. For instance, tracks like “You Like to Risk It All” and “Could It Be” the uplifting beats disguise the heavier topics until the message is truly understood. What is the science that goes behind pairing lyrics in contrast to the instrumentals?
BM: I wouldn’t say it was really a formula. It was just a thing that just happened. I didn’t want to make another dark album, my last two albums were on the dark side. Production-wise I knew I didn’t want it to be too dark, but it still has some dark tendencies to it.
303: Speaking on dark topics, “Foe Friend” is a song that speaks to all audiences, as most of us have experienced betrayal from friends. Were these lyrics inspired by real-life events?
BM: Well, it was more so inspired by the beat speaking to me. That was another track where the beat was soulful and feel good but the topic was like you said dark, in contrast. That might be my new thing actually [laughs].
303: You have worked with so many of hip hop’s all-time greatest contributors. How do you decide who goes on which project, or in the case of Fever, doesn’t?
BM: I’m in a new space every project. With this one, I didn’t have any rap features for this one because it was one of those things where I recorded the album and by the time I got to the end, I didn’t even realize that I didn’t reach out for any features. By that point, I felt like I had my point across and I didn’t need extra features to interrupt what was already going on. It was done. I think my next album might be more feature-heavy just because this one wasn’t.
303: This album is sure to hold its own in the race for best album of 2018. What do you feel is the ingredient that you threw into this project that sets it apart?
BM: I try to always keep it as original as possible. I am definitely aware of what is going on in the current state of music and take little elements here and there, but I think people can feel when it is from the heart. I think that originality will always keep a unique thing about what you do.
303: What has been the best part about getting Fever out into the world?
BM: Seeing people’s reactions. I was talking to someone last night who said hearing [the album] on the recording is one thing but seeing it live with a band is a totally different experience. I always want the live show to be a different experience than studio records. It’s definitely a different experience and people seem to enjoy it.
303: When you have come through Denver in the past, what has stood out to you as being characteristically different than other audiences?
BM: I remember Denver it being pretty energetic, more than I expected. I thought it was going to be chill and laid back, high, whatever [laughs]. It was cool. It was a good show.
303: What do you want Denver to know before you hit them with the show?
BM: Make sure you get that album and digest it. Rock with us and have a great time.