This is the year of big-name hip-hop collaborative efforts. From Kanye West and Jay-Z’s Watch the Throne to Royce da 5’9″ and Eminem’s Hell: The Sequel, 2011 is the year rappers stopped buggin’ out and started building bridges. Relative unknowns amongst a slew of elite collaborations, Detroit rappers Black Milk and Danny Brown tossed their names into the collaboration ring with a 10-track effort featuring Milk’s production and Brown’s rhymes. The end result is a dark horse of low-key, banging hip-hop.
The EP works amazingly well not because both MCs are talented (which they certainly are), but rather because of how well they work together. Both performers are a little left of hip-hop center, with Brown a little more out there in the things he says, does, and wears and Milk embracing the soul and garage rock elements of his hometown. The tracks they make infuse both of their worldviews and personas into constructs that march to a totally new drum. “Wake Up” sees Milk spin a beat that is equal parts abstract, indie hip-hop drone, and ’70s hard rock psychedelic, with Brown spitting bizarre rhymes like “Held by niggers wearing puffy, shiny suits/ wearing Daft Punk helmets and some mirrors on their boots.”
Much of the rest of the album reflects the same kind of dynamic in varying degrees. In “Jordan VII”, Milk tones down the oddness a bit to make a synth-heavy, club-ready beat, while Brown goes full-on psycho, letting his huge, charismatic personality shine through with angered screams and maniacal laughter. On the flip side, “Dada” presents a Milk beat that is out of this world, a mishmash of bizarre rock noises, weird effects, a children’s choir, and other beautiful bits of sonic dissonance. Thankfully, it’s balanced out by Brown’s thuggish posturing and toned-down vocal stylings.
Though they may be lesser known, Black Milk and Danny Brown have offered up a truly compelling example of what a real collaborative hip-hop album can be.
Essential Tracks: “Wake Up”, “Dada”