Album review: 'Tronic,' by Black Milk

Patrick Varine

You could hear the first snatches of Detroit producer Black Milk’s excellence emerge on “The Real Me,” from Guilty Simpson’s "Ode to the Ghetto." With its soul flashes and pounding beat, it was the first hint that he might just be the natural heir to the late, great J. Dilla after all.

His early ’08 collaboration with Fat Ray, "The Set Up," only reinforced that notion. The muddy atmospherics of “Flawless” and the Mid-eastern gangsta bump of “Lookout” had the down-and-dirty aspects of Dilla’s essence nailed, with a slight processed sound that gave things a futuristic vibe.

"Tronic" should be his coming-out party. “Long Story Short” kicks things off with a slow, forlorn piano figure that quickly blasts into rough-kick drums and a wailing chorus on helium. BM’s voice doesn’t have the sub-bass timbre of Guilty or the choppy cadence of Dilla, but he still holds things down with some help from Royce da 5’9”, Pharoahe Monch and Bootcamp alumni Sean Price (giving me further hope of a Sean P/BM full-length album).

The real strength is the album’s production. “Bounce” lives up to its title, using tinny, looped synths, “Hold It Down” seems to be triplets and yet is not, and Fat Ray makes an appearance over the haunted-house atmosphere of “Hell Yeah.”

“Try” and “Give the Drummer Sum” illustrate "Tronic" at its finest. The former chops up a few ladies singing the track title with a dusty guitar loop and bare-bones Motown drums, and the latter puts those drums at the forefront, flipping a super-syncopated beat with a horn-heavy chorus that sounds like the greatest breakdown you never heard.

From the airy vocal background singers in “Reppin’ for U” to DJ Premier’s patented chorus-scratching on “The Matrix,” Tronic works equally well in the car and on the dance floor, and though its firmly rooted in the street, it’s got a sound that feels beamed from the future.

It’s what Morpheus would have bumped in the ride.

"Tronic" will be released Oct. 28. Listen to samples at

Sussex Countian