Wewwww… This shit right here… this, shit, right, here… shieeeeeet… got’s me nonsensically scribing referenced hyperbolic fragments in the hopes that from jump you understand Black Milk’s No Poison, No Paradise is that shit you need. To be specific it’s psychedelic, soulful, organic, reflective, and dynamic. It sounds like the soundtrack to a sci-fi gangster flick about Halloween in the streets of Detroit. Throughout NPNP Black Milk loosely constructs a theme of how the negative qualities of his Detroit environment in many ways shaped the perspective and talent he has as it connects to life and music. It’s a spiritual, thematic, and sonic balance that has Milk drawing from the best of Tronic; stripping down the “orchestral hip-hop big-bandness” of AOTY; and re-imagining the last remnants of Dilla’s legacy by being one of Mr. Yancey’s best acolytes.
The album’s second track, “Deion’s House” is simply a glorious piece of music. The sampled live drums roll and pop so crisply, the cascading piano notes feel like they’re diving into water as Milk pens a quick narrative of being the fatherless kid hanging out with the kid from the “good home”. It could be the album’s crown jewel. “Deion’s House” is followed by the dusty spooky rigsaw sounds of “Codes And Cab Fare” featuring top five dead-or-alive MC Black Thought. Both Milk and Thought paint quality noir verses that could be used for a syndicated crime drama. After, “Ghetto DEMF” finds Milk summoning the futuristic techno of his past work as laser synths fly over some gentle yet stuttering drums that make the neck snap as underground favorite Quelle Chris closes the track off nicely. It’s one of the best three-song stretches heard on any long player all year.
The duel lead single (and contender for video of the year) “Sunday’s Best/Monday’s Worst” is some of the best soul music this side of the Stax heyday… yeah I said it. Church organs, face-crunchin’ guitar samples, “godly” choir usage, and dusty drums capped off by yin-yang stories of youth, going to church, young adulthood, infidelity, and death. It’s that champion sound that creates the slow motion head-nod, while sippin’ the ‘gnac, and blowing of the piff. The album’s dynamics continue to transition and grab for attention later with the neo-soul on ‘roids “Parallels”. Singer Ab channels his best D’Angelo for the chorus as Milk gets all sauve mac seducing shorty to rest her head on the silks and pillows rap. The song is romantic, ethereal and cocky all at once. Be it those songs, the instrumentals “X Chords” and “Sonny Jr (Dreams)” that give the album some nice non-rap breathing room, or the alternative-bap of “Dismal” and “Perfected on Puritan Ave”, Milk is not fucking around here.
Yet, it’s the goliath gladiator synth and drums of album closer “Money Bags (Paradise)” that could kick over The Great Wall of China or inspire rampant bank robberies. It’s a perfect closer to an album that seems to end as soon as it begins. No Poison No Paradise is soft and hard; sample-based and electronic; righteous and gully. The whole album carries this sanguine melancholy that is equal parts meditative and rebellious. On his fifth solo (and 12th total) album Milk seems in complete control of his craft, knowing when to be “showy” and when to be restrained for the sake of adequate emotional resonance. There is not one weak or suspect, much less wack moment on the whole album. His mic skills are arguably the best they have ever been and all the guest add the perfect ingredients to Milk’s gumbo. In 2013, No Poison, No Paradise has few equals.