The J Dilla comparisons have to stop at some point. Yes, Detroit artist Black Milk is guilty of idolatry in favor of accessibility in his earlier good, but not great albums. He’s still here though, and his sustainability proves that he’s a great artist within his own context. Black Milk is not a man who’s simply happy to be here, however. Last year’s No Poison, No Paradise saw him take his funked-up, synth-y grooves to darker and more engrossing places. Glitches in the Break takes the overarching tension and condenses it. The result is a chaotic blitz, and one of the most delectable offerings of his career.
Rather than traditionalist obligation, there’s a cavalier attitude that guides the surprise project: Ghostface Killah expresses taunts in “Nutmeg”, which accompanies the abrasive cymbals on the album opening “There Are Glitches”. It’s hard to imagine there wouldn’t be unpredictability to follow, and Ghostface consequently preludes a hint of greatness. Perhaps the most substantial lesson one can learn from the School of Dilla is audacity rather than style. The willingness to take risks was at the core of his innovative techniques, and Black Milk takes many twists and turns here. He does so with aplomb, too, whether it’s on the duckface-inducing “1 for Dam” or “Dirt Bells” — which sounds made for ice cream trucks to roam the 313.
Glitches in the Break is not one of those showings where Black Milk proves he’s just a “reliable” producer. Reliable rapper, maybe, but not a reliable producer. Black Milk moves through the dusted loops in a manner that rarely loses your attention. That’s not because of the hodgepodge sequencing, but because of how the quality rarely lets up. It’s a huge feat given just how damn replayable “Silence” is, where Black Milk combines fleet-footed drumwork, monk-like humming, and perhaps a UFO landing to compose a thrilling 3:48. Glitches in the Break arouses from all angles with few breaths. The Blaxploitation/spaghetti western of “G” turns into the Sunday morning choir on “Cold Day” before moving to the bass-heavy grime of “Reagan”, with movement each as enjoyable as the last.
Black Milk and rappity-rap friends are mostly laconic in their appearances, only servicing the production in the space it allows them. They may not particularly stand out, but they do keep the flubs to a minimum and fluidly gel with the tracks. Black Milk take an eye-rolling, backhanded shot at bloggers (although I may be biased in that criticism) to start “Silence”, but settles into a liquid flow. Moodiness is fine (“Don’t give me that wanting to talk about boom-bap and how you love real rap, real rap”) if it sounds this mellifluous. Guilty Simpson’s emo (“I used to wish my parents chose a condom/Life’s a gift I never asked for”) is a bit on-the-nose in “G”, but his glass-eyed nostalgia eventually wins you over by the track’s end. “Kriss Kross Daddymack Nickels,” who often goes by Fat Ray, takes over his two features with the kinetics behind his take-no-bullshit vocal grumble.
But while the raps remain grounded in the earthy realities of the Detroit streets, Glitches in the Break’s production transcends the city’s systemic poverty in its 22 minutes. It’s weird, expands, and elates, which are signifiers of someone who graduated the School of Dilla with honors.