Daru Jones' & AB feat. Black Milk (On Deck)

Showing just how deep Daru's skills run - and nipping at ?uestlove's heels for live hip hop drumming supremacy - here is his own production featuring of course AB and Black Milk.

Black Milk Dub Rock (Tronic)

Here's a throwback from Black Milk's by now seminal release Tronic.


Black Milk @ Revival, Toronto, setlist and review (11.18.10)

After a surprise but perfunctory opening set by Dank (of Frank 'n Dank) with images of Black Milk looping overhead, his band composed of AB, Daru (Jones) and touring DJ 'Billy the Tour Manager' took the stage.

Between AB's keys stage left sat a lone drum pad, behind which was perched the DJ table, on the right was Daru's sparse kit of a kick drum, two snares (set tilted away from him) and a couple of cymbals.  Knowing that AB and Daru are far beyond simple touring musicians and in fact integral to the integrated sampled, electronic, live sound that defines Milk's title worthy Album Of The Year that he is touring behind.

Notably absent from stage (yet still on it oddly) were members of The Will Sessions Band formidably bass player Tim Shellabarger (whose thumb and thump are all over the recording) and master arranger Sam Beaubien (perhaps best known for arranging Mayer Hawthorne's A Strange Arrangement) as well as Milk's handful of Detroit based vocal peers (ElzhiRoyce Da 5'9", the notoriously slept on Danny Brown and Melanie Rutherford).

Reflecting how this is his 'most personal album ever' (the album of the year he had) the man born Curtis Cross set about to recreate with evincing clarity the precise sound crafted on his best album to date.  After a quick medley of tracks spanning Black Milk's surprisingly short career the ensemble rocked in some semblance of order through the bulk of AOTY (leaving out largely those tracks with guest vocalists).  Where his mentor J Dilla (whose passing as much as that of D12's Proof, Slum Village's Baatin, his own aunt and the near fatality in the form of a stroke that hit his business manager and sometimes DJ Hex Murda) was known for the soulful depth of his crates and unerring ability to capture bracing drum sounds, Black Milk has taken the formula a step further by first capturing the samples or sketching out the beat and having in particular Daru add a thick wash and stratified layers over top. 

While all of the AOTY material went over feverishly with Milk almost exclusively playing the role of MC (a role into which he's made a studied and notably confident growth) it was his conducting of the ensemble on the whole that was thrilling to take in.  Wanting undoubtedly to focus on MC'ing (an outsider would never know this man was the producer as well) that little brown box (the Akai MPC 2000) - the sampler which he has used to the most unique effect and on which he builds up his definitive beats on the fly - was sadly absent from the stage.  Instead during a handful of too-brief interludes Milk took to the drumpad extending cuts into longer yet still precise drum jams- including Tronic's Give The Drummer Sum and notably AOTY's Round Of Applause  whose studio rendition includes overheard studio cues - 'keep it going... on the one (let it breathe)... bring it back' -  made into a rallying cry live.  At perhaps the apex of the show's arc AB softly let loose that quad tone sequence that is known as the instrumental Tronic Summer.

Having elapsed most of the Album material to the elation of the packed audience Black Milk was freed up to take audience requests scrolling through his ouevre with the ease of a jazz musician.  Undoubted fan favourites would have to be his run through a handful of his finest singles career wide: Losin' Out (normally with Royce Da 5'9"), the AB imprinted Reppin For U, the supremely fitting Tronic Summer (which despite it's flawlessness Milk immediately outed jokingly as 'some Barbie shit') only to drop the monstrous hook of The Matrix.  This run of material off of Tronic trailed out understably after Milk's opening verse uttering a few lines of Pharaohe Monche's next verse: "Four-finger ring rap sling-slang, Pharoahe the flow's good/ you couldn't hang if you was Ving Rhames in Rosewood".

Making a suprise airing was Don Cornelius (named after the definitive Soul Train host of the same name) the one cut that didn't make it onto Album Of The Year whose hook is lifted undisguised from Lee Fields and the Expressions Love Comes and Goes.   Likewise fan favourite Hell Yeah seemed close to the set closer before Milk insisted on banging out a handful of tracks from Popular Demand taking it right back for his by now frothing fans.

There are few artists that can leave the stage and have their stage band hold the audience in an equal thrall.  That is of course bands that aren't integral to the recorded sound, players of the highest calibre and playing to fans of the deepest magnitude.

Black Milk (w. AB and Daru Jones), Revival, Toronto (11.18.10) 
(partial setlist)

Welcome (Gotta Go)
Round of Applause (drum jam)
Over Again (AB backing vocals)
Reppin' For U
Tronic Summer
The Matrix (incomplete)
Losin' Out
Give The Drummer Sum (drum jam)
Don Cornelius
Hell Yeah
Shut It Down


Twin Shadow - Castles In The Snow official video

Twin Shadow aka George Lewis Jr. who's been known largely as a producer remixing progressive Brooklynites like Bear In Heaven (on Lovesick Teenagers) released the single Castles In The Snow before the summer it wormed it's way into countless playlists but by the time the rest of the album Forget came out this fall  it makes a bit more sense what this solo concept, which has much more dignity and cohesion than most producer/vocal turns, is pushing towards.