Once touted as a potential Dilla heir, the producer and rapper Black Milk has evolved over his past few albums into someone much trickier to pin down. His Detroit-molded sense of cross-genre adventurousness has led him to get dirty digital (Tronic), wax live-vibe soulful (Album of the Year), and go rap-rock Third Man style (the Jack White-assisted “Brain”/”Royal Mega” single). If that sounds a bit disjointed, at least he put out uniformly good music through all those phases. Now No Poison No Paradise has revealed how well all those ideas mesh when they’re streamlined into what is now safe to call a signature sound.
In blending chromed-out digital orchestration, ambitious psych-prog chord progressions, and a sense of deep groove inherited from too many soul-jazz and vintage R&B crates to count, No Poison No Paradise is a producer’s ambition rewarded. It pays off whether he goes macro on “Interpret Sabotage” and “Money Bags (Paradise)” or minimalist on “Codes and Cab Fare” and “Dismal.” And then he’ll throw both Robert Glasper and Dwele on a Tamla-via-Blue Note ’74 session on “Sonny Jr. (Dreams),” in case you weren’t paying attention. Never one to waste a good beat, Black Milk’s lyricism digs deep, with the storytelling diptych “Sunday’s Best”/”Monday’s Worst” only the most immediate examples of conceptual, personal scene-setting on an album rich with it. And his flow, calculatingly calm and locked in tight as a backbeat’s partner and melody’s counterpoint, is the best example yet of how he’s made his voice into one of his best instruments.