Black Milk’s “True Lies” Tackles Systemic Blindness (Audio)

Black Milk has built a career as a producer/MC creating music marked by an adventurous mix of musical styles and subtle social critique. His latest single “True Lies” from his forthcoming FEVER (February 23) continues this path while moving his work forward in new directions.

The former Slum Village sound provider’s 2014 solo album, If There’s A Hell Below…, for example, showed a debt to his hometown Detroit’s Techno scene, but was equally influenced by his love for ‘70s P-Funk, and had one song describing family get-togethers, with Al Green on in the background. Keeping true to this spirit, “True Lies” the latest single from his forthcoming FEVER shifts gears once again.

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Black Milk frequently references Soul great, Curtis Mayfield in his work: most notably in the direct lift for his last album’s title, but also in his lyrics. All this encourages us to locate his music within a politically engaged Black American musical tradition, but of equal interest is the way he recreates the psychology of those lost to the system, or “born into a hell.”

“True Lies” is described as a condemnation of a US education system churning out an “educated fool” as Black refers to himself on the track, in another Mayfield link. “They told me to keep it pure,” he continues, but “that was not what I was looking for, I wasn’t sure, I wanted more.” But whereas “Everyday Was” from If There’s a Hell Below also evoked a dead-end school system and urban environments where “grandma live longer than grandson” it was firmly within a story-telling mode. The approach in “True Lies” is more generalized and poetic.

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Black Milk’s use of live instrumentation also demonstrates a new direction for the artist who had previously been best-known for his sample-based production work, providing the beats for the late Sean Price and Guilty Simpson as part of Random Axe, as well as Royce 5’9, among others.

“True Lies” owes a lot to late 1970s Jazz, but only if this music were stuck on repeat, meandering with no development; such musical claustrophobia is a Black Milk trademark. The track is also reminiscent of highly-produced ‘80s releases, drawing on and diverging from the Jazz canon when experimentation with new tech and production styles became the key driving force moving the genre forward.

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Black Milk throughout his career has first been recognized first for his beats, rather than his work as an MC. “True Lies” sees him take a new route here, moreover, slowing it down, avoiding the high-speed delivery of the past to focus on a more drawn-out style.

Black Milk’s FEVER is due out February 23 on Mass Appeal Records/Computer Ugly.