Curtis Cross, better known as Black Milk, is the rap version of Samuel L. Jackson. This year alone Milk; noticeably no longer Murder Mitten’s best kept secret, has lent his rhyming and production talents to various projects including the Caltroit compilation, Guilty’s Ode to the Ghetto, Torae’s Daily Conversation and most recently The Set Up. This latest effort pairs him with fellow Detroit native, Fat Ray (Both artists alongside Young RJ, are BR Gunna).
While Jackson has had his share of movie disappointments, this album is Black Milk’s Deep Blue Sea or his Formula 51 if you will. With that said, this album is not a complete letdown- it merely pales in comparison when measured against Black’s previous projects. There’s no denial that both rappers complement each other throughout this 11-track album. Evident throughout the album, is Black’s ingenuity to create beautiful music albeit the soulfulness heard on former tracks like say, One Song, or Three + Sum (Although AB does sprinkle a pinch of soul on Take Control). This time around, listeners are presented with gritty, gutter-like sounds highlighted by the pensive drum patterns that make Black a beast behind the boards. While some listeners might not be appreciative of this deviation, it clearly displays his versatility and ability to reinvent his sounds of music. Lookout contains either a Middle Eastern or Southern Asian sample a la Madlib’s Beat Konductor series, and features Name Tag, Black’s cousin. While Bad Man features Guilty Simpson and Scorpion, who laces a Reggae inspired hook. Ronnie Cash aka Phat Kat and Elzhi of Slum Village acclaim also lend their talents to Get Focus.
From the beginning through the lead track, Flawless, listeners instantly take in the chemistry that both Black Milk and Fat Ray exhibit throughout the albums entirety. In a manner reminiscent of the swag flaunted on Sound the Alarm, Black spits, Strait gutter I mean everything I utter/ speaking the language no I ain’t stutter. While Fat Ray assertively comes back with, You keep the bitches bitchin’, I got the hoes hoin’/ I’m on slow motion keep the dru blowin’/ High times nigga keep the dro growin’/Inspect gadget gun go goin’. Despite his convincing depictions of street life amplified by his powerful raspy delivery, the nature of his subject matter is somewhat limited and superfluous. Even so, it is almost as though Fat Ray was intrinsically abiding by the album’s very title; he sets us up for what seems to be a grand finale on the last track, Ugly. Fat Ray’s delivery over Black’s impeccable production in the aforesaid track is worth mentioning.
Assuming this album serves as a platform that introduces Fat Ray to the hip hop world outside of Detroit; his efforts are nothing short of ordinary. As a matter of fact, the rappers on this album churn out rather meaningless, mediocre rhymes, making them appear as though they are just the run of the mill; while their catalogues would prove otherwise.
The Set Up marks the first of many releases to come from Black’s label, Music House. While this album has its flaws; most notably the lyrics or lack thereof, it is still considerably better than most albums out there and that’s saying a lot. Black’s willingness to veer left when all signs point right suggest that this young producer is destined to carve his mark in the rap game.
TURN OFF THE RADIO !