Band of the Day

2012.05.21

Black and Brown

Rapid-fire, dirty rhymes paired with smooth soulful beats
I toss at night so I fall asleep sedated. Sometimes I feel like life is so overrated.
lyrics from Wake Up

Black and Brown is a collaborative project from Detroit rappers Black Milk (Curtis Cross) and Danny Brown (Daniel Sewell). The self-titled debut EP was completely produced by Black Milk and released in 2011. The two initially joined forces in 2010 on the track “Black and Brown” which served as the impetus for the full EP. Black Milk has been in the rap scene since 2002, appearing on multiple collaboration albums and mixtapes, releasing five studio albums of his own, having a hand in production, and working with artists like Jack White, J Dilla, and Canibus. Danny Brown has been active in Hip Hop since 2003 and his album XXX on Fool’s Gold Records received Spin Magazine’s #1 hip hop album of the year honors as well as Metro Time’s Artist of the Year award.

Though it remains best known for its contribution to soul music in the 60's and 70's, the Motor City has a rich hip-hop tradition. And all of the city's finest MCs—the ubiquitous Eminem, Slum Village's Elzhi, the legitimately frightening Guilty Simpson—have always reflected the gritty, sometimes downright grim realities of inner city life in Detroit.

In the last two years, the asymmetrically-haired, self-styled "Adderall Admiral," Danny Brown, has added his name to the above list on the back of two fascinating, electric independent LPs: 2010's The Hybrid and 2011's XXX. He has been one of the fastest rising artists in the country thanks to his loquacious, tongue-twisting flows, disarming sense of humor, and hyper-eclectic, totally original delivery. Brown has always had an eye for choosing beats that are as off-kilter and eccentric as his style is, and his past work has borrowed from an impossibly versatile selection of artists like Fleet Foxes, Hawkwind, Joker, and Metronomy.

For that reason, his collaborative LP with fellow Motown resident Black Milk represents both a new look and a perfect fit. As impressive as Detroit's roster of rappers is, their production credits are even more impressive. A protégé of the late, legendary J Dilla—one of the finest producers of the last 15 years—Black Milk's soulful, soothing beats are a surprisingly effective foil for Brown's edgy, uncompromising delivery.

The duo's self-titled debut is a coherent, lean 10-song, sub-30 minute set that highlights both members' impressive individual talents that's ruggedly focused on getting your head bobbing. Milk's Dilla-influenced, boom-bap beats form effective canvases for Danny to weave his breathtaking flow over, and while it's mostly devoid of the thought-provoking storytelling that was all over XXX, Brown still can out-punchline almost anybody (exhibit A: "40 on the floor mat, I leave ya holey moley/ Banana in her tailpipe, I make her Axel Foley"). The one real exception is "Wake Up," which gives us a glimpse of both artists ability to craft emotive, introspective tracks.

At its best, Black and Brown serves as an engaging, easily digestible introduction to two of hip-hop's most talented, underrated artists. While both artists are already responsible for some of the genre's best work—XXX and Black Milk's Tronic (2008) are absolutely required listening—both are unquestionably on an upward trajectory, and I'd expect we'll hear plenty more classics from both of them, both together and separate.