It seems like every other year rap/hip-hop take a year off. And I’m not really sure why this happens, but then again, everyone reading this will state that I’m out of my mind and point me in the direction of ten supposed good hip-hop albums. Now, if those are ‘good,’ then Black Milk’s Tronic is spectacular. But the bottom line is regardless of what everyone else’s opinion is of the year in hip-hop for 2008, this new album by the 25-year old Detroit native is easily the best hip-hop album to be released this year.
The album’s title says it all, this is electronic-infused and it’s every bit as tasty for it. Take the bumping and equally rocking, “Give the Drummer Sum.” Not only is it equipped with some of the tightest, forward-thinking beats of the genre but the soulful trumpet that closes out the song is sheer music perfection. All in between, the music slides and reverts from aesthetic wonder and it delightfully suits Curtis Cross’ delectable music. Besides the fact that he is a superb producer that follows in the footsteps of J Dilla and Kanye West, Cross is a highly respectable MC all on his own.
The following song, “Without U,” features fitting contributions from Colin Munroe and reveals a softer, gentler side to Cross. He is able to maintain a certain breath of confidence that draws from his surrounding cast of game breakers and game changers; not only does everything sound smooth and precise but its sonic scope is out the world. The synth-heavy ending is a clear musician at work and Cross deserves all the more credit for it.
The best kinds of albums are the ones that capture that fragile balance between great music and pairing lyrical wordplay. And Tronic is an album that fans of both the lyrical side and production side of hip-hop can love. “The Matrix” features a supreme MC in Pharoahe Monch, fresh off the success of his erstwhile album. The grimy beats, more synths and catchy hook all deliver an impressive kick—being able to combine both sides of this immense spectrum is downright brilliant.
There is no fat to cut off, no filler to pile through and most of all, not one bad song on the entire album. “Long Story Short” is one of Cross’ highest achievements as a composer; complete with flourishing strings, accented horns and an inescapable air of old-sounding atmospherics. Other songs like “Hell Yeah” are lean and crisp slices of dynamite, heavy with snappy percussion and driving beats. “Bond 4 Life” is the album’s uplifting moment that features stunning vocals from soultress Melanie Rutherford and its hypnotizing electric guitar excellently leads to the album’s closing track, “Elec.”
Here is an album that is ripe for the mainstream audience. It has all the makings of a trademark hip-hop classic. It has the mesmerizing beats: the kind that will suck you in from the first second you hear them, the terrific wordplay: the kind that once the beats grasp you, will keep you coming back for more and more, and finally, a young, confident, talented producer at the core of the music. What Black Milk continues to do is unmatched and with Tronic, he has earned his rightful place in hip-hop’s elite class.