01 Sound Check
02 Wake Up
05 Jordan VII
09 Dark Sunshine
10 Black & Brown
To say that Black and Brown, the new collaborative EP from Detroit indie-rap producer Black Milk and shock-rap loose cannon Danny Brown, feels "half-finished" would be over-generous. Covering 10 tracks in a scant 22 minutes and bearing a forehead-slap obvious title that probably existed before the project did, Black and Brown is hastily assembled, thoughtlessly sequenced, and conspicuously truncated. There are two songs, back to back, titled "WTF" and "LOL". Four songs don't exceed the two-minute mark. The overwhelming impression is that the EP exists because an assistant stumbled across an "in-progress" folder of mp3s on Black Milk's desktop and leaked the results.
And yet, Black Milk is one of indie rap's best and most reliable producers, and Danny Brown, fresh off his brilliant XXX, is riding a white-hot creative streak: which means that Black and Brown is 22 hastily assembled, thoughtlessly sequenced minutes of vivid beats and incredible rapping. Black Milk's beats are boilerplate Black Milk-- post-Dilla instrumentals hitched to hard-knocking drums-- and Brown brings none of the songwriting skill or emotional range that marked XXX, with its tales of stripping hot water heaters from abandoned houses and harrowing accounts of substance abuse. It's a low-stakes affair, aiming at nothing more than head nods, but it induces some deep ones.
Brown tamps down the keening high edge in his voice, with the result that he sounds more like Pharaohe Monch than usual. Lyrically, he mostly coasts, but even on autopilot he remains absurdly quotable. "Morphine metaphors make you do the shoulder lean," he spits on "Loosie", and the line is a finely tuned mini-marvel of alliteration and craft. Few rappers are as creatively disgusting as Brown-- his missing tooth is "perfect for lickin clits," he informs a potential partner-- but even his shock raps hit their target, more often than not, through some deft bit of linguistic three-card Monte: "Used to make out with runaways in crack houses/ Now I run away from making out with brick houses," he leers on "Loosie". Got that?
Black Milk's production, meanwhile, continues his career-long argument for the power of immacuately prepared comfort food. His work gathers a lot of strength from old-fashioned flipped samples, but the sound he wrings from them is compellingly tactile, as if the samples were made of some dense-but-yielding material only he knows how to manipulate. His drums have so much character and texture they almost seem to hit twice; "Zap"'s bone-jarring backbeat lands somewhere indistinct in headphone-space, over a feebly quavering mini-choir of chipmunk-soul voices, and it sounds like you could reach out and run your fingers over it. Milk switches the beat up every one or two minutes, like impatient channel flicking, which both reinforces the beat-tape feeling of Black and Brown and handily keeps it from getting boring. The whole EP is over seemingly as soon as it begins and is the definition of a simple A+B proposition, right down to its name. But it works, and if it means there's a more considered full-length from these two on the way, even better...www.pitchfork.com