"Welcome to the D, Baby! It’s All Live Down Here!" ©James "J Dilla" Yancey

4 Mar

As you may or may not know, I’m a Michigander – born and raised in Saginaw, and located at Michigan State University, now. New York may be where it all started at, and hip-hop may live in the south, but Detroit isn’t just known for its automobile industry and pothole-ridden roads. I’m not worried at all: with Trick Trick and producer Nick Speed signing to G-Unit (Trick Trick as an artist, Nick Speed with a production deal), Tone Tone inking with Jazze Pha’s Sho’Nuff Records, Royce Da 5’9″ working on an album with DJ Premier (and a precluding mixtape with Statik Selektah), OneBeLo on the brink of releasing some classic material, and Slum Village’s Elzhi working on an LP with the legendary Pete Rock (along with another SV album), whoever doesn’t know what’s up is sure to get familiar, very soon. But in the meantime, I thought I’d put y’all on to a few joints that I’ve been bumpin’ as of late.

Black Milk, Popular Demand

With his exceptional versatility to lace both trunk rattlers and soulful gems, combined with rhymes that snugly fit his beats, many have dubbed Black Milk as the heir apparent to late legend J Dilla. And as hyperbolic as comparisons like this usually are, they may have a point this time. After all, he and fellow Detroit producer Young RJ, as the duo BR Gunna, took Dilla’s place as Slum Village’s producer after Dilla left the group to pursue solo endeavors. Since then, Black has come into his own, releasing the well-received Sound of the City: Vol. 1 mixtape and the Broken Wax EP before the March 13 (cleverly playing on Detroit’s 313 area code) release of his Fat Beats debut album, Popular Demand. With its signature Detroit sound and guest spots from city staples like Phat Kat, Guilty Simpson and Slum Vill themselves, Black Milk really is “putting the D on his back, like a shirt that (he) bought.”
Links: Pressure, a Fat Beats-released mixtape that plays like a Black Milk resume, made up of already-released highlights and new music … YouTube video of “Sound The Alarm,” Popular Demand’s first single, feat. Guilty Simpson … mp3 of the album’s “Say Something” … stream of “So Gone” (props to Audible Treats for the last three links)

King Gordy, Van Dyke & Harper
With the love given to trap stars like Clipse, T.I. and Jeezy, it’s only right that King Gordy abandons his morbid, horrorcore steez for the street-savvy crack tales from his upbringing on East Side Detroit. Saginaw, Mich. MC/beatsmith Astray handles all of the production duties, contributing equally gutter soundscapes to back Gordy’s nimble flow. With a few clubby tracks thrown in for good measure and his twisted humor still in tact, Van Dyke & Harper features a proactive Gordy adding enough without subtracting too much. (I’ll add release information/links whenever I get more info.)
J Dilla, Ruff Draft
Just in case last year’s Donuts and The Shining weren’t enough, Stones Throw looks to further cement J Dilla’s legacy by re-releasing his hard-to-find 2003 album, Ruff Draft, in a two-disc set with instrumentals to top it off. Abandoning the laid-back grooves he was known for at the time, this release precludes his Stones Throw tenure with his obscure sampling and schizophrenic synthesizers, with solid rhymes to match. While it doesn’t hold a light to Welcome 2 Detroit and The Shining, it’s definitely better than the disappointing Jay Love Japan import that Dilla heads may have gotten a hold of last year, and it still bangs four years after its initial conception.
Phat Kat, Carte Blanche
With the follow-up to his 2003 debut The Undeniable LP, Phat Kat makes himself a serious candidate for Detroit’s Most Improved MC. Soundscapes from Detroit heavy hitters like Dilla, Black Milk, Young RJ, and Nick Speed were to be expected, but Ronnie Cash has stepped up his rhyme skills considerably. While he isn’t rapping about anything new, the J Dilla cohort has added to his no-nonsense flow with an increased bar-to-bar potency, alternating between tried-and-true braggadocio, game-spitting and sparse storytelling/conceptual gems to make his verses live up to the top-notch production. Dilla Dawg would be proud. (Album released on April 24, myspace.com/phatkatakaronniecash)

3 Responses to “"Welcome to the D, Baby! It’s All Live Down Here!" ©James "J Dilla" Yancey”

  1. Trent March 25, 2007 at 12:38 pm #

    First, this is an excellent overview of the Detroit hip-hop scene and the artists who are continuing to showcase their talent in the absence of the late and great J.Dilla.

    You mentioned quite a few artists here, but I was wondering why you didn’t include Ta’Raach (aka Lacks)?

    Unfortunately, I don’t like his new disc, The Fevers. I went on iTunes and downloaded only two tracks. But I love his previous collection, Re: Lacks, Vol. 1 (Instrumentals).

    Nevertheless, I think Ta’Raach is a dope producer and another noteworthy contributor to the Detroit hip-hop scene.

    Oh, and check out Joey’s well-written review of Black Milk‘s Popular Demand LP.

    Keep up the excellent work both in print and on your blog.

  2. Graham April 15, 2007 at 2:11 am #

    hey Ketchums, thanks for this, been travelling for a minute so I missed this post initially. somehow (the toronto connection?) i’ve always felt connected to the detroit scene maybe in spirit.

    could you reup the black milk mixtape for me?

  3. Jay June 7, 2008 at 12:24 am #

    Fo sho, Great Blog!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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