Technically, Black Milk's home is in Wixom. But if you factor out sleep, the prolific hip-hop producer and emcee practically lives in Tommy Hoffman's Studio 1 in Livonia. About a stone's throw from the roar of I-96, tucked in a nondescript cinderblock industrial park, Milk's beat lab strikes a perfect balance between functionality and comfort.
On the work side, there's a big live room for getting huge drum sounds, two smaller rooms for vocals and other instruments, and a control room housing a huge mixing desk with a wall-mounted HDTV for a computer monitor. On the comfort side, there's an IKEA-style living room to chill in with a soda machine that happily also dispenses beer. (They don't have that at IKEA yet.)
Based on how many great records Black Milk has released in just the last couple years, it would be fair to guess he doesn't hang out in the living room much. He released Popular Demand (2007), the mixtape Caltroit (2008), his collaboration with Fat Ray (The Set Up), his own album (Tronic), and handled most of the production on Elzhi's The Preface. This year, he laid down a new album (set for release this winter) with his own hip-hop supergroup Random Axe, consisting of himself, Guilty Simpson and Sean Price.
So, of course, Black Milk is already onto his next project, a hip hop-infused soul record with Detroit's own soul goddess-in-waiting Melanie Rutherford. Think of Lauryn Hill and Mary J. Blige meeting Detroit hip hop and soul and you get the picture. Based on the three tracks they've laid down so far, it's going to be amazing. Melanie's voice is to die for.
"We're trying to build a new version of Motown," Black Milk says. "A spot for live and hip-hop music. It feels good; I finally got a place outside of the crib where I can just come and work all day or all night." At the rate he works, his first box set can't be far off.
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