Black Milk Came Straight out of Detroit City Ready to Rock Sydney

Thanks to touring company Rulial, The 5 to 9 Life team were absolutely ecstatic to catch one of our favourite artists – American artist BLACK MILK – live at Sydney’s Oxford Art Factory last week.

BLACK MILK (real name Curtis Eugene Cross) is a man of many hats – a rapper, songwriter and record producer. Born and raised in Michigan’s most populous city, Detroit; anyone who loves music knows the major impact that Detroit has had and continues to have on the music world.

Detroit’s diverse culture is known for having both a local and international influence in music, with the city giving rise to the genres of Motown and techno, playing an important role in the development of jazz, hip-hop, rock, and punk music. These various genres have clearly contributed to BLACK MILK’s music, using hip-hop, electronic and soul across his catalogue.

I still remember the first time I heard BLACK MILK‘s music. In 2012, my co-worker had just found out I was listening to fellow Detroit-based artist, Danny Brown, and his exact words were “You really need to listen to “Black and Brown!” It’s a collaboration between BLACK MILK and Danny Brown. It will change your life.” I told him I’d listen to it after work but he insisted that I listen to it immediately.

After listening to the track ‘Zap,’ I realised that he wasn’t wrong. It did change my life. It’s been six years since I first listened to that album and I still listen to it religiously every week.

That’s the beauty of music. I’ve never been to Detroit but listening to this music makes me like I’ve been there all my life. One of my favourite lyrics of the album that reflects on the struggle of this city is in the track ‘Wake Up’: “Trying to make it in the city where ninety percent fail.”

But back to the show. This was BLACK MILK’s second Australian tour – his debut tour was in November 2016. I missed out on his debut tour so when I saw the opportunity to see him open for OMAR vs MARK DE CLIVE-LOWE, I was very excited.

It’s no secret that the Oxford Art Factory is one of The 5 to 9 Life‘s favourite venues. Perfect for intimate concert settings and for getting amongst it, it was brilliant for BLACK MILK’s performance.

Introducing himself as “Straight out of Detroit City, ready to rock the joint,” it’s exactly what he did.

His performance showcased an array of his beats and raps weaved between new tracks from his sixth studio album, “Fever” (soon to be released on 23rd February 2018 via Mass Appeal Records), along with some of his more popular productions like ‘Really Doe’ by Danny Brown featuring Kendrick Lamar, Ab-Soul and Earl Sweatshirt.

The crowd’s energy started off gently but then increased progressively throughout the set, as everyone was happily joining along with BLACK MILK’s charismatic stage presence.

I was beside myself when he dropped the late and great J Dilla’s ‘Workinonit’, another talented artist straight from his home city of Detroit. His pride in his home city was evident when he told us “I’m going to take you straight to Detroit,” and preceded to play his track ‘Detroit’s New Dance Show,’ which excited the crowd and made everyone happily dance along. Another highlight was when he dropped ‘Gut Synth (Instrumental), into his set which was a special edition (silver vinyl) reissue of his 2008 record, “Tronic”.

BLACK MILK‘s set was incredibly energetic and left the Sydney crowd wanting more. It’s too bad he was just the opening act because I’m sure he would have extended his set if there was more time.

A pretty special moment came after the show when I was lucky enough to chop it up with the man himself backstage, which gave me the opportunity to tell him my anecdote of how I was first introduced to his music, how much “Black and Brown!” means to me and how it’s one of my favourite albums of all time!

Exceeding my expectations, this will be a night I won’t be forgetting anytime soon. 🙂

15 January 2018
Oxford Art Factory, Sydney

*Words and photography by Talica Tamanitoakula