Having spent a lot of time in Detroit, Michigan in past years I was lucky enough to be exposed to the cream of the crop of hip-hop artists. With a rich musical legacy boasting J Dilla, Slum Village, Phat Kat, Guilty Simpson, and most notably Eminem, I knew I had to clear my calendar to check out another great, Black Milk. Alongside his band Nat Turner, the night boasted a stacked lineup of HANiF, Blues Brovas 9000, MAHD, & Skyzoo that had the place rocking until late night.
Starting things off, Portland native, now NYC resident HANiF took the stage and despite fasting for Ramadan, he managed to muster up a ton of energy to get the crowd amped up. Urging the growing crowd to take 3 steps forward, he fed off everyone’s energy and gave a ton back, even jumping off the stage directly into the crowd for even more interaction and managed to make his short 20 minute set feel like a 30 minute one. His flow reminds me a lot of the 90’s hip hop that I grew up on and still love today, especially on his track “Feels So Good.” Looking forward to hearing more from him in the future.
Next up were Blues Brovas 9000, and just like the name suggests, they came out dressed in tuxedo t-shirts and dark sunglasses like the legendary John Belushi and Dan Ackroyd did all those years ago. Unlike the original Blues Brothers, this new duo is straight up hip-hop. These Washington Heights natives, A.R.P. and RAZE, are the definition of cool and had the songs to match. The feel-good vibes engulfed the room and the two hopped offstage to toss sunglasses to the crowd, give high-fives and rap into the faces of their fans during their song, “Blues Brovas.”
MAHD, another Detroit native was up next and he really delivered. His excitement and energy were on another level as he tore through tracks from his album, XIII. Strong production and originality in his lyrics made me an instant fan of his and I wouldn’t hesitate to see him perform again.
Fresh off the release of his latest album, Music For My Friends, that was dubbed instant classic by many, Brooklyn native Skyzoo took the stage and reminded everyone why he is one of the most consistent and criminally underrated hip-hop artists around. Skyzoo is a consummate lyricist, without question. His intelligent lyrics paint vivid pictures of his life and experiences, backed by pristine production. His set was without a doubt one of my favorites of the night.
Finally, Black Milk and his band Nat Turner proved good things come to those who wait. It’s been about two years since I last saw him perform and he just gets better and better. There’s not many people who start out producing records for other people and go on to be one of the most lauded hip-hop artists in the game, but Black Milk has done that exceptionally well. Adding another layer of excellence, the live instrumentation sets Black’s show apart from the rest. Black does have the signature sleepy Detroit drawl that I’ve come to know and love, but when he raps, it’s often times at light speed. Ripping through backlog of career spanning hits from his albums Tronic, Album of the Year, No Poison, No Paradise, and If There’s A Hell Below, Black gave the crowd exactly what they wanted and more. His band, Nat Turner was so tight, they needed zero direction on when to stop and when to go. Most people only think of The Roots when thinking of excellent examples of hip-hop with live instrumentation, but now I have two frames of reference to go by.
Webster Hall proved to be a nice reintroduction for me to the kind of hip-hop I’ve grown to love, but I have no doubt that a bigger venue would be needed the next time Black Milk rolls into town.
Article: Lesley Keller