I don't think the music buying public saw a middle ground for Black Milk (born Curtis Cross), at first. He emerged out of Detroit following Dilla's death, and Dilla's influence loomed heavy at first. His first three records showed off his beat making abilities well. At first, very "Detroit," Tronic gave us glimpses of something a little different. I will never forget the first time I heard "Try," and thought that there was more there. By the time Album of the Year surfaced, there was improvement. Not only were the songs crafted differently, but he was a better MC. I caught a video of Black Milk and his band (christened appropriately as Nat Turner), I could see the future, and it was going to be good. He was improvisational and jazzy.
In the years since Album of the Year, Cross has established himself as one of the hardest working and most committed artists in music. Crafting moody, interesting concept albums that are distinctly his own, while invoking a Detroit sensibility.
There's a benefit to being independent as fuck, and one of those benefits is that you can just do shit. His new record The Rebellion Sessions is a jazz record, and a really solid one. This is the first time Nat Turner gets full billing, and it's clear that they worked as a unit to bring this one together.
If The Rebellion Sessions is any indication, Curtis Cross has a lot more in store for us as Black Milk.