Detroit: the post industrial, rough-edged, musical talent-filled city in the North of the U.S.A. A place where cars are made and apparently stolen quite a lot. In many ways it shares quite a lot with my adopted city of Manchester. It doesn’t have the best weather in the country, its inner-city streets are awash with crime and many a fine musician has come out of it since the 1960s.
If the American city closest to my home-town of London in terms of reputation is New York, then the American city closest to the one I live in as a student at the moment may be Detroit. A bustling city centre with, as I’ve said, some rough edges.
The coming together, then, of one of the city’s most famous, talented and interesting musical characters of the last 15 years (Jack White) and one of its prodigies-in-waiting (rapper Black Milk) is an unexpected one. Nonetheless, the two songs the pair have recorded together are fantastic.
Brain and Royal Mega, the songs in question, are what I will term ‘grown-up hip-hop’. No disrespect to the genre is intended by this at all, it’s just that as of recent, much of the hip-hop available in the mainstream has been, well, juvenile. Other than some fine releases from Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All, that have pushed the boundaries of political correctness and taste in a sophisticated, smart manner a la the Eminem of ’99 – ’03, and material released by a couple of the heavyweights of the game such as Jay-Z and Kanye West, a lot of it has been crap.
Jack White, at the controls at his Nashville studio, however, and Black Milk and his Mos-Def-esque flow and wordplay have managed to push the genre into a place it might never have been before, or ever come back from if they’re a hit.
I cannot rave enough about the quality of the music and the rapping at play in these two songs and urge anybody who reads this to check this stuff out.