In the autumn of 2013, ahead of my research trip to Detroit, I spoke with local producer Curtis Cross aka Black Milk, who had recently relocated to Austin. After speaking to Houseshoes a few months before while in LA, I was hoping that Cross’ insights might help me further map out Detroit’s underground and the people and places I should hit up while in town.
For many Cross was a potential successor to Jay Dee’s legacy in the wake of his passing in 2006. Coming up as one of the producers for Slum Village following Jay’s departure from the group, Cross has been one of the most versatile beat makers in underground hip hop for the past decade. An MC/producer, in the vein of El-P and Pete Rock, he’s begun to refocus towards instrumental work only in recent years.
I published extracts from the interview I conducted for the book via Boiler Room’s new editorial platform this week. It touches on Cross’ roots in Detroit, the city’s legacy, the influence of techno and the early Slum Village days as well as his take on beat tapes and the rise of the producer as an artist.
That’s what makes Detroit style of production a little more progressive. When it comes to music nobody really discriminates against one sound or one genre, we like all that shit. The rock, the jazz, the electronic, the hip hop. There’s not one sound with us. And you can hear it in the music. I think that’s why most producers from Detroit, you’ve heard all of us touch on electronic music, on soul, on weird, leftfield avant-garde shit. In other regions there was always sort of a one sound but Detroit has done it all.
You see people like… Kanye’s thing, him working with Daft Punk, a lot of people in the mainstream who don’t know what’s up thought that was a big deal, but it’s like… cats were sampling Daft Punk records in 1999, 2000! Slum Village’s “Raise It Up” is a Daft Punk sample! Stereolab too. We was on that a long time ago. That’s the kinda place Detroit is. Not saying you can’t do it now, I’m just saying that Detroit is this kind of city. What we incorporate in our style of production really has no limits.