Black Milk and Nat Turner have more than proved their worth both as a must see act for anyone who loves hip-hop and rap
Seeing hip hop played by an entire live band is an extremely rare treat. Seeing that band fronted by a musical veteran, who is still making incredibly good music is an even rarer treat. Black Milk has been around the block; his eclectic mix of jazz, old school hip hop with hints of Detroit Techno have won him an international following and an extremely expansive career. His music embodies everything that is wonderful about hip-hop as versatile genre; the beats are hard hitting and punchy and have a rhythm and groove that is absolutely inescapable. Black Milk’s performance at London’s Brooklyn Bowl acted as a wonderful journey through is his entire, expansive career.
Brooklyn Bowl is a large, South London venue with a dark, saloon-like interior. The building includes a fully equipped bowling alley, a restaurant and two bars, as well as an expansive stage and an ample dance floor. Its interior is pretty much a differently positioned copy of its original sister venue in Brooklyn, New York, which also features an ample amount of hip-hop, funk and rap acts and its bill. At the moment, Brooklyn Bowl is hosting a Legends of Hip Hop series, which includes names like Grandmaster Flash and EPMD. Clearly, Black Milk fitted into the billing nicely, and even though the turnout was small, the room was filled with loyal fans, intent on getting an ear full of Black Milk’s talent.
Having no support act, Black Milk was to kick the whole evening off with style and charisma, as his band Nat Turner walked out onto the stage. Black Milk’s most recent album ‘The Rebellion Sessions’ was a collaborative project with Nat Turner and gave out a Tribe Called Quest meets Soulection kind of sound, which was reflected in the keys, drums, bass and controller based set up that accompanied Black Milk’s vocals.
As our MC for the evening bounded out onto the stage, the room filled up with kick-drums, funky keys and some seriously impressive rapping. Nat Turner are an amazingly talented band in their own right and their playing was actually extremely moving. Seeing a stage full of musicians with such a strong rapport is always an incredible thing to experience, and this mutual love of their music fed into the funky bass lines and groove that Black Milk conducted. Playing everything from electronically influenced ‘Tronic’ to the slow and grooving ‘Like Hell Bellow’ Black Milk took a enraptured audience through a few of the albums from his expansive career. Nat Turner spent a lot of time jamming with amazing tightness and skill, and they looked like they could have carried on until the next morning if left to themselves.
Their grooving rhythms were enough to inspire awe, and were life affirming in their richness and warmth. Truly, it was enough to bring a tear to an eye to any fans who believe hip-hop as a musical art form. At one point, a joyful audience began shouting out requests, all of which Nat Turner played with ease. Black Milk often acted more as an MC than a rapper, letting his band to jam out, taking a backseat with his own right vocals. A highlight was the movingly slow, synth heavy ‘Like I Need It’ which really enabled Black Milk to flex his vocal chords. Toward the end of the set, an unexpected tribute to the late, great Prince included a mass-up of ‘When Doves Cry’ and ‘Purple Rain.’ The versatility of the band was amazing to see, and it really took the set above and beyond a DJ set.
As a very sweaty Black Milk bounded off the stage, Nat Turner played him out with an energy that filled up Brooklyn Bowl. Truly, you couldn’t hope for better in a gig. The truest love of their music reflected throughout the whole room, and the venue was filled with a kind of musical warmness from start to finish. Black Milk and Nat Turner have more than proved their worth both as a must see act for anyone who loves hip-hop and rap, and a hugely talented live act which breaks bounds of genre conventions.
This Black Milk review was written by Zoe Anderson, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by Natalie Whitehouse