"And the story goes, never how the story's told." The first line off of Black Milk's No Poison No Paradise adequately describes the tone of the entire album. On this his fifth studio album, the talented Detroit producer and emcee, who has worked with Slum Village and several other illustrious emcees and producers, gives a straightforward dissertation on life and specifically the hurdles it provides and gives it over a new flavor of production which deviates a bit from his past style of uniformly structured beats. This is Black Milk's most emotionally charged album to date as he raps his observations of ghetto life with conviction in his voice, seamlessly riding the beats of these original productions with fresh rhymes of fine, storybook quality. It is an unforgettable journey that will have a profound effect on everyone who listens to it.
Sacrifice, hard work, disappointment, rejection, loss, regret... These are just some of the themes Black Milk ponders on the album, and he gives concrete examples to expound on them. In "Codes And Cab Fare," he shows how the pressure of work can pull families apart, and in "Deion's House," he illustrates how we can sometimes have a bad influence on those who most inspire us. Other times, Black Milk recounts his childhood antics and the ghetto environment where he was raised, detailing the crime, the chase for success, and the personalities who shaped his mind frame. He address on "Sunday's Best" how his grueling church going experience as a kid created his disdain for the practice and how he eventually had a falling out with the tiresome ritual. No personal project for Black Milk would be complete without hitting upon his love life which he does on "Parallel," an ode to fast, fleeting love and the addiction for it and "X Chords," a groovy, nearly-instrumental track with smooth playalistic ad libs. Finally, he rounds out No Poison with "Black Sabbath," a call to action song, and "Money Bags," a song about the strange power that our form of currency has on us.
Of course, Black Milk's stories would not have the force they have if not for his ravishing productions. Some of these beats are eerily soulful and giddy and include spontaneous, sporadic loop changes while others are of the grounded, classic Black Milk sound with more recognizable instruments instead of electronic breaks. This mixed bag of sounds ensures everyone will find something they like on No Poison, no matter their preference. The two instrumental-geared tracks, "Sonny Jr. (Dreams)" and "X Chords," prove that Milk is completely confident on the mixing boards with a lesser role in the recording booth. They mesmerize, entrance and command attention to the music.
The beats and lyrics of No Poison No Paradise are equally strong. Add to that the messages and anecdotes and a classic occurs for which all the best pieces fall in place just right. The album paints a bleak picture at points with the content, but the beauty of life in these truths is utterly awesome and triggers a rush as the music hits the ears. Through this pain the pleasure works, and as Black Milk himself might say, "If there's no poison, there's no paradise."