Miilkbone is a rapper from Perth Amboy, New Jersey who was one of the first popular white artists on the scene. Yes, he was around before Eminem, and you know what? He briefly beefed with him, too. I won't be discussing that, though.
Miilkbone released his debut album, Da' Miilkrate, in 1995 to critical acclaim. Full of beats from mostly unknown producers, Miilkbone's first LP gained popularity off of the strength of its two singles, "Keep It Real" (the instrumental on which Big L and Jay-Z famously freestyled over) and "Where'z Da' Party At."
Miilkbone was also fairly tight with Naughty By Nature, and for that reason, Kay Gee contributed a couple of productions to Da' Miilkrate. Nick Wiz also chipped in four beats, but other than that, the rest of the instrumentals on the album were from guys that no one ever heard from again. That's strange, too, considering many have lauded the production on this project.
Anyway, Miilkbone released one more album called U Got Miilk? in 2001, but then he fell off the face of the earth due to problems with his record label. He has since resurfaced and is attempting to make a comeback, but it's probably too little too late for the Jersey native.
Still, he was relevant in the game during the 90s, and many still bump "Keep It Real" to this day.
So, without further ado, let's review his debut record, Da' Miilkrate.
1. No Gimmicks
I find it pretty ironic how the title of this track is "No Gimmicks," and yet it's an album intro. I thought you said no gimmicks, Miilk?
The album gets off to a dark start, as Nick Wiz lays down a somber beat for Miilkbone to spit over. You can immediately tell that Miilkbone intends to be taken seriously even though he was a white rapper in an African American-dominated genre, and you know what? He comes across as very legitimate. "Ghettobiz" is pretty cliché, as its premise is how rich men will never be able to understand the, um, ghetto business, but it worked, even if it isn't necessarily true (aren't all popular rappers rich?). This was not a bad way for Miilk to introduce himself.
3. Keep It Real
This is one of the best songs of all-time. No; seriously. It is. Mufi's piano-sample-laden instrumental is a thing of beauty, and Miilkbone raps with a hunger that you rarely hear anymore. After all of these years, the sample of the piano loop that Mufi used to lace this banger is still unknown, and that little mystery makes "Keep It Real" even greater. Say what you want about Eminem, but he never came with anything as hard as this, and you are not going to change my mind.
The second of four Nick Wiz productions on Da' Miilkrate. The energy level dips a little bit here, but let's be honest; it's nearly impossible to follow a track as good as "Keep It Real." The beat is pretty solid, and Miilkbone saying how he loves no one so "fuck what Barney told ya" was pretty funny. Definitely a nice cut overall.
5. Traffic Jam
6. Move Wit' Da' Groove
Mufi is back here, and he gets co-production credits with some dude named Twig. Maybe Twig was the problem, because "Move Wit' Da' Groove" sounds like garbage compared to "Keep It Real." Actually, this record kind of has a West Coast feel, and I could have sworn that I heard that trademark G-funk synthesizer on the hook (or at least a cheap knockoff of it). Perhaps that's why Miilkbone didn't sound entirely comfortable spitting on this.
A 49-second freestyle by two guests that I couldn't care less about? Next.
8. How Ya Like It?
This Nick Wiz-laced instrumental sounds like something one of the groups from the Boot Camp Clik collective would have rapped over back in the day (albeit, this was a bit more upbeat than Da Beatminerz productions, but still), and yes; that is a good thing. Miilkbone is no Sean Price, but he sounds just fine on this. All things considered, "How Ya Like It?" is a solid cut, even if the Method Man-sampled hook is kind of cheesy.
9. Set It Off
There are three guests on this song, only two of which I have been able to identify. One goes by the name of Triplebeam, and the female MC is Kandy Kane. The third one? Who the hell knows, and I wasn't able to find it online. Anyway, this song is alright. Kay Gee is on the boards for the beat, but he doesn't put together anything extraordinary. "Set It Off" isn't bad, but I could have done without it.
10. Where'z Da Party At
There was a time when hip-hop party records were still tasteful even though they were aimed at a mainstream audience. "Where'z Da Party At" is a perfect example of one of those records. This track is freaking terrific. Kay Gee's instrumental is great, as he creates an upbeat number and seamlessly works in a Notorious B.I.G. sample, and Miilkbone demonstrates that he has a surprisingly good voice when he sings the hook. I loved everything about this cut. There were a couple of remixes of this song, but neither of them compare to the original.
11. Murder Verbs
There are 85 guests on here (okay; only four), and I was only able to identify one of them: some guy named K. Banger. Not that it matters, anyway. Mufi's production is way too repetitive (it's hard to believe this is the same guy who produced "Keep It Real," and it's becoming apparent that that Twig guy was not the problem on "Move Wit' Da' Groove"), and it's not like the beat is solid enough where its monotony isn't as detrimental. Plain and simply, "Murder Verbs" sucks.
12. Fast Cash
13. Kids On The Ave
Another stinker by Mufi. The instrumental on "Kids On The Ave" is just as off-putting as the one on "Murder Verbs," if not moreso. I found it difficult to focus on Miilkbone's verses for that reason. Da' Miilkrate is really starting to lose some momentum here.
14. Check Me Out
Mufi is on the boards again for this one, but this time, he splits production credits with Butch Whip. The result is considerably better than "Murder Verbs" and "Kids On The Ave," but it's not like that's some kind of incredible feat. The production here isn't any less repetitious, but at least the beat in and of itself is superior. I actually really liked the hook on "Check Me Out," too, regardless of how simplistic it was. This was definitely a step back in the right direction.
15. Bamma Fam
The team of Mufi and Butch Whip strikes again on "Ketchrek," and they lay down another winner for Miilkbone. Again, the instrumental lacks any sort of variety, but it's still pretty solid regardless (I just wish they would have used stronger drums). Sorry though, Miilk; when I see the title of this cut, I think of "Ketchup" before I think of it as a different, more gangsta (I guess?) way of spelling "catch wreck."
17. It Ain't The Same
A producer who goes by the moniker of Steve White (maybe that's his actual government name? Who knows) laces this track, and while he doesn't exactly craft a banger, his beat comes off well enough. Miilkbone sounds comfortable, too, and that's important. This was okay overall (I found the chorus particularly enjoyable), and the fact that it is the longest song on Da' Miilkrate doesn't irk me all that much.
18. 2 All Y'all
This is one of those half song/half outro deals. Mufi utilizes a Confunkshun sample that he doesn't really do much with, and Miilkbone raps for about a minute, goes into shoutout mode and then starts spitting again before an unidentified guest basically tells him to shut up. I appreciate the effort, but "2 All Y'all" wasn't anything better than average.
19. Keep It Real (Remix)
Under normal circumstances, I would say that it would be a crime to remix a song as good as "Keep It Real," but this Nick Wiz remix was really freaking good. This wasn't just a different instrumental, either. Miilkbone spits completely different lyrics, and in terms of his performance on the mic, he actually outdoes himself. That's why this record is another one of my all-time favorites, and this gives the original a serious run for its money.
Da' Miilkrate was an effective--if not fairly inconsistent--debut from a rapper who had promise. Miilkbone is definitely a good MC, and he displays that thoroughly throughout his first album. The best songs on here are freaking awesome, and Miilk manages to make some of the more lackluster beats come to life with his prowess on the mic.
It really is a damn shame that Miilkbone had so many issues with record labels. I fully believe that he could have secured instrumentals some high-profile producers had he released his second album earlier, and the result probably would have been satisfactory.
Miilkbone is just another one of the many examples of rappers whose careers never took off like they should have. He certainly had talent and charisma, and he knew how to flow over almost any type of production. Also, based on the fact that Nas and Sticky Fingaz made cameos in the "Where'z Da Party At?" music video, he must have had the respect of some of the better rappers out there, too (which makes me question his choice of guest artists on Da' Miilkrate; I guess he just wanted to bring some of his friends along for the ride).
The main gripe I have about Da' Miilkrate is the drums. They were on point some of the time (particularly on "Keep It Real" and its remix), but otherwise, they felt too computerized, mainly in the case of Mufi's beats. Drums weren't supposed to sound that way in the 90s.
Anyway, taking everything into account, this was a solid debut from Miilkbone. Again, a few of the songs on here are just phenomenal, and those make up for the missteps.
If you're a fan of the 90s golden era, you should probably give Da' Miilkrate a spin. It'll likely be worth your while.
1. Keep It Real
2. Keep It Real (Remix)
3. Where'z Da Party At?
4. Check Me Out