Given that MilkDrop is a member of the local Soul Providers Crew, it comes as no surprise that the production on his latest effort, Rise Before the Fall, is soulful. But as a reminder that hip-hop can be as much an extension of Marvin Gaye and Billie Holiday as it is a cocksure, new-school stab at old-school suburban sensibility, Rise can be unexpectedly fresh. Milk dedicates most of the 11 tracks to mature, if recycled, topics. In "Dirty Laundry," he airs out grievances with the city's fractured hip-hop scene (We're sitting in hometowns/Say you the best in your city/But your city has no crowns). On "Be," he refuses to sell out to mainstream success (Fuck the money/I just want to say what I feel). "Perfect Marriage," the most well-conceived track on Rise, finds Milk seeking post-breakup solace in his music. Divorced from my girl, he tells listeners, but remarried to the music/No trust issues/I simply channel the words/I write my soul on the pages/She handles the verse. Milk revels in taking his audience to dark, self-exposed places. Yet he fails to provide even a briefly playful or humorous respite. While sometimes successful, the result reaches a saccharine pitch by the end. I know it sounds like I'm preaching, he says on "Shed a Tear." Indeed, many times, he is.