Born and raised in Detroit on the sounds of A Tribe Called Quest and De La Soul, Curtis Cross found out at an early age that he had a talent for hip-hop, especially for beats. He spent hours in his basement -- at first with just a cheap drum machine and a home karaoke system, eventually moving up to more sophisticated MPCs and samplers -- making tapes. One of these tapes got into the hands of fellow Detroiters Slum Village, who were impressed by what they heard and invited Cross to produce a track on their 2002 mixtape Dirty District, as well as on their official full-length Trinity (Past, Present and Future). After that, Cross, who was going as Black Milk, teamed up with producer RJ Rice, Jr. (or Young RJ) as the group B.R. Gunna, rhyming and making beats on the duo's 2004 release Dirty District, Vol. 2. That same year, Slum Village, who were looking for production work because usual beatmakers Waajeed and Kareem Riggins were busy with other projects, hired B.R. Gunna for 11 of the 13 tracks on their Detroit Deli LP.