Remember Hip Hop and Neo Soul in the late 90s and early 2000s? It was the perfect antidote to the overly jiggy, commercialised path rap was taking in the mainstream. The established trend setters like The Roots & De La Soul were still very much doing their thing, while the underground scene was starting to produce the next wave of artists such as Erykah Badu, Common, Mos Def…. and Slum Village.
The Detroit natives had been busy for a minute in the D’s underground scene, regularly performing alongside the then unknown Eminem. Legendary producer J Dilla (aka Jay Dee, aka Dilla Dawg) had been honing his skills and was quickly becoming a very in demand beat maker. Slum Village’s original trio of members (Dilla, Baatin, T3) recorded all the SV demos in Dilla’s home studio (later to be reissued as Fan-Tas-Tic vol 1).
This first release quickly caught the attention of a select few heads including Q-Tip, who announced Slum Village to be “the next A Tribe Called Quest”. Dilla was quickly inducted into Q-Tips production crew, the Ummah. Slum Village toured with ATCQ as Tribe was saying farewell (for the first time).
Slum Village’s major label debut Fantastic Volume 2 was released 15 years ago, and caught the attention of damn near everybody. It’s soundscape was created entirely by J Dilla, who now as a very prolific producer, was saving his best beats for SV. And it showed. Fantastic featured soul claps, subtle sampled grooves and smooth basslines, with three fresh voices that flowed freely into each other. Somehow managing to create both a fun and street feel at the same time, it has aged very well.
You can still play the “Fall In Love” remix in clubs and have people ask you what that new joint is. Trust me.
Other SV albums have perhaps not been as cohesive as a whole product, but they have always had memorable moments. Second album Trinity, the first to feature Elzhi, was perhaps more experimental and less straight up soulful. They were still funky as heard on the albums single Tainted but could go deeper as heard on Insane. At this point Baatin’s struggles with schizophrenia had become an issue, and he left the group, or was kicked out, this has never been made fully clear. OG fans breathed a sigh of relief when he rejoined in the studio in 2008.
Slum Village had their biggest commercial single Selfish produced by and featuring Kanye West, and the silky vocals of John Legend, in 2008. At this time some of the original fans of the group made the standard accusations of SV being a group who was “selling out” or even worse, trying to benefit off a group name that was no longer paying respect to the original line up and their material.
One listen to Detroit Deli, the album which spawned that single, easily put those accusations to rest. This was the last album from Slum Village that would feature J Dilla while he was alive, on Reunion, a track which had verses from Dilla, T3 and Elzhi, was due to feature Baatin as well but unfortunately wasn’t able to happen.
The world lost a musical genius when J Dilla passed away in 2006. Slum Village lost another brother when Baatin passed in 2009. While a few other talented members spent time under the Villa banner, T3 has kept the Slum Village Movement legacy strong throughout. T3 and producer Young RJ have been working together since 2001 and now currently represent Slum Village . Young RJ, once assisted on production by J Dilla, has managed to skilfully continue and expand upon the soulful and funky SV Sound.
In 2015 Yes was released to a solid reception and added some more positivity to the SV legacy. Love from fans and respect from industry heavyweights has made it possible for Slum Village to build such a legacy, to justice to their original impact, and continue to push their Movement worldwide.
Slum Village are about to take a Summer Vacation down under. They’ll even be blessing the massive with a few shows while they hit Australia (and NZ) for the second time in their career. Catch them in New Zealand on New Years Eve at the huge Northern Bass Festival, or start off 2016 with Slum Village at Let Them Eat Cake Festival in Melbourne on the 1st and in Sydney on the 2nd at the Basement with support from Conkarah (Jamaica) and Australia’s own Briggs!
So if you’re after some bouncy soul and head nod beats, just say “Yes, Yes”
Words for OzHipHop.Com by Messy
New Zealand – 31st December Northern Bass Festival
Melbourne – 1st January Let Them Eat Cake Festival
Sydney – 2nd January The Basement