Slum Village is not a group you can assess purely by its present output. The SV legacy is forever intertwined in the losses of legendary producer J Dilla, original member Baatin and the departure of its best lyricist, Elzhi.
This is the second album in which T3 and Young RJ handle all of the mic work. J Dilla’s younger brother, Illa J, remains as a behind-the-scenes influence.
The sound here is drenched in the soulful samples and crisp drums that J Dilla was known for. The blueprint is clearly reminiscent of Slum Village’s best album, Fantastic Vol. 2.
It was a wise decision to tastefully excavate some choice beats from the Dilla vault (Dilla is listed as a primary or co-producer on nine of the 12 offerings). We can assume that many of these Dilla compositions were altered in sketch form and re-worked or modified.
Some vintage Dilla/Baatin vocals were resurrected on the “Yes Yes (Remix)” and ‘Tin is mimicked to perfection by Young RJ on a couple other cuts.
Without Elzhi in the mix, the lyrical content remains concise. The features give the album some gravitas especially Posdnuos on “Right Back,” Bilal on “Fantastic/Love Is” and Phife Dawg on “Push It Along.”
Slum Village were always billed as the Detroit manifestation of the Native Tongues, so it’s only right to preserve that rubric in full force.
Fellow Michigan native Jon Connor rips it on “Tear It Down” and the Motown love stays strong throughout the remainder of the LP. Your lady can get down to “Expressive” even as an interpolation of “Tom’s Diner” fades from the mix.
Slum Vill was ultimately always about that feel good hip-hop—an in-depth survey of Dilla’s/SV’s catalog will reveal this readily.
There’s enough instant gratification and slow burn here to satisfy various camps. Nothing will ever top Fantastic Vol. 2, but this album serves as a proper homage to the vibe James Yancey left behind (long before you thought to cop that J Dilla Changed My Life T-shirt).
T3, the last original member of the group, laments Slum Village’s actual history on “Right Back”: “Yes I lost some members and I miss ’em.”
We miss them too, but this album helps to fill that void.
Rating: 84 out of 100