Slum Village has always been a band in flux. From their earliest days the Detroit group founded by members T3, Baatin and Jay Dee (Dilla) colored outside of the lines, almost always amidst extenuating circumstances. Their “debut” in music is a moving target, with the official 1996 release Fantastic Vol. 1, not surfacing legally until 2005. And by the time their follow-up Fantastic Vol. 2 came out in 2000, they were simultaneously releasing music under the alias J-88. Membership was equally unstable with producer/DJ Jay Dee leaving the group in 2002 to pursue a solo career and Baatin leaving after their third release Trinity, amidst internal strife and health reasons. Sadly, Dilla passed away in 2006 and Baatin passed away in 2009, shortly after reuniting with the group for their sixth album Villa Manifesto in 2008. This has left remaining founder T3 to carry the torch, which he has done throughout the years with the help of extended family like Elzhi, Young RJ and Dilla’s brother Illa J.
In 2014 they are moving forward with a new album lead by the single and video “E(I)GO” (Every Day I Go Hard) which finds them both reintroducing themselves to new fans and dragging some of the old ones kicking and screaming into the future.
“The science behind that is I feel like people are sleeping on the new Slum,” T3 tells watchLOUD.com of “E(I)GO” during a meet and greet at Dilla Day Weekend in Miami. “I know they get the old Slum, but I feel we’re still very relevant as a group. It’s not taking shots at nobody in particular, just me saying that the evolution of Slum is dope as well as the foundation of Slum.”
YES, the follow-up to 2013’s Evolution album, is coming this spring, along with a Dirty Slums 3, plus two solo projects from both T3 and Young RJ. YES will feature unreleased Dilla verses and beats, as well as guest appearances from De La Soul, Bilal, BJ The Chicago Kid, Illa J, Jon Connor and Phife of A Tribe Called Quest.
The two men also took a moment to address criticism that they should not be recording or performing as Slum Village because J-Dilla and Baatin have passed away.
“Thank you for asking that question,” says T3. “First of all, I am a founding member of Slum Village, from beginning to end. Also, they don’t know the history of RJ. He was there at the beginning of Slum Village. When he was 15 he produced on his first Slum Village project, which was Trinity. So he’s as much a part of Slum as I am. He’s always been in there. We were signed to his dad’s label back in the day. We was always a family. Not only that, Dilla showed him how to make beats, me to make beats. So it’s not like I took a random Joe Schmoe and put him in Slum Village.”
RJ is less diplomatic in his response to those who may question his presence in the group.
“We ain’t doing this for y’all. At the end of the day we doin this for Dilla and Baatin. [Their] families,” RJ says in his defense. “Everybody eatin’ off this shit we doin for Slum Village, it ain’t just us. So either you want to support the legacy, you fuck with Slum Village, or you don’t. If you don’t, then you wasn’t a true fan from the giddy up, because Dilla wasn’t there all the time in the beginning. Baatin wasn’t there all the time. So it ain’t no different! Motherf*ckers come and go. It’s a magic trick. As long as the music is dope then ride with it.”
Catch Slum Village out on tour with Pete Rock. CLICK HERE for dates and to purchase tickets.