Slum Village: Initially Fantastic

Slum Village: Initially Fantastic

If not for J-Dilla splitting from the Detroit based ensemble Slum Village, the group might today be as highly thought of as its first producer. Of course, the death of not just Dilla, but Baatin probably wound up bringing the group more attention than it would have otherwise garnered, but it’s a bummer.

Touring throughout 1999/2000 alongside Common and his ilk, Slum Village appeared poised to attain alt.rap stardom in a way Mos Def and Talib Kweli had at just about the same point in time. Figuring out why the group never hit it truly huge is at once difficult and almost self explanatory.

Hearing Fan-tas-tic, Volume 1 listeners should be able to discern a solid East Coast influence. In its title track, broken up into four disparately placed, short interludes, there’s a huge soul influence, unsurprising given the group’s hometown. But it’s Dilla’s production that allows such a simple combination of keys and digital drums to make such a tremendous composition.

Both emcees are in decent form here, bolstered by the productions. Granted, there’s as much here about girls and gettin’ over as anything else, but set in such a musical climate, it’s sometimes easy to forget. The disconnect between verbiage and production suits just about everyone involved, including Phat Kat, who shows up for a minute on a track combining something that sounds like the Roots with a bit of Badu moaning. With such a successful debut, it’s surprising that Volume 2 wound up being such a bummer. But shooting for stardom’s usually a bad decision.