Since the early 90s, Slum Village has represented their hometown of Detroit to the fullest. Original members, J Dilla, T3 and Baatin, grew up together in Conant Gardens, and in 1991, the trio recorded their first album, Vol. 1, in Dilla’s basement and RJ Rice Studios.
The record caught the attention of some of hip-hop’s finest (ie Q-Tip, Busta Rhymes, Questlove, and D’Angelo) and led to their first record deal with Barak/AM in the late 90s with the classic album Fantastic, Vol. 2 dropping a few years later.
Dilla left the group to focus on his solo career in 2001 and SV’s members in the years to follow would include Elzhi and Illa J (Dilla’s younger brother), as well as collaborations with Black Milk, Kanye West and John Legend. Since Dilla’s passing in 2006 and Baatin’s in 2009, T3 has dedicated himself to preserving SV’s classic sound and style.
T3 and Young RJ (as Slum Village) will wrap up their North American tour with Pete Rock this Sunday, April 5 at Red Room Lounge in Spokane, WA. Brooklyn Radio’s Lara Gamble got the chance to sit down with SV before their set at SOB’s early last month to discuss their creative influences and find out what fans can expect from their forthcoming release.
What’s your earliest memory of hip-hop?
T3: I was nine listening to the old school greats Run-D.M.C. “My Adidas.” That’s my earliest memory. What about you, J?
Young RJ: My earliest memory of listening to hip-hop, I probably would have to say, of course Run-D.M.C., but when I really got into it was like Digable Planets. So, that’s like ’92-’93. So, yeah, Digable Planets like smooth like dat, cool like dat.
Nice. How did you guys meet up?
T3: I met him going to the studio where his dad owned the studio when we started doing some of our earlier recordings. So, he was a young lad. He was about six. He had a kids group back when kids groups were popular.
Young RJ: It was like a mixture of Another Bad Creation, The Boys, you know. Everybody wanted to have a kids group.
Ha – I used to love ABC. Who would you name as creative influences?
T3: Obviously, J Dilla. But besides that, James Brown, and, of course, Tribe is a creative influence for Slum, you could say. And also, early Leaders of the New School.
Young RJ: I mean, on my sound, Slum Village. You know what I’m saying? I know it’s cliché, but Dilla, Pete Rock, people that I’m around influence my sound.
Do your Detroit roots play a role in your songwriting process?
T3: Oh, all day every day. Yeah, I mean, that’s the thing that made us different, really different, because they all heard this soulful music, and we were talking about Detroit streets and Gators and anything that related to Detroit.
What can you tell us about your new project slated for release this Spring?
T3: It’s slated for June 16. It has Jon Connor, De La, Phife, BJ The Chicago Kid, Black Milk. Who else?
Young RJ: Dilla on the vocals, Baatin on the vocals. Dilla on 85% of the beats. I’m on the rest. And, you know, if you like old, vintage Slum, then this is something that you–99% of a chance that you would want to get.
And it’s called Yes?
T3: Yes. It’s called Yes, and the reason why we called it that. I want people to hear it and be like, “Yessss. Okay, yes. Alright.” That’s the vibe I want. Just simple. Keep it simple.
So, your single “E(I)GO” dropped last month. What can you tell us about the video?
T3: It had some political stuff in there. It was kind of black and white, kind of harsh. It was just really a leap record, just something we had in the vaults with stuff we wanted to get off our chest. You know what I’m saying? It was just about being hard on the grind and just going for it.
Young RJ: The production was like–really we just wanted to make something different. Sometimes you gotta do stuff for yourself, and, you know, not necessarily something that would fit on the album. So, if you listening to “E(I)GO” like, “Ah, that’s what they comin’ with?” Nah, you wrong.
T3: Yeah, that’s not even on the album.
Young RJ: “Push It Along” is on the album.
T3: We just dropped that today.
Young RJ: Yeah, we just dropped the record with Phife today, and we’re donating all the proceeds from the record to Baatin’s estate. It’s got Baatin on it. Now, that is a representation of what the album sounds like.
You’ve said of former SV members J Dilla and Baatin that your mission is to keep their names alive. In what ways are you doing so?
T3: Number one, they’re all over the album, this new release. Number two, we’re doing a lot of special things in honor of Dilla and Baatin. Like, we released a box set made like the Dilla SP1200 based on something he said. If you buy the box set, the first record on there says, “I wanna do an album with the SP on the cover.” So, we just made it 3D.
So, that’s how we’re doing things and making things special. Eventually, we’ll be able to put out some Baatin stuff, but we’re just waiting on what the family wants to do. It’s really on them, but we do have stuff in the vault.
Did you guys enjoy J Dilla Weekend in Miami?
Young RJ: Of course.
T3: Yes! It was wonderful. Number one, you had all the dope artists there: Talib, us, Pete. It was like a family reunion for us. Great weather. We had a great time. Maybe we’ll bring it back to the D, you know, but we did enjoy that a lot. And we had a lot of support. The fans came out and really supported us.
Young RJ: Damn right we enjoyed ourselves.
Is there anything else you guys want to add or promote?
T3: We’re coming with solo records. Look for that. Shout out to Illa J working on his solo record right now.