Slum Village to release ‘Dirty Slums Volume 2’
By Steve Furay
Special to the Michigan Citizen
DETROIT — No other hip hop group in Detroit history has a legacy like Slum Village.
For decades, Slum Village has been an industry force that has influenced nearly all popular artists in hip hop today.
Along with legions of fans, hip hop musicians such as Kanye West, The Roots, Common and Big Sean consider the group that started in Conant Gardens in 1993 as one of the most influential of all time.
Today, Slum Village is ready to continue their tradition of high quality hip hop with a revamped lineup, featuring original member T3, longtime producer and collaborator Young RJ, and Illa J, the younger brother of the group’s legendary former member J Dilla.
“There’s not many groups that can say they’ve been around 20 years and still relevant with music,” T3 told the Michigan Citizen. “It’s the new generation of Slum; it’s me, it’s Illa J, it’s Young RJ, we’re bringing it all together. It’s new and old at the same time.”
The new project is called “Dirty Slums Volume 2 Mixtape,” with guest contributions from Detroit artists including Guilty Simpson, Black Milk, Fat Ray and Clear Soul Forces, plus Rapper Big Pooh from Little Brother. Mick Boogie hosts the mixtape, which releases for download on Jan. 29.
Longtime fans of Slum Village remain nostalgic for the era before the deaths of original members J Dilla and Baatin, artists whose creativity inspired musical greatness. As well as members who were lost members for business reasons, including Elzhi, who is considered one of the most talented rappers in music today and longtime collaborator DJ Dez, who both left because of difficulties with the group’s management.
“The reason why I keep it going, as far as legacy goes, there’s not many rap groups out of Detroit that made it to the national or international level,” says T3. “Not only that, we were the first to do it. We were the first ones to get signed to a major international. And not only that, it’s also our 20th anniversary of doing this.”
Young RJ is the son of RJ Rice, the founder of Barak Records who signed Slum Village to the label and also manages the group. Young RJ has worked the studio for Slum Village projects for many years, and was a once member of B.R. Gunna with acclaimed solo artist Black Milk.
“I’ve always been playing a background role, it’s just that now that we’ve been getting things going, T3 wanted me to step to the forefront,” Young RJ said. “You’re talking about people that have been around and understand what Slum is, what the legacy is about, and we just continue to push it forward.”
Fans across the world have come to demand a genuine Detroit sound from Slum Village, given how powerful the shockwaves were when they first released in the mid-1990s.
“We’re just trying to make good music,” says Young RJ, “we don’t want to compromise the Slum Village sound in order to try and stay relevant. I think that is why we’ve been able to maintain.”
Stories of the early days of Slum Village are from an era when the city’s hip hop artists formed a tight community, a time that true fans of Detroit hip hop remember well. J Dilla was the city’s top producer, and he helped Slum Village gain industry notoriety when he began working with Q-Tip of A Tribe Called Quest.
“I (gave) our demo to Q-Tip, who was not initially liking the Slum Village raps,” T3 said. “He was only liking the beats, and then that’s how Dilla got on, with the production. From that, Dilla was still producing and we were just doing songs, and then we just got inspired. After Dilla produced the 5 ELA album, then we decided to do our album. And then after that, everybody loved it. We played it for Q-Tip that time and it just spread like wildfire.
“And that’s how we really got on — it was just as simple as concentrating your energy on one particular project and taking no stops.”
Slum Village looks forward to “Dirty Slums Volume 2” creating new opportunities for T3, Young RJ and Illa J to perform and have their music heard by Detroit hip hop fans.
“It’s just trying to keep the legacy moving forward. It’s not about trying to make money off of the legacy, it’s just about keeping it going,” T3 said. “Anything we can do to help Baatin’s name stay relevant, J Dilla’s name stay relevant. Good product is what we’re about.”