Slum Village Bring 'Female-Friendly Hardcore'

Midwestern trio get help from Busta Rhymes, Q-Tip, Pete Rock, Kurupt.

Slum Village, the Detroit trio made up of Jay Dee, T3 and Baatin, are said to be one of hip-hop's best-kept secrets.

"Although many people may think they're unfamiliar with the group, Slum's been around and making their mark in music for a while," said Chris Handyside, music editor at the Detroit Metro Times.

Jay Dee (born James Yancey) recently produced songs on Q-Tip's Amplified and Common's Like Water for Chocolate, including the song "Thelonius," on which Baatin (born Titus Glover), T3 (born RL Altman III) and Jay Dee all lend their vocals.

Slum Village — all in their late 20s — will release

their debut album, Fantastic, Vol. 2, on June 13.

The Jay Dee-produced Fantastic, Vol. 2 features

venerable artists Pete

Rock, who co-produced the song "Once Upon

a Time" (

HREF="http://media.addict.com/music/Slum_Village/Once_U

pon_A_Time.ram">RealAudio excerpt),

D'Angelo,

who sang on "Tell Me" and Q-Tip, who rapped on "Hold

Tight." Busta

Rhymes also appears on "What It's All About"

(

HREF="http://media.addict.com/music/Slum_Village/What_It

s_All_About.ram">RealAudio excerpt), and

Kurupt raps

on "Forth and Back" (

HREF="http://media.addict.com/music/Slum_Village/Forth_A

nd_Back.ram">RealAudio excerpt).

"The artists we chose to work with are all artists that we

like," T3 said. "We're mutual fans who love and appreciate

music. We went to see D'Angelo recording at Electric Lady

Studios in New York, and it ended up being one big jam

session. We feed off of each other and respect each other

for being innovative musically."

Motown Roots

The members of Slum Village have known each other since

they were in their teens, when they all lived in the same

Conant Gardens neighborhood of Detroit.

"I didn't grow up during Motown's heyday where men were

singing with each other on the street corner," T3 said.

"Detroit doesn't have a huge music scene or standard rap

style like the West or East Coast does. But that means

we've had space to do our own thing."

"They're street, but not thug," Handyside said. "Listening to

Slum Village feels like hanging out on a summer Saturday

night down on Jefferson Street in the heart of Detroit

— hot, rhythmic, smooth and laid-back."

"We came up with the name Fantastic, Vol. 2

because when we were making the album, we were going

through all kinds of crazy stuff — from record label

politics about the percentage of money we'd get from

album sales to personal problems," T3 said. "But we came

out fantastic."

According to T3, Fantastic, Vol.2 was influenced by

the sweaty funk of James

Brown, the progressive keyboard sounds of

Herbie

Hancock, the Brazilian grooves of

COLOR="#003163">Sergio Mendes and

even the pop-electronic bleeps of

COLOR="#003163">Stereolab.

"Our music is 'female-friendly hardcore' which means it's

direct and street but also musical and deep," T3 said. "It's

definitely a musical album. Even though 85 percent of it is

samples it doesn't sound really manufactured."

Not Strictly Hip-Hop

Throughout Fantastic, Vol. 2, Slum Village bring their

original blend of musical genres layered over a sturdy hip-

hop frame.

"When we first started we were influenced by rappers like

MC Lyte and

Big Daddy

Kane," T3 said. "But we don't want to get

stuck in a rap rut. Don't get me wrong, there's good rap in all

rap, but it's not our biggest influence. We've been together

for 12 years. We all play instruments and jam together.

We're an innovative musical collective that's ever

changing."

He said Slum Village couldn't be put into any one category,

including hip-hop, because they weren't dominated by any

one genre.

"Their music is a mosaic of sounds," Handyside said. "It's

idiosyncratic, trend-setting and comes out of left field. They

defy expectations."

Combining a vintage hip-hop sound with an international

flavor and diverse musical taste has made the group an

underground favorite. "Fantastic, Vol. 2 has gotten

the hell bootlegged out of it for the past year, in the states

and abroad," said Khary Kimani Turner, a Slum Village fan in

Detroit who has written about the group for more than three

years.

"Slum told me that they did a show at the House of Blues in

Los Angeles and the audience already knew all the words

to their songs — the record hasn't even been officially

released yet," Turner said.

But whether a strong fanbase will translate into huge record

sales or industry support remains a question. "I've never

heard of them," a radio programmer at New York's Hot 97,

who preferred not to be named, said. "I don't want to dis a

group I've never heard, but they're not of consequence to

us. We don't play Common, the last two

COLOR="#003163">A Tribe Called Quest

albums didn't do well for us and we didn't get a lot of interest

in D'Angelo's last single, so affiliation with those artists isn't

going to mean anything to us."

But T3 said he wouldn't want Slum Village to model itself

after what's played on the radio just for the sake of selling

more records. "I don't like artists that can't even rhyme and

are really repetitious — even though they may be

selling millions of albums," T3 said. "We definitely want to be

famous — but not like that. We can't respect that.

We're doing it our way."

"Right now, Detroit is the honky-rap music capital because

of Eminem,

Insane Clown

Posse and

COLOR="#003163">Kid Rock," Handyside

said. "Slum Village challenges that standard. They're a lot of

fun and one of the great hopes of hip-hop, especially

around here."

Slum Village will kick off a tour with

COLOR="#003163">Bahamadia on June 8 in

San Diego.