Artist: Slum Village
Album: Slum Village
But the good news is that there is a crew; not 5 not 4 not 3 just 2! Ok, so I just ripped a line off of Pete Rock and C.L. Smooth’s joint. But it’s relevant, especially when talking about Motor City’s finest, or whatever is left of them. That’s the last time I address the issue of their membership problems because they go into delicate detail on the album about who, what, when, and why the group split up, and what has been happening in their lives.
Even though the current Detroit duo is Still searching for its “sound”, with this new release they damn near found it. The self titled album gets away from the glamorous production and cameos that Detroit Deli relied upon, and just focuses on hip hop. This is in no way knocking the production on this album from young RJ AKA B.R. Gunna, Black Milk, and Moss. Their sounds actually suit the duo better than past producers have. They provide T3 and Elzhi with a simpler and grittier platform to speak from and this in turn allows Slum’s true talents to step in the arena. Specifically, the lyrics. For the sake of saving adjectives, the bottom line is that Elzhi is bananas and T3 steps it way up.
They set it off from the jump with “Giant.” They speak of their past struggles and Elzhi comments on his frustrations with the hip hop critics. And it’s a headache like yankin’ domes with a straightening comb/ when I read great articles of artists who aren’t as hard as your partners by far regardless they are a star you know/ so is it politics for dollars with comma prints/ be honest if not I promise imma just switch the style a bit.
Elzhi does more than just switch his style on the blazing single “1, 2. ” He and T3 utterly destroy a very powerful and appropriate beat from Moss with hard lyrics and intricate flow patterns. This track is a guaranteed rewind and by far the best song on the album. T3 is definitely lyrically outwitted but he more than holds his own and adds to the creativity of the word play, complimenting Elzhi very well. Italicized lyric quotes would not do this song any justice. This is one of the few tracks this year that truly deserves more than a two line quote on a review. Just get to the 2 minute and 44 second mark on your CD player and you will know exactly what I mean.
The album is not without flaw. The “1-800-S-L-U-M” skit is damn near annoying and really adds nothing of value to the total package of the album. Tracks like “EZ Up” and “Hell Naw!” are not bad songs but they leave a lot to be desired. The effort to make a quality song is there, but the actual finished product is mediocre and just serves to fill space on the album.
Elzhi displays his writing ability on the albums final cut “Fantastic” Once again he rhymes the track listing off of a past album, and this time he chooses the Trinity album. Many other rappers would not want to try this again after beautifully nailing the first try, but Elzhi’s confidence and skill allow him to do it again and make it interesting and not repetitive. He shows his knack for weaving a unique story with a limited word bank and chalks another “W” on his “My Rhyme is Better Than Yours” scoreboard.
The Villa ventures outside of the typical hip hop sound on “05 ” and try their hand at hip hop Roots style. And where other crews could fail miserably at this, Slum really excels at this organic style of rap. So much so that it leaves the listener yearning for a “Slum Unplugged Album,” as strange as that sounds. This 6 minute composition is the only track that really gives less emphasis to the words and focuses on the instruments. A very mellow and addicting horn and keyboard filled beat is capped off by some individual band member solos. Elzhi gives the drummer some, and DJ Dez shows off his drumming skills by giving a really impressive solo that puts this track over the top.
In the mediocre world of lyrical hip hop today, Slum Village supplies true hip hop enthusiasts with a large amount of quotables and mindbenders. If you are a microphone fiend you won’t want to pass up the chance to witness T3’s unique style and swagger on the mic, and listen to Elzhi spit magnificently. And while you are listening, take notes because Slum Village seems to be on their way to finding their new sound and are only a few improvements away from making a classic album.