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Slum Village - Slummin' It

Author: Burn
Friday, 12 October 2007
Slum Village has been the voice of Detroit hip hop for over a decade. 3D’s Burn talks to founder T3 about their scene, J Dilla, and where they’re at now.

There must be something in the air in Detroit. The city has spawned such legends as Berry Gordy Jr., founder of the infamous Motown record label, Techno pioneer Carl Craig, and in more recent times commercial hip hop superstar Eminem, just to name a few. Amongst all this, Slum Village gave birth to Hip Hop movement with a distinctive and innovative sound.
“Detroit [hip hop] has a hard edge,” states T3. “I’m not saying that the beats are necessarily always hard but the lyrics have a hard structure because Detroit is a gritty place, so you hear that grit in the lyrics, so when you hear Guilty [Simpson] or Black [Milk] or Dilla rap you’re going to hear that grit - that street stuff. It’s kinda off-setting from what you would expect to hear over that sort of beat, most of the sort of rappers who would use a beat like we use would have more of a positive spin to their raps, I mean we’re not negative rap but we’re not exactly strictly positive rap either. We kinda sit in the middle somewhere. Slum Village were one of the first to do that, to bring that grittiness to that sort of beats.”
Slum Village formed in the early ’90s, originally consisting of Baatin, Jay Dee (aka J Dilla) and T3. Dilla’s soulful but yet minimal style of production was accentuated to perfection with the simple but effective and powerful rhymes from T3 and Baatin.
But, in the 2000s, both Baatin and Dilla left Slum Village - Dilla to pursue a solo career and then Baatin for health reasons - leaving T3 to carry on the legacy of Slum Village.
“It was difficult at first, but not now - it’s easy. I mean when it was just me with my back against the wall it was looking dark then and then I when I brought Elzhi in it became a lot easier for me.”   
Elzhi was a rapper previously managed by T3 - he and T3 have since remained the core members since 2002.
Prior to hitting our shores T3 and Elzhi have been touring Europe with fellow Detroit rapper Phat Kat on his Carte Blanche album tour.
“Oh yeah, we got history - he was on our first recording, Fantastic vol. 1. That’s family that’s been around for ever.”
Slum are no strangers to the European market either.
“It’s funny how so many Detroit artists are really accepted overseas - we ran into some other guys from Detroit we didn’t expect to see over there like Buff1 and Wajeed and we had a lot of fun.”
Indeed, the unique Detroit sound seems to have found its home overseas rather than the over-saturated commercial market in America. “I think it’s more accepted in Europe - or just overseas - because they don’t judge so much, they just accept all music, it’s not like it has to be a certain genre. Everything is so corporate in the States - sometimes the opportunities can be limited because everything has to fit in a certain mould.”
Slum have never been ones to conform to a mould for commercial susses - they have stuck to what they do and have made it shine, having worked with some of the biggest names in hip hop, from Kanye to Pete Rock, from Busta to Jazzy Jeff. They have also paved the way for numerous artists, all from Detroit, who are all part of Slum Village’s extended family.
“We had a super outing last night: we all went out and kinda kicked it at a studio talking about the up-and-coming Detroit movement that we got going on and we were thinking about doing a mega tour with all the Detroit artists: from Slum Village to Frank and Dank to Wajeed to Amp Fiddler. We really want to bridge the gap.”
It’s been some years since the last album release Detroit Deli but T3 and Elzhi are definitely keeping busy. New projects include both a new Slum Village album and a solo album for Elzhi.
“I’m really feeling the new Slum album... Elzhi’s also working on his solo album while we’re working on the new Slum album - he needs that outlet to let people know about him too and I encourage him to do that.” 
Slum Village are more than excited to be hitting our shores for the first time. “I keep hearing about Australia and how wonderful it is and the great responses from the [Australian] crowd, so I’m really excited.” As for what they’ll be playing… “We going back! This show we’re gonna do is mostly a Dilla tribute show so we are going to do a lot of old school stuff with a little bit of new. So if you’re a true Slum fan you’re going to hear one of those songs that you didn’t expect us to play cause we’re definitely going back!”

WHO: Slum Village
WHAT: Play the Gaelic
WHEN: Thursday 18 October