observations, reviews and ramblings about Hip-Hop culture, sports, politics and the industry and life in general.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Slum Village 'Vol.2'

Slum Village
“Fantastic – Vol.2”

Fox News and bloggers has destroyed one of the major tenets of journalism-objectivity. Reviews and editorials are more opinion pieces than anything else. That being said I shall now throw objectivity under the bus as I review one of my favorite albums Slum Village's 'Fantastic Vol. 2'

Where to begin? Rather than a Dilla fluff piece let's get right into the album.
Producer 88 Keys was the first to sing Slum's praises to me. As a producer for Mos Def, Black Star and later Beanie Siegel 88 was aware of Jay Dee's influence on a post fire Q Tip. But that was only the tip of the iceberg. The real gem as 88 told it was Slum Village.

This was 1999 and cassettes of what would be later known as Volume 1 were circulating around the most informed and connected circles. The neo Native Tongue crowd: Common, Mos, Geology, etc.

So when Barak Records released 'Vol.2' the masses were let in on the secret. And the secret was that this was the record that Tribe and Q Tip had been trying to make ever since 'Midnight Marauders.' This was the record that Common had been trying to make since he left NO ID, Dug Inf and his pre Kanye Chicago producers.
And to this day this is the record that the Little Brother’s are still trying to make.

The masterful soundscapes of James Yancey have been discussed ad nauseum since the brother left this world. So I won't waste ink on the driving bass lines, minimalist production, the boom bap drums, the still unique use of samples on 'I Don't Know'...wait I said I wasn't gonna do that.

Vocally, not since Leaders Of The New School had there been a group of MC's to exhibit Cold Crush like synergy. Jay Dee, Baatin and T3 were often vilified for the lyrical skill (or lack thereof). This was and still is an unfair criticism. No one will ever confuse them with Rakim or Ice Cube but those classic raw MC skills is not where their talent was. The effortless style and their ability to melt into Jay Dee's tracks is a skill that many MC's to this day lack. Dilla, Baatin and T3 were not the overpowering, tweaked out MC like Lil Jon. Nor did they have the awkward flow of a Game. They did not have the distant and dissonant sound of an El P/Def Jux clone. They had the 'in the pocket' flow of Miles Davis and John Coltrane. A flow I feel today from a T.I. or 50 (on a good day).

Listen to 'Tell Me' or ' Conant Gardens' or 'Climax' to get my point.

Their Detroit sensibility connected the coasts in a way even Tribe couldn't pull off. I have never enjoyed Kurrupt like I did on 'Forth and Back.' And on 'Thelonius' Slum connected with Common on some sort of Midwest vibe that ?uestlove could not tap into.

The arrangements on this album were equally brilliant in their simplicity. On 'Players' there is no hook. Just short vignettes connected by Dilla's vocals and that haunting vocal sample.
On the crown jewel, 'Untitled-Fantastic' there again is no hook, no bridge, and no refrain. Just one of the most beautiful compositions I have ever heard and three friends spitting lyrics.

'Get Dis Money' and 'Raise It Up' are tributes to the duality of our generation. The battle between post civil right middle class values and the connection to the underbelly of an urban existence. A friend of mine once dismissed The S as ignorant dudes over conscious beats. And that is it exactly although I resisted that label at first. Vol. 2 leaves you with a sense of enlightenment and progression but a closer examination reveal the same lust for money as a Puffy, the misogyny of a Three Six Mafia, and the gun play of an MOP. But somehow it works. It works because it's real. We agree with Al Gore but still want a Range. We are married but still love the strip club. We were raised in good homes but will still smack the sh&t out of someone.

On many levels this record is a masterpiece. And in my book Vol. 2 is the only addition to the club of undisputed classic since 'Illmatic'
(others in the club - Criminal Minded, Paid In Full, Nation of Millions, Three Feet High, People's Instinctive Travels. Honorable mentions Southernplayalistic, Doggy Style)

But what do I know?


Anonymous Tony said...

I came across vol.1...is vol.2 better? what's the difference?

December 06, 2006 6:22 PM

Anonymous Dan Canyon said...

Thank you for this piece. Not many people respected/understood SV's musicality when this LP came out. I can remember feeling that HipHop had just reached a whole other level, why wasn't anybody else seeing it?

Definitely a Classic

December 07, 2006 5:49 AM

Blogger Swifty said...


I think Vol.2 is better. But keep in mind vol.2 is vol. 1 with a budget re-done, with new tracks.

I heard vol. 2 first so I think it is a good place to start. After digesting vol. 2 listen to vol. 1 and you can appreciate the growth.

Like watching Star Wars then THX 1138. You get a better appreciation for George Lucas.

And Dan, thanks!

December 07, 2006 10:02 AM

Anonymous Rubix said...

Such an untapped album, it's fluidity is on par with midnight marauders, Illmatic, Doggystyle and Straight out the jungle. I heard Vol. 1 first and liked it, it's re-release was straight up astonishing. Much more lush. Wes, you hit on the head!
1 &heart;

December 08, 2006 11:12 PM


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