Interview: Slum Village
With 16 years of history behind them, Slum Village is one hip-hop group truly worthy of the title ‘veterans’. Hailing from Detroit and with six albums to their name, T3 is the only remaining original member in a line up that has suffered two tragic losses and additional members parting ways. However, as the group continues to go from strength to strength, The Wrap Up’s Lori Lane caught up with them to discuss past members, present circumstances and future material...
The Wrap Up: It’s great to finally meet you guys. Tell me, how did you find performing to the London crowd?
T3: It was good fun. We didn’t get the die-hard Slum fans here, as it was mostly couples because it was a Sunday night. We probably should have just done a romantic set!
TWU: T3, your most recent album ‘Villa Manifesto’ was the result of an idea with J.Dilla. Since the passing of Dilla and Baatin, have any other ideas you had discussed come into fruition?
T3: No. Dilla and I were going to do an album after Baatin had left called ‘Secret Squirrel’ but I don’t think that will happen. The reason we wanted to call it that was because the ‘Secret Squirrel’ was a cartoon character and the ‘secret’ would be that people wouldn’t be expecting an album released with just me and Dilla together.
TWU: Can we expect any Dilla-inspired releases in the future?
T3: There’s a lot of Dilla material that people haven’t heard so you just never know. We were talking about some tracks today and lyrics for a joint nobody has heard. He played it for me once and then I never heard it again.
Illa J: There is also a Will.I.Am joint.
T3: I have a whole archive of Baatin’s work because he was constantly recording. I mean on some 2pac level! We would have studio time as a group and Baatin would go into the back room and record by himself to a totally different song that we were recording to! I threw some of those songs onto the ‘Trinity’ album. That was Baatin though, you had to love him.
TWU: The Dilla album ‘Rebirth of Detroit’ was recently released. After he passed, masses of his material were found in a Detroit record shop, so there must be lots you can still work with?
T3: There is, but that is more of his mum’s [points to Slum member Illa J, Dilla’s younger brother] realm and about what she wants.
Illa J: I feel that if we use Dilla stuff we get criticised for ‘trying to bleed Dilla dry’ or I will get ‘ohh so he’s using his brother’s beats,’ but if Joe Bloggs around the corner wants to do a song with a Dilla beat that seems to be okay. So it is ok for you to use my brother’s beats but I can’t do it? Ok then......
T3: That does happen, so we have to use it wisely.
TWU: Within the Slum history there have been various members and producers, such as Elzhi and Black Milk. I know you like to keep things fresh - do you think you will introduce new members in the future?
T3: People make you keep it fresh; it’s not always your choice! A lot of people do come back wanting to work again because they respect the foundation of music. You have to understand Slum has been counted out so many times, it’s ridiculous. A rock group like the Foo Fighters have changed members several times but the attitude towards hip-hop groups is that you can’t do that.
Young RJ: Once Elzhi left the group, people acted as if the Slum Village legacy should stop because Elzhi wasn’t in the group but no, we kept going the same way we did when he was in the group. That is nothing bad towards Elzhi because he is talented, but he did not make Slum Village. He was not in the original group. People counted us out but we didn’t stop.
TWU: So with this whole Elzhi situation, how does the ground now lie with you all?
T3: Slum Village were established for 15 years without him. He was then in the group for about seven years. Elzhi has his set of fans, Slum have got their set of fans. Every time someone new joins Slum, the fans give them a hard time. I remember a time we were in a dressing room, Dilla had recently left and a girl came up to Elzhi and said ‘I don’t like you, you aren’t Dilla’ and he got mad, said something and the girl just broke out crying. He did earn his way up, but what I am saying is groups change; fans get mad, it happens. Elzhi has some fanatic fans that think he is the start and the end of things, but he is not the start and the end of Slum Village. He is a part of the history, he did his thing and that’s cool.
Young RJ: How could you not respect Dilla’s little brother filling in a spot in the group that his brother helped to create? How could that be a bad thing? His brother helped build the foundation and now his little brother can step up and keep the legacy going.
TWU: As a final question for you to ponder, which two words would you use to describe each member of Slum Village past and present?
Illa J: Weird. As. Hell.
T3: First of all, let me say Dilla was an actual genius that could do anything if he wanted to. So with that you are going to get quirkiness. Elzhi was also the quirkiest dude you would ever want to know.
Young RJ: We are all quirky. When we are at the house in the studio, we may walk out into the hallway and Illa J might be singing and T3 has his Scooby Doo house shoes on. Who does that?
T3: It’s called comfort man! Artists and musicians are more or less big kids.
Slum Village’s ‘Villa Manifesto’ album is out now.
Stay up to date with Slum Village on twitter.
Words: Lori Lane (@Gleaming_Gem)