Friday, January 2, 2009

How do you introduce Slum Village? That question has been bugging me for the last hour or so. They are a group like no other, that harbors influences from countless places. The group was spearheaded by arguably the greatest producer of all time. There aren't enough words to describe what J Dilla bought to Slum Village. Very rarely does a producer overshadow the other members of the group (Primo and Pete Rock are examples). Needless to say, Jay Dee is held in very high regard (partly because of his untimely passing, but also because of the amazing work he's done). Alongside Jay were Baatin and T3, less-known but still cornerstones of the group.
*Ten useless biographical sentences later*
And that's the story of Slum Village. Now it's time for Fantastic Vol.2, hit it!

1. Introduction
For once I can actually applaud the intro. Although it's kind of ignorant for me to assume that Slum Village would make an average rap album intro. I love the last 7 seconds of this track too.

2. Conant Gardens
An ode to where the crew grew up. The title is anyway, the lyrics are more reminiscent of braggadocio hip-hop where they effortlessly ride the instrumental while kicking some dope rhymes.

3. I Don't Know
I don't know why I wasted my time with this track. Baatin and T3 took a capable instrumental and turned it into a snoozer. Next!

4. Jealousy
Sounds like Jurassic 5 with the choppy flow and the subject matter. This song isn't going to change anyone's life, in fact I can't even imagine anyone remembering this song after hearing it. So, it was a delete for me.

5. Climax (Girl Shit)
A very soft-spoken track, emitting the warmth only an average R&B tinged J Dilla track can bring. This track bears a very striking likeness to The Tribe Best Known As Quest. Although retaining the qualities that make Slum Village such a well-respected group.

6. Hold Tight
Another chill, mellow, laid-back track. Although it's somewhat of an aberration as all of Slum's tracks can be described as chill and mellow. This is one of the better Dilla instrumentals off the whole album, as such I would have preferred less features. Q-Tip's verse is nice, but it starts to trail off from there (said in a diminishing voice).

7. Tell Me
I could do without the weak hook and the strange interlude-esque conversations at the end of the tracks. Once again this song starts off well, it even holds up well till about the halfway mark when the lyrics crash like a house of cards. This Dilla beat is something else though I tell you... Baatin and T3 should still be counting their blessings.

8. What It's All About

I wish I had something good to say about Busta's verse, or even as an artist in general (Arab Money? That's what your career has come to?). Alas, I'll leave that topic relatively untouched. Another dope beat, interesting sample for the hook, I was feeling this track all in all.

9. Forth And Back
Nah, wasn't really feeling this one at all. Even the instrumental was pretty weak here. Next.

10. Untitled/Fantastic
And we're back on track. This song has always mystified me, something so ethereal about this instrumental, and for once I can one up the MC's. They did their thing on this here beat. Possibly the best song on the album, so you already know how I feel about it.

11. Fall In Love
I honestly prefer the last minute and a half to the beginning of the track. The musical backdrop is something amazing, and the hook is haunting. I don't know what the last 30 or so seconds were about, I'm sure they tied into this recurring plot at the end of every song, but it really detached from the track's overall value.

12. Get Dis Money
Personally, I don't think anyone should ever spit over this instrumental. And when they do spit over this memento, it should be something more than: "Hey, hey/ What you say/ Get dis money"... Comparable to letting Lil' Wayne freestyle over I Used To Love H.E.R. It's not a bad track at all though. Just that you'd expect Slum Village to dig deep and find lyrics and a hook worthy of this instrumental.

13. Raise It Up
Not really feeling any of it. Some hypocritical titles here!

14. Once Upon A Time
Pete Rock and Dilla together produce this beast of an instrumental. And the good folks over at Slum Village grace this track with some poignant lyricism. Thank you. And for once, the last part of the song isn't completely worthwhile-less.

15. Players
T3 actually did an interview with Fader, where he talked about this song. One of the things he mentioned is that the sample actually says Claire and not Players. But they say Players so much in the song, that's what you believe the sample is really saying. The song itself is amazing. A classic Slum Village cut. Also here's an quote about the motivation for the track:

People don’t know that was a battle song, only niggas in the D know that. We was actually talking ’bout some real niggas. We’re cool today, but it was actually (deceased rapper) Proof's group (5 Elementz). These niggas had just dropped they CD that Dilla did most of the beats for and they was just acting arrogant, walking around real tough and we got kind of offended by it. Once we started talking about it, Waajeed (from Platinum Pied Pipers) was like a hype man, like, “Man, they just put their shit out, where’s yours?” We went over to Dilla’s house and it was one a them nights where everything was clickin'. Two weeks later we came with Vol.1. They kind of inspired us by being so arrogant, so we made “Players” about them. They found out, I don’t know how…somebody told.

16. Eyes Up
After the song that preceded it, you're just expecting so much more than this insignificant babble. It's not a bad song, but Baatin and T3 are capable of so much more. Not bad, but definitely lackluster.

17. 2U4U
Slum Village's two lesser members ruin another good instrumental. They ain't sayin' nothing!

18. CB4
No Chris Rock references to be found here. The hook has me scratching my head quite a bit. Are they chanting or what? One of the strangest things I've ever heard on wax. Blow-job interference? Cock-blockers? Very clever.As for the song itself, it's not really anything worth hearing.

19. Go Ladies
There's no rapping to be found here. Some incoherent babbling in the first verse, and it never really gets much better. Another lacking effort over a very capable instrumental.

20. Thelonius
Ironically, Slum Village treats listeners to a top-quality send off. Superior to most of the album and definitely a song you should check out.

It's hard to really pass judgement on this album. Although the lyrical content was terrible (sorry John), the instrumentals were top-notch. This album reminded me of Group Home's Livin Proof'. Then again Slum Village was never known as amazing lyricists and Jay Dee, in fact most hip hop fans would be hard-pressed to name Baatin and T3 as the other members. So I can't say much about this album on a lyrical level, but an instrumental version of this album would be very well worth your time.

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