Before we delve into the album, let’s take a second and think back. Slum Village was formed back in the mid 90’s in Conant Gardens, originally under the name Ssenepod, and the initial lineup featured super producer Jay Dilla Yancey, MC’s T3 , and Baatin. If you want to get a snapshot of Slum Village’s early catalogue, check out Fan-Tas-Tic Vol. 1, Fantastic Vol. 2 and Best Kept Secret under the pseudonym J-88, all of which are critical in terms of understanding the early Slum sound from the magical beats of Dilla and the super rhymes of T3 and Baatin.
It was during this time that Dilla caught the ear of Q-Tip, leading to Dilla joining the renowned production collective known as The Ummah. From there, Dilla worked with some of the most important figures in Hip Hop history, including A Tribe Called Quest, Busta Rhymes, Common Sense, and so many more. Sadly, J Dilla passed away in 2006 due to Lupus, but his legacy and catalogue will live forever. If you are a young producer, you need to study this man’s work.
While Dilla was pursuing his illustrious production career and doing solo projects in the late 90’s, Slum Village continued to put out product. Baatin and T3 added a new member, MC Elzhi, formerly of 9-2-5 Colony which included Magestik Legend and Nick Speed, and they released Trinity (Past, Present and Future) in 2002. This album featured the jam “Tainted” which detailed the pitfalls of the music industry. In 2004, after Baatin left the group, Elzhi and T3 continued on as a duo with their critically acclaimed album Detroit Deli (A Taste of Detroit). This release had classic hits including “The Reunion” featuring Dilla, “Old Girl/Shining Star,” and the smash “Selfish” featuring Kanye West and John Legend with a great visual to accompany the track. In 2007, Baatin returned to the squad along with J Dilla’s younger brother Illa J to reform like Voltron which resulted in the release of Villa Manifesto in 2010. Prior to the release, Slum Village lost Baatin to illness, but his recordings were included prominently on the album.
In 2013, Slum Village is now T3, Illa J, and Young RJ, producer extraordinaire, MC, and 1/2 of BR Gunna with Black Milk. With Evolution, you get a lot of different flavors. Most of the production on the release is handled by Young RJ, and you can see his skillz behind the boards on tracks like “Thin Line,” “Braveheart,” “Scared Money” and “Summer Breeze.” On the track “Forever,” T3, Young RJ, and Illa J discuss personal relationships that should have lasted, but internal friction turned them sour. Check out the video for the track on YouTube to gain more insight. On “Rock Rock,” the band lights up the mic with def rhymes accompanied by cuts and scratches by the Magnificent DJ Jazzy Jeff. On “Hustle,” they team up with spoken word artist and guest star J. Ivy whose enlightening and empowering piece brings a resounding conclusion to the track. On “Let It Go” featuring Blu, the group talks about being surrounded by negativity and how they are able to get past it even though it is difficult. On the album’s finale, “Riot”, Young RJ provides a thumping beat which complement T3’s and guest stars Rapper Big Pooh’s (Little Brother) and Joe Scudda’s (Justus League) heart pounding lyrics.
You now have two options. Take a journey with Slum Village from the past to the present or start with Evolution and rewind. Either way, it is a ride that cannot be missed.