Review : Slum Village - Villa Manifesto
PopmattersAs sad as Villa Manifesto‘s storyline is, this record is also without a doubt the strongest in the group’s post-Dilla catalog. Like fellow goofballs De la Soul, Slum Village have spent the better part of this decade refining their style into a more distinctly hardcore, street delivery. And while it does maybe strip the group of some unique traits, much like De la Soul’s Grind Date, this album finds their soul searching coming to a near-immaculate crest. Yes, two of the group’s original three members, J Dilla and Baatin, have passed on in the past four years. And sure, maybe T3 and Elzhi no longer get along, and granted, maybe Young RJ, this album’s main producer and former Black Milk teammate as B.R. Gunna, is to blame for much of that thanks to the politics of his Barak label. But while listening to Villa Manifesto, one would be largely unaware of the awkward politicking going on behind the scenes.
In fact, Villa Manifesto is a family affair in the vein of the Dirty District mixtape, as Baatin returns to the fold for a major presence on the album and three J Dilla verses are lifted from the vaults. It’s a shame that Elzhi’s contribution is cut short here (reduced from full-time member to what are essentially seven non-features) but he makes the most of his opportunities, sounding like the group’s most advanced spitologist as always.
A bevy of listeners are probably looking to Slum Village for great production, though, and Villa Manifesto certainly doesn’t disappoint. Hi-Tek sounds revitalized after his somewhat lifeless Revolutions Per Minute production, while Supa Dave West, Mr. Porter and Khrysis all contribute work that fits perfectly with Young RJ and J Dilla’s vibe. Speaking of RJ, much of his work resembles Black Milk’s aggressive Tronic-style, and confuses me as to how his star hasn’t broken out like Milk’s has....full text
HiphopdxSlum Village boasts, “we’re still fantastic, everything we spit is classic” on the intro to their new EP, but times have been everything but sweet for the Detroit group. Producer/founding member J Dilla left the crew and died years later; health issues forced Baatin to leave as well, and the glee of him rejoining ceased with his mysterious death after the trio completed their new album. To help rebuild a buzz that suffered from several release delays, Barak Records drops this digital EP as a teaser for the full-length Villa Manifesto LP, now set for a 2010 release.
Villa Manifesto EP shows promise because it captures many of the same elements from Slum Village’s last self-titled album in 2005, while still moving them forward. The trio’s ultra-lyrical leg, Elzhi, has established more of a solo career since their last group album, and on Manifesto EP, he sounds even more confident and motivated than before. “Nonbelievers, I line ‘em up like a caesar, swing the cleaver, draw heat and give ‘em the fever,” he spews on the bar barrage of “Nitro.” Dexterous rhymes continue on “Da Night,” where T3, who’s known for a style over substance approach, nearly gives his partner a run for his money. And listeners can’t help but enjoy hearing Baatin’s one-of-a-kind voice, flow and charisma alongside his homies like it’s supposed to be.
Villa Manifesto also excels sonically. In J Dilla’s absence, the group later enlisted most of their production duties to Black Milk and Young RJ, collectively known as B.R. Gunna. RJ contributes upbeat numbers for over half of the EP’s songs, and Slum doesn’t miss a beat over Madlib’s spacey, nostalgic sound on “Money Right.” Ironically, Dilla’s melodic sound and Slum’s female-friendly rhymes are most closely duplicated on “Cloud 9,” with a piano-driven backdrop from Aftermath producer Focus and a chorus by Marsha Ambrosius....full text
DustedmagazineLike “irony,” the word “tragedy” gets a lot of misuse. So let’s just say that, in a genre pockmarked with fallings-out and early deaths, Detroit’s Slum Village has had particularly rotten luck.
Originating in the 313’s Conant Gardens before the turn of the century, Villa didn’t get a national hearing until 2000’s subterranean classic Fantastic, Vol. II, which did well enough in spite of A&M’s ineffectual promotion. After that, the group’s unmistakably organic beatmaker J Dilla abruptly decamped, pursued a workaholic career as a freelancer, and, in ‘06, when it was too late for him to enjoy the benefits, became the official icon for hip hop’s legions of posthumous jock-riders. Meanwhile, rapper Baatin was cut from the group while battling severe mental illness, making T3 the only remaining originator. He pushed on, partnering with Elzhi, whose Raekwon-style battle raps proved a fitting complement to T’s deadpan delivery. Before his mysterious death in ‘09, Baatin rejoined SV long enough to contribute a few more raps, which, along with some leftovers from Dilla’s donut shop, appear on Villa Manifesto, an amazingly seamless statement of purpose that beats the odds by existing at all.
The disc’s first half focuses on the bedroom jams Villa minted on Fantastic, Vol. 11, by turns ridiculously blunt and genuinely sexy. The second half moves into boasts and capers, closing with some unflinching autobiography, more defiant than defensive....full text
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