Slum Village has been lingering within the Detroit hip-hop scene since the late ’90s, enjoying success and hardship, critical acclaim and failure. It wasn’t until 2004 that T3 and Elzhi, the current Slum Village lineup, got their big push, due largely to the Kanye West-assisted “Selfish” on Detroit Deli (A Taste of Detroit). With their eponymous fourth proper release, the duo seeks to solidify its Motown legacy.
The members of Slum Village pick up right where they left off after Detroit Deli on the stellar opener, “Giant.” The song features their introspective yet street-savvy rhymes over a gritty and melodic beat produced by Detroit up-and-comers Young R.J. and Black Milk, a.k.a. B.R. Gunna. Much like they did on Detroit Deli, this young duo handles the majority of the production. They prove to be a formidable team, with their head-nodding drums and soulful samples. This cohesive sound allows Slum Village to find its zone with the third song, “Can I Be Me,” in which they question the outside influences that pressure them to be something they aren’t. The unity of sound, however, should not be mistaken for a lack of variety. Slum Village fully represents the streets with songs such as “1,2,” and the members show their grown-up side with “Fantastic” and “Call Me,” which features Dwele.
This quintessential Slum Village release walks that fine line between the underground and mainstream, providing quality lyrics with excellent production while refusing to be pigeonholed into any hip-hop sub-category. And the efforts of B.R. Gunna should not be overlooked. They promise to be a known entity in the near future. Maybe someday J. Dilla and Baatin will find their way back into the group and the members of Slum Village will release the classic album that each of their previous efforts threatened to be.