Fresh off high-profile remixes and collaborations with A Tribe Called Quest, Janet Jackson and The Pharcyde, Jay Dee aka J Dilla was eager to draw attention to the sound of his hometown. He teamed up with childhood friends T3 and Baatin from the Conant Gardens neighborhood of northeast Detroit to form Slum Village. After opening for Tribe on their farewell tour, the trio were quickly dubbed the successors to ATCQ’s conscious rap legacy; a claim which the group swiftly dismissed. While they shared the same atmospheric, Fender Rhodes-heavy production, Slum Village pointed to the stark contrast in lyrical content between the two groups, with SV preferring to concentrate, unapologetically, on money, sex, big rims and real life in Detroit. Their debut effort, Fantastic Vol. 1, wasn’t granted a formal release, but after a small run of hand-distributed CDs and murmurings from the likes of Questlove and Q-Tip, the group were picked up by a major label and asked to update the album for wide release. Fantastic Vol. 2 collected some of the best tracks from Vol. 1 and added newer, more polished tracks with features by some of Dilla’s all-star peers: Q-Tip, Common, Busta Rhymes and more. But Fantastic Vol. 1, reissued here with the full track listing from the original self-released CD and cassette, is a faithful survey of the group’s soulful grittiness without the interference of neo-soul royalty. From “Players”, a subtle indictment of rival crews biting their style, to cool denouncement of love "The Look Of Love", Fantastic Vol. 1 is a snapshot of one of hip-hop’s most gifted producers completely in his element, and some of the best midwestern hip hop of all time. Recommended.
- music label: Donut Boy Recordings 1996 / Ne'Astra Music Group 2015
reviewed by peanut dust 03/2017
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