1:15am, Victory Grill
To repurpose a line from Dead Prez, Slum Village is bigger than hip-hop.
"We're like an extended family," explains T3, the group's only remaining original member. "I feel like we got people who are part of Slum Village who aren't official members."
Part of the reason why Slum Village functions as Detroit's hip-hop grand family is its ever-changing lineup. Since the late J Dilla went part-time in 2002, SV has seen Baatin leave, come back, and pass away; Elzhi came on in 2001; and Illa J, Dilla's brother, joined in 2007. Because of the group's seniority around the city, Slum has been instrumental in bringing up a number of artists in what's become one of the country's most widely respected scenes.
"That's the legacy that we've laid down," T3, real name RL Altman, adds. "I feel like it's all about Slum Village since we've been through a lot and everybody's seen it. It's kind of hard to grasp, all the changes and turmoil, but I feel like we've built a circle of people who do what we do, and that helps."
It also helps that Dilla and Baatin were hooked on making music and left behind a wealth of recordings no one's heard before. A number of those will get first spins on Villa Manifesto, the group's sixth album, due out this summer. It'll be the first Slum album to feature all five members and no one else.
"Slum's gonna break off and just be me and El after this, but I wanted to make the album that we were all supposed to make," T3 concludes. "We wanted to get all the people who were there throughout the whole thing and make this album with the real Slum Village sound. Have it be like family, you know?"