May 14, 2024 - Music

Slum Village talks European tour, new album and pleasing old fans

T3, left, and Young RJ of Slum Village. Photo: Joe Guillen/Axios

T3, left, and Young RJ of Slum Village. Photo: Joe Guillen/Axios

Slum Village sat down with Axios Detroit last week following the release of the group's new album, "F.U.N."

The big picture: The group's current members — T3, 49, and Young RJ — talked about their recent European tour, favorite local breakfast spots and regrets after founding member J Dilla's death.

Why it matters: Now in its third decade of making music, Slum Village is among Detroit's most successful and enduring rap acts.

Flashback: Original members Dilla, T3 and Baatin grabbed the rap industry's attention with their 2000 classic "Fantastic Vol. 2."

  • The group's roster has changed multiple times. Baatin died in 2009.
  • Young RJ, 40, learned at Dilla's side as a teenager and produced almost all the tracks on "F.U.N.," the group's first studio album since 2015's "Yes!"

What they're saying: The new album's production relies on Slum's technique of digging through old albums in search of rare grooves to sample for its beats. The group leaned into funk and disco sounds for "F.U.N."

  • "The Slum Village sound is wherever we are at that time," Young RJ told Axios in the basement of his Milford house, where much of the album was recorded.
  • "We're just trying to make whatever we're feeling in that moment and bringing the fans along for the ride."

Axios: Where was the album recorded?

Young RJ: Here and T3's home.

T3: Sometimes I like to just get up early in the morning and record at my house. I did that with most of this record. We used to just only record at night. The older you get, you're like, "Ehhh, let me knock this out."

Axios: Do fans expect you to keep making music that sounds like the old Slum Village?

T3: A lot of people that were there with us from the beginning, they love that Slum Village, they love the "Vol. 1," "Vol. 2" and whatever else. A good portion of those people don't even come to the shows no more. Our audience has evolved into a younger audience. And with the younger audience, they don't have that stipulation with what Slum Village is supposed to be. And if they did, they can just go back and listen to the first Slum Village. We never deal with that problem of pleasing our old fan base.

Axios: You just got back from a European tour. How was that?

Young RJ: It started off in Italy. It was like 26 shows in 31 days — Paris, the U.K., Switzerland. We were all over. It was fun for me this time because I didn't have to think of every last thing on the road. We also had some people out there with us that opened up and kept us entertained. Earlly Mac and Abstract Mindstate. We really enjoyed going out there and making new memories with the fans.

T3: They appreciate hip-hop history and present. For Slum Village, we've been opening that door since 1999. One of our first big tours was in Europe. We've been nurturing that fan base for so long. It's just grown through the years because of the consistency as well as the classic records that we did.

Axios: Do you have a favorite song on "F.U.N."?

T3: One of my favorites is "So Superb." It's a fun record — the soulfulness, the keys, the hook, how everyone is weaving in and out on that track.

Axios: Random question — where is your favorite local place to get breakfast?

T3: The Cracked Egg in Grosse Pointe.

Young RJ: The Original Pancake House in Southfield.

Axios: J Dilla's time living in California near the end of his life was one of the most memorable parts of "Dilla Time." Were you out there with him?

T3: No, I wasn't. And that's one of my big regrets about that. I didn't get a chance to — I would talk to him from time to time on the phone but I never got a chance to really reconnect like I wanted to. That kind of always left a hole in my heart in a sense. That's something I kind of regret. You know how you always want to say that last word before somebody passes? I don't think I really got the chance to really say what I wanted to say. Even if I did, I'd probably feel the same way.

Axios: What was the sentiment of what you wanted to say?

T3: We were talking about reconnecting as a group, doing things together with me and him… We were just growing in different ways… I had a chance to reconnect with Baatin before he passed and bring him back into the group. I wanted to do the same thing with Dilla. I never got a chance to do that.

Axios: After all this time, what does Slum Village mean to Detroit?

Young RJ: We held it down until the next generation can come and fly with it. I look at it like, we did our part to keep Detroit at a certain place so the next generation can take it further.

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