Slum Village have been heavily praised since they first began creating music. Originally consisting of T3, Baatin and Jay Dee, the group gained Elzhi and lost Jay Dee. Baatin also left allegedly due to sickness. With their fourth album "Detroit Deli" dropping this Summer. I had a nice conversation with Elzhi about the goings on of the group and other matters of interest.
MVRemix: Who inspired you as an emcee?
Man, it's a wild variety. I would have to say Rakim, Kool G. Rap, Lord Finesse. And then if you want to go onto the soulful side; Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Sam Cooke. And if you want to take it to the alternative side; Coldplay, Stereolab, Radiohead. I just get inspired by a lot of things. Not just with music, but movies. Directors like Quentin
Tarrantino and Michael Mann. I get inspiration from everything.
MVRemix: You mentioned Tarrantino, what did you think about "Kill Bill vol. 2"?
I thought it was incredible man. I think the first one was very action packed and the second was basically based off the dialogue. I guess he wanted to get you to know the characters well and I think they both play significant parts in the story. I just love both of them. I'm a Quentin Tarrantino fan. All the way from "Pulp Fiction" and "Jackie Brown." Even "Reservoir Dogs," I mean that's a classic right there. I think Quentin Tarrantino's "Kill Bill" was one of the hottest movies to come out this year.
MVRemix: Ever seen "Natural Born Killers"?
Yeah, that was crazy too!
MVRemix: You know he wrote the original story?
Nah, I didn't know that... I know he wrote a little story in "Four Rooms." That was crazy. He wrote the one with Bruce Willis.
MVRemix: What's your drink of choice?
My favourite drink, and I'ma tell this to the world because I know a lot of people haven't tried to mix the two together, but, Papaya and Hennessey. It's real dangerous because you'll be sippin' on it and you can't taste the Hennessey because the Papaya's so overwhelming. You're just constantly sipping and you're asking for another glass and another glass. Later on you can't stand up straight. It's definitely a dangerous drink. You've gotta watch how many cups you take to your mouth on that.
MVRemix: Do you guys smoke weed?
Slum smokes weed.
MVRemix: Do you feel it helps your creativity or solely gets you high and relaxed?
You know what, it's different the ways my creativity flows. I can write without the weed, I can write with the weed. Over here in Detroit we call them Gans, we call real good weed gans. I've written with the gans, so I know how I think with 'em and without 'em. It's pluses with both of them. I usually sit around and open my mind. I even smoked with a doctor before and he told me that it opens up channels in your brain to be more creative. So I heard it from the horse's mouth. Straight up. I do sit around and smoke with my people's; Phat Kat, DJ Dez and Killa Gans and all of them. For the most part, when I'm on
the weed I do think of crazy things. But I'm always thinkin' of crazy things. Even when I'm off the weed.
MVRemix: A la "Fight Club," "If you could fight any celebrity, who would you fight"?
[Elzhi chuckles] That was one of my movies too, right there! That is a classic. I just bought that recently too with "Big Fish." Who would I fight? That's crazy.
MVRemix: I've gotten answers ranging from Arnold Schwarzenaegger to David Arquette to Gary Colemen?
Okay - Gary Coleman. I'll fight Gary Coleman. Haha.
MVRemix: Tell me about "Detroit Deli."
"Detroit Deli" is a representation of Detroit life. From the common person's standpoint. Where they like to hang out at, how they dress, what they drink, what they drive, the type of clothes they buy, the slang they speak, the type of weed they smoke... It's just a representation of how Detroit is. We did it because we wanted people to know because we
felt it hasn't been represented in a broad way where people can get it. We just felt like we had to be the people to come out the D and let everybody know how we're livin' now.
On our album, we feature Kanye West. Jay Dilla from the original Slum Village camp. We got ODB from the Wu-Tang/Rocafella on the album, and a dude named MC Breed. Who's a classic in Flynt. He made a classic song called "Ain't No Future In Your Frontin'" and he also made a song with 2Pac called "I Gotta Get Mine, I Gotta Get Yours." He actually did two for us. He's singing on a song "Do You" and he's rapping on a song called "It's On." The Detroit features - we've got Dwele G, an upcoming artist called Big Herc and an upcoming singing artist named Melanie Rutherford.
MVRemix: Jay Dee returned for "The Re-Union," can you tell me about that track and the status with Baatin?
I'ma give you the rundown. I don't think I've ever broken it down like this before. When I heard the beat... Black Belt made the beat from BR Gunna, a lot of people think it was Jay Dilla, but it was Black Belt. I heard the beat and I wrote a verse to it. It was a battle rap, but it was kind of showing that Slum could take it there. Because I felt like on "Trinity" it wasn't really taken like that. So I felt like "It's time for Slum to take it on that battle tip." I had an idea that we need to grab up everybody up on this joint. We need to grab Baatin up, we need to grab up Dilla and we just need to make this joint called "The Re-Union." My verse started off like "Tin killin' 'em / (T)3 killin' 'em / You thought we broke up / But we was re-assemblin'" I was basically talking about how you thought we'd broken up but now we've re-assembled, so now what? Can't nobody say nothin' now. I had the verse. The verse was done, so we gave the track to Dilla with my verse on it. Dilla was feelin' it, so he wrote to it and T3 wrote to it. When it came down to Baatin, I told 'Tin like "Teezy man, come on - you need to get up on this track." He was like "Aight, bet." He never did.
He got on the Internet and started talking crazy. He had this interview with somebody. He started talking like we wasn't there for him when his furniture got threw out and how this and that happened and blahzay blah and all this. So I'm like I can't be mad at the brother because for one; he does have a sickness. I can't be mad at him, but at the same time I can't just let him say what he be saying. All this stuff that's not true and just let everybody think it's true.
So I re-wrote the verse. I re-wrote the verse, and it ain't even the whole story. But I basically just broke down little things that was going on with him and I wrote it in a way that was talking to him. When I finished writing the verse and I laid it, I played it to him over the phone. I was like "Teezy, if I'm sayin' anything that's wrong or I'm lying - anything... I'll erase the whole verse." When I pulled the phone away from the speaker, I was like "What'd you think about that?" And he was like "You ain't gotta dwell in the past man." I was like "Teezy, I
feel like you need to be on this song and you need to explain to the fans why you've been acting like you've been acting 'cause I really seriously think that they don't get it." Its people that's giving him single deals to do songs on records 'cause they don't know how serious he is with the sickness. They mess around and don't get his stuff back and it's two-tracked. It don't sound as good as it should sound. But they don't know that he's really sick like that and I've been trying to tell Teezy that you need to let these people know. I even wrote a verse from all the stuff he was saying to me and I said it to him. I'm like "Look, you need to say something like this." He felt it and said "Maybe I should say that verse..." I'm like "Yeah, you can say it, it's all good. Or you could write it from your perspective." But he never did.
The song was supposed to have all four of us on there. It wasn't supposed to end with me. I don't know. A lot of people seem to like it and that's a blessing. I just know if Teezy would have come and put a verse in, that'd be the cherry on top. If he'd explained why he was acting the way he was. Us going on Soul Train and him in the back, dressed in all black with some loaks on, not sayin' nothin'. From the times he'd get caught at the airport with weed and this and that and all this other type of stuff. I think the fans need to know about that. And they need an apology.
I apologize to the fans a lot. Thank y'all for ridin' with us, for real 'cause I know y'all paid your ticket to see three people and you're only seeing two but when we get to the show. They be ridin' with us for real. They be lovin' it. I just want to thank them for allowing us to continuing doing shows. I think he needs to apologize too.
MVRemix: Do you ever see a proper re-union with Baatin?
I kick it with Teezy every now and then, you know, we might smoke on a blunt or whatever and kick it. With this "Detroit Deli" album that's coming out, he's not on it. We're working on a new album right now as we speak, and I'm trying to get him on three songs. I'm tryin' to get him to sing on a couple and rap on a couple. I'm a fan first. I tell this to [T]3 all the time. [T]3 just wants to do music and I'm always trying to see well, okay - we could go in this direction or that direction. But what would the fans think? Because I'm a fan first. As you may know, I wasn't in the original three. But I was a
definite fan of the original three. Even with this "Detroit Deli" album, I looked at it from a fan's standpoint. So, I'm just like y'all. I want Teezy to come back too. I want Dilla to come back. I want us all on an album together. All four of us - the four horsemen.
MVRemix: Kind of on a lighter note, if you'll excuse the pun... what are your thoughts on Kanye's white, blue-eyed Jesus piece?
[laughter] That's his thing. I don't really get caught up in those things. But I hear he's doing a line with Jacob's. To make the Jesus pieces. If it's for a good cause and it's a positive thing, I ain't really got nothin' bad to say about it.
MVRemix: Tell me about the "Ess Band" and "The V."
The "Ess Band" was a project we were trying to come out with several years ago. It consisted of a singer named Sammya and our band. But something happened with Sammya falling out with the label or whatever. So that didn't go down. As far as "The V." "The V" is like the alternative side of Slum Village. Kind of like the J-88. The V is more along the lines of a Radiohead/Neptunes kind of thing. We ain't did it yet, we haven't gotten a chance. But be on the look out for it some time in the future.
MVRemix: Do you have any guest appearances or collaborations that we've yet to hear coming?
Yeah, we did (Pete Rock's) "Soul Survivor 2." We also did a remix for a singer Rhian Benson, a British singer. She had a song called "Wanna Say How I feel." My production team (BR Gunna) did the beat. I rapped eight bars and Dwele G sung on it.
MVRemix: Any thoughts on the upcoming election?
Nah, I don't. I think it's cool for everybody to go out there and vote. For me, I really think it don't matter. Especially after the last election. Whoever they wanna be in office is gonna be in office.
MVRemix: Any last words for your fans or potential fans that are going to be reading this?
For our fans, we wanna thank you all for stickin' it out there with us because man, it was a struggle. And for the potential fans, y'all need to check this out too. "Trinity" was the album that almost didn't happen. When I say that, when Dilla left to do his solo thing and there's no hard feelings with Dilla - we love Dilla. Actually, if y'all see the "Selfish" video, you will see a cameo of Dilla. It's real quick, so all of our Slum fans, try to tape the video. That's a part where it's Phat Kat and Dilla and BR Gunna.
Anyway, "Trinity" almost didn't see the light of day. When Dilla left, you had all types of people
in T3's ear sayin' "It's over with. You might as well hang it up. Since Dilla left, y'all basically over with." T3 didn't really listen to it, he was like "Well dang, what are we gonna do with the Slum Village legacy. The fans wanna hear another Slum album and we can't just stop 'cause Dilla left." By Dilla leaving, he was forced to grab other people around him to make it happen. The "Trinity" album was a collection of songs coming from every direction. How he made it tie in was he thought, "Since we got this futuristic stuff that may sound like Slum Village in the present time and this stuff that sounds like "Volume 2." It wasn't an idea we were working towards. It happened to fall in our lap and we tried to tie it into each other. That album is a blessing in disguise but it was part of the struggle.
So we've been strugglin' for a minute. Then with the situation with Baatin leaving 'cause he got sick. Its been more of a struggle. But we've got over the hurdles. We really put our heart and soul in this "Detroit Deli" album. Still rock with us, still cheer for us along the way. We appreciate that. Slum done went through label changes and group members and our story is almost like The Temptations in a way. Throughout all of that, we still try to make good music. I can't wait for people to hear this new, new album because it's gonna be way different from "Detroit Deli," so Slum has a lot more to come. I'ma make sure of that. It's a gradual growth. Real artists give gradual growth and leeway to re-invent and make the music special. And I'll continue to make sure we do that.
Slum Village - Fantastic Volume II review by Philip Oliver
Slum Village - Dirty District review by Todd E. Jones
Slum Village - Trinity review by Todd E. Jones
Elzhi (Slum Village) 2002 Interview by Todd E. Jones
Baatin (Slum Village) 2003 Interview by Todd E. Jones
Elzhi (Slum Village) 2004 Interview by Hugo Lunny
Elzhi (Slum Village) 2004 Interview by Hugo Lunny
Slum Village - Detroit Deli review by Brainiac
Slum Village - Detroit Deli review by NewJeruPoet
Dwele 2003 Interview by Todd E. Jones
Dwele 2005 Interview by Hugo Lunny
Elzhi (Slum Village) 2005 Interview by James Johnson
Black Milk 2007 Interview by Todd E. Jones