Slum Village received critical acclaim and an enormous amount of underground hype due to the incredible beats by Jay Dee and the consistent love of well-respect underground artists. ?uestlove from The Roots said that if it weren't for SV, he would quit the music business. "Fantastic Vol. 2" (by the Detroit-based trio) had guests ranging from D'Angelo to Common to Kurupt. With Jay Dee producing the whole album, people loved the beats and overall vibe but never thought as SV as a 'lyrical' group. Fast Forward to the present… Jay Dee left Slum Village and a new unknown member (Elzhi) takes his place. People counted SV out of the game. This reviewer did too. Now, Slum Village has returned with a unique album concept, a new member, new producers, a successful first single climbing up the charts, but with the same SV vibe that we love.
The "Past Present & Future" aspects have a double meaning. First, every member stands for either one. Baatin is the past, T3 is the present, & Elzhi is the future. Second, the LP is broken down into 3 sections labeled past, present & future. Next to each song title, there is a symbol. One symbol represents the past, one represents the present, and another represents the future. So, the listener can play the album in the original order or they can play to the "past" songs first and then pick out the "present" songs and so on…
Production is a very surprising aspect on "Trinity". With Jay Dee only producing 3 tracks, T3 and Young RJ handle a good amount of the production together. Previously on "Dirty District" compilation, T3 and Young RJ showed the hip-hop nation that they can hold their own and create some dope, original beats while maintaining that SV vibe. They do the same on "Trinity." Other producers include Hi-Tek, Waajeed, Karriem Riggins, Scott Storch and Nottyhead.
Like "Fantastic Vol. 2", this album ("Trinity") grows on the listener. There are some catchy songs with catchy hooks mixed in with a couple of songs that just do not stick in your head even after many listens. The hit "Tainted" featuring Dwelle is a song that does not leave you head. Produced by Karriem Riggins, "Tainted" is an incredible track that maintains the original SV vibe. The organ is soothing along with Dwelle's incredible soft voice. The beat is also hard enough to get your body moving involuntary while not being too harsh. It's an incredible song with three unique vocal performances by the two emcees. The only problem is Baatin's verse of record company politics and love of music does not fit in as well as the other romantic verses of T3 and Elzhi.
Other incredible songs flow throughout the LP. The Jay Dee-produced "One" uses a wild chopped-up piano loop along with energetic keyboard melodies. Both the beat and the emcees have an incredible energy on this track. Jay Dee's beat is especially cool and leaves the SV fan yearning for Jay Dee. "La La" (produced by Waajeed) is a very mellow track with a nice ambient feel to it. "Disco" (produced by T3 & Young RJ) uses a thick high-hat cymbal rhythm and extra lush sun vocals by Vernon Hill on the hook: "…What you want - We got it for you … [T3:] On the street corners, we make em' disco!..." There are even light computerized vocal robot effects. Elzhi is the true gem of this song. He uses every single song title from "Fantastic Vol. 2" and strings them along in his verse: "…Don't sell yourself to fall in love / You're in a climax / so after it's done, than go ladies! / I mean what's up with all of the jealousy / You know that it was you, her, and me / You are trying to C-B-4, you better raise it up…" It's a clever verse with a nice little 'FU' to the people who bought the bootleg version. "Get Live" (produced by Scott Storch) is the most energetic track on the LP. It has the strong bounce rhythm and some very cool percussion (congas) hidden within the rhythm. T3 handles the energetic call-response hook with a loud shout of "Get live!" in the background. Baatin adds a weird and surprising verse when he spits in Hebrew. "S.O.U.L." (produced by Karriem Riggins) has that old school hand-clap beat with the usual slightly whispered-slightly chanted vocal hook. "All-Ta-Ment" has a cool vibe-driven minimalist melody and a simple but effective hook. Even though T3 shows an original, energetic and cool flow throughout the album, he misses the lyrical mark in one little line: "…Call me Dennis the menace because I'm such a menace!..." The bouncy "What It Is" (produced by Nottyhead) features female vocals on the hook. This track sounds like it could have been on the "Fantastic Vol. 2" LP. "Insane" is an odd opening track after 2 intros. It has a weird ambient feel but works well. "Let's" (produced by Jay Dee) does have some interesting electronic beats and rhythms but does not stand out like "One". This is not a bad track at all but it does not make an impression at first. I do have that feeling that I will probably grow to love it. All of the Jay Dee produced tracks fall into the "future" section.
Believe it or not, the interludes are incredible. The "80's Skit" is an interlude of a pseudo-radio show that has an incredible disco beat and some very funny yet soulful vocal performances. The title track "Trinity" has a cool driving beat which reminds me a little bit of the incredible "Eyes Up". All 3 emcees do an excellent job on the mic as their flows glide over the rhythm while they commend each other as emcees. T3 even talks about how Elzhi became part of the group. The "Intro 1" is really a choir singing "We're SV!" and "Intro 2" is a typical LP intro where the emcees rhyme over a cool beat. As the LP begins with 2 intros, the LP ends with 2 interludes. "Who Are We" and "Fall In Love" both clock in at a little more than a minute long each. Both have cool beats that leave the listener yearning for more at the end of the LP.
With some minor flaws, "Trinity" does take a couple of slight detours. The boring "Hoes" produced by Jay Dee is completely unnecessary. While the listener yearns for Jay Dee's production on "One", Jay Dee's work on "Hoes" leaves much to be desired. The theme and the hook is nothing special either as they just lightly sing the word "Hoes" in a light melody. "Harmony", "Love U Hate" and "Star" are decent but they fall into the filler category. "Harmony" tries to end the LP off with a deep philosophical vibe but it just becomes a listenable track that is decent enough to not to skip.
The production was a major factor in this LP. Since many people counted SV out when Jay Dee left, The Slum had something to prove and they actually succeeded. Even though I would choose the production of "Fantastic Vol. 2" any day, the production on "Trinity" is not only original and diverse, but maintains the Slum Village vibe that the fans love. T3 and Young RJ are talented producers along with Waajeed and Karriem Riggins. When they add DJ Dez on the scratching, the result is very nice.
Slum Village was never known for their lyrical ability. The beauty in the songs stemmed from dope production and the overall feeling. Now, they stepped up their skills on the mic a bit. Elzhi is the most lyrical in the group. He also is very clear on the mic. Every word is easily heard and spoken well. T3 mumbles but his energy and delivery makes his performances work very well. T3's energy and delivery is hungry and wild mixed in with a confident attitude. T3 stole the show on the "Dirty District" LP. Together, T3 and Elzhi compliment each other in a very exciting and balanced way. Baatin is the weak link. With a slightly-annoying voice and silly delivery, Baatin flies right under the radar. Still, it's all about the feeling and the 3 emcees do have true chemistry together. While on "Fantastic Vol. 2", I was only truly paying attention to Jay Dee's performances on the mic, "Trinity" gives each emcee a chance to define their own part. They can do it by themselves but they can all come together and bring something of their own to the table.
Overall, "Trinity (Past, Present, & Future)" is a very good album. With some minor flaws and a couple of filler tracks, Slum Village has proven themselves to be a worthwhile. While "Fantastic Vol. 2" had solid Jay Dee production and many well-respected underground guests, "Trinity" is strictly a Detroit affair with minimal Jay Dee input and no well known underground guests. In a surprising way, it works. Jay Dee does contribute 2 very cool tracks but one mediocre one. Other tracks on the LP shine bright without Jay Dee's help. Sure, "Trinity" is not as good as "Fantastic Vol. 2" but it's also a different album. Still, while "Fantastic Vol. 2" was more like a collection of songs, "Trinity" is more of a well-crafted LP. The odds were against them but SV actually came through with an entertaining LP. The beauty of this LP is that the original SV vibe remains along with some changes and innovations. The hand-claps and the minimalist beats are there. The half-whispered/half-chanted hooks are there. The unique sound remains. It is also commendable of SV that they are pushing the envelope and experimenting with new sounds and vibes. The 3 different sections (Past, Present, & Future) show this. When it comes down to it, they all work well together. Elzhi fits in perfectly. They are soulful, hungry, fun, diverse and unique. Slum Village has proven to the hip-hop nation that they are not only survivors, but they are also a unique and interesting force in hip-hop.