Upon listening to Slum Village's latest offering, "Detroit Deli", five things become very clear to me. (1) SV just isn't the same without J-Dilla. (2) SV just isnt the same w/out Baatin. (3) Elzhi is a rather underrated lyricist. (4) The musical sound of Detroit consists of more than what a certain white rapper and his band expose us to. (5) Throughout SV's ever changing musical direction and line up, they still are capable of putting forth a solid effort. For those of you that are just now jumping on the SV bandwagon due to "Kanye's Magic Touch", this LP is their fifth offering. Therefore, the SV brand is not new to hip hop. However, for the 3rd time in their past 3 albums, they have switched the line up on us. Currently SV is a duo consisting of T-3 and Elzhi.
First, for the positives, this album has six tracks that really standout to me. "Selfish", the Kanye West produced banger is absolutely amazing. From the soulful piano loop to the contagious hook, this track is easily one of the album's finest. T-3 and El should certainly send Kanye a thank you card for the gold plaque they our bound to earn due to this track. As the cd progresses, we find another ode to the ladies in the form of "Old Girl/Shining Star". Elzhi and T-3 exchanges verses over this soulful track that will definitely get many replays. Just when one starts to think that SV is all about the ladies, they shatter all those notions w/ the track "Keep Holding On", where they take the listener into the man behind the music as they express some of their inner demons. The guitar influenced beat sets the stage for a side of SV that the casual radio listener may never get a chance to hear. Elzhi proves on this track why he is a very promising up and coming lyricist w/ heartfelt bars like "And deep inside my bones I'm believin/ that my poems that I'm readin/ Is the songs to my freedom/ And life can be known as decievin/ What I'm shown isn't pleasin/ Makes me wanna throw stones at a deacon/ In him his home when he's preachin." The hypnotic hook is just the icing to the cake as it is something most of us can relate to.
Another standout track comes in the form of "The Hours". However, this is not due to its lyrics. It is due to this haunting, yet aggressive beat that serves as a gift and curse. A gift because of the way it sounds, but a curse because it forces El and T-3 to rap in a rather annoying double time flow that is out character for them. After you get past listening to this track 3 or 4 times, you'll finally decide to sit back and listen to the actual lyrics...zzzz. The haunting element of the production obviously carries over to the next track "Things We Do", which presents another dark beat, although the hook lacks any creativity, and the actual lyrical content cant help make help but think "Yeah Right...".
The album comes in the form of "Reunion". This is an SV's fan's dream as original member J-Dilla returns to the trio to offer up 3 different perspectives on why the group broke up over this smooth, melodic J-Dilla influenced beat that couldn't sound more like "Vintage SV" even if it wanted to. If I mentioned that J-Dilla borrowed a couple of bars from his "Welcome To Detroit" album, I'd be nit picking...So, I wont even go there. The hands down best verse on this track comes courtesy of Elzhi wear he sends a heart felt plea to M.I.A. member Baatin. While, at first listen this verse can come across a diss, however upon further listens one will realize that this verse couldn't be more heartfelt. Elzhi spits "Forget a verse, I'm just as real when I talk to you". Hopefully Baatin gets the message and returns next time. I really missed him and his "Sadat X-Like" flow. He definitely provides the ying to El and T-3's yang.
This CD does suffer from a few flaws. The track "Dirty" is everything but that with its sappy production and throw away ODB verse. Wait a minute. Aren't all ODB verses as of late "throw away". This is a sexual song that is supposed to be for the ladies. However, we already have *69 (See Electric Circus) part 2 in the form of "Count The Ways". Why they would give us two songs with the exact same topic matter is beyond me. The elimination of one of these two tracks would've definitely enhanced this CD's overall quality. Also the track "Do You" with its clichéd west coast sound is so annoying that it would even make DJ Quik cringe.
Slum Village definitely tries to be something to everyone on this cd, and for the most part it works. This is definitely a chill summer album that you can bump in your ride w/out having to hit the skip button more than 3 or 4 times. While the shortened lineup and the one too many female ode's leaves much to be desired, one cannot deny that SV is still capable of giving a decent effort despite their many roster changes. T-3's flow is still lazy, and if this duo is what SV will remain then he will have to rely heavily on the evolving lyricist Elzhi. Lets just hope that next time around we will have a return by Baatin or J-Dilla because while El and T-3 were able to hold it down for this release...One can only wonder how many more they will able to do.