Published Jan 01, 2006Even while the critical acclaim was pouring in for their last album Fantastic Volume II, Slum Village was vowing they were done with the "Fantastic sound" next time around. While this was hardly a radical declaration, even they may not have known how different their next record was going to be. The significant change, with the group about to release Trinity: Past, Present And Future is that sonic backbone and creative force Jay Dee has left the group.
Jay Dee has rapidly become an influential producer through his distinctive rugged yet smooth production style; a combination of gritty bass foundations and airy atmospherics; and this has made him an in-demand producer. Before Slum Village became known he was twiddling knobs for the Pharcyde and A Tribe Called Quest and as his profile increased he became increasingly busy, counting D'Angelo, Erykah Badu and Common as clients.
"A lot of people didn't even know that Jay Dee rapped on Fantastic Volume II," says T3. "That whole thing right there is probably one of the reasons Jay decided OK let me go ahead'." Jay Dee's need to be heard on the mic has already been made apparent by his BBE Beat Generation release Welcome To Detroit. Looking to their Motor City home base was exactly what T3 and fellow original member Baatin did in reaction to their new situation. While Fantastic Volume II featured high-profile guest appearances, for this project T3 and Baatin went back to familiar surroundings, working primarily with local artists and producers they have known since they issued Fantastic Volume I. Elzhi, an MC they had met years earlier at fashion designer Maurice Malone's Hip Hop shop, a creative hive for Detroit hip-hop artists, was added to the group and up and coming producers and artists such as Karriem Riggins and the much-talked about Dwele make contributions to the album. Even though he only produced a few tracks, Jay Dee's influence on the overall project is unmistakable as the group maintains the tradition of churning out bass-heavy tracks. Yet Trinity will still sound very different to those expecting a continuation of Fantastic as the group's explorations of low-end theories has expanded and embraces the influence of dub rhythms. "When I listen back to Fantastic and I remember the interviews when we said we're so diverse we can do this we can do that'," says T3. "I don't hear a lot of diversity when I go back and listen to it as I thought it was when I made it. Listening to Fantastic it's all in one vibe. But when I listen to Trinity it's not like that. It's night and day."
The lyrical chemistry of the group members is a prime example. The slick interplay that endeared so many heads appears occasionally but is largely absent. Instead Elzhi's eloquent mic-slaying verses elevate the group's much maligned lyrical content and T3 and Baatin continue to experiment with their voices favouring a more rugged approach. Yet despite these changes, the often shape-shifting nature of the bass lines remain the group's foundation. "We just try to be instruments on a track", says T3. "We might be trying to tell a story, but really we're just trying to blend in."