1 January, 2002@12:00 am
Think back for a minute to when A Tribe Called Quest released The Love Movement. In retrospect, whether it’s realized or not, this was a superb album, despite a few questionable collabos with N.O.R.E. or out-of-place aggression from Redman & Busta Rhymes. Regardless, fans and critics alike dissed the album, as many of them were still bitter over Beats Rhymes & Life (yeah, we can all agree that that one sucked). But because Tribe had three classic albums to live up to, the fans weren’t ready for the new Ummah sound, spearheaded by a then unknown Jay Dee. Although by the time Slum Village’s Fantastic Vol. Two dropped, Jay Dee’s production was welcomed with open arms by some of the same cats that scoffed at it on The Love Movement a couple years earlier.
Ironically, with Slum Village’s Trinity, S.V. may see the same type of backlash from its fanbase, as Jay Dee has left the group. Although despite this fact, newcomer Elzhi takes his place, giving the group a much-needed upgrade in the lyrical department. So, while Dilla lends his hand to producing only a few tracks this time, in trade, we get a show-stealing emcee that rips it every time he grabs it. An even exchange? Perhaps.
With Jay Dee’s departure, the album isn’t as formatted or as fine-tuned as Fantastic Volume Two, but the team of producers who pick up the production chores do a fine enough job that if you aren’t reading the liner notes, you would think he did it anyway. The minimalist grooves of tracks like “Choir” and “Hoes” are especially funky, as is Dilla’s trademark big-booty expressions found on heavy bass tracks like “Slumber” and “Disco”, as Baatin and T-3 use their natural mic presence to float on track as if they were apart of it. And as we know by now, by no means is it lyrical genius, but its catchy enough to unconsciously sing along to it (“I was just chillin’ on my living room flo’ / starin’ at you / doin’ Tai Bo”), and works perfectly within the groove. Meanwhile, Elzhi comes in handy, balancing out the others knack for style, with stronger lyrical content on almost every track. He delivers some poignant lyrics on “One”: “It takes one tragedy to bring a family closer / one bullet to start a war and be a part of gore / … It took one hit to make a wack rapper to make millions / causin’ the illest niggas to switch and spit what they ain’t feelin’”; and again on “Disco” where he pays homage to SV’s heavily bootlegged Fantastic Volume Two by cleverly incorporating every song title into his verse, and ending it with “you wouldn’t understand if you bought Volume Two from the bootleggers”.
Much of the album remains in the realm of deep Detroit bass, snares, & kicks, but there are obvious moments when they try a little harder to deliver commercially viable material, such as on the BET favorite “Tainted”, the little heard club banger “Get Live”, or even the humorous 80′s throwback “Marvelous Marv”, and each are undeniably funky. The smoother selections such as “La La” and “Harmony” also up the ante on the production in the mellow SV tradition.
Not having Jay Dee aboard to produce the entire album may turn some fans off, but after a few listens, most won’t even realize he’s gone, or what tracks he did or didn’t produce. At times it sounds a little monotonous (“What Is This”, “All Ta Ment”), but once they’ve got the audience open, heads will stay perpetually nodding. It may not seem so at first, but Trinity is another strong release from S.V. that gets better with each consecutive listen. Perhaps those still mad that Jay Dee’s gone should go dig up The Love Movement instead, and come back to Trinity in another few years.
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