When Slum Village released their debut in 2000, Fantastic Vol. 2, they became the Little Brother of their time, as the trio received critical praise, heavy interest from major labels and saw the man responsible for their sound (Jay Dee) star rise. However, due to inter-group turmoil (Jay Dee left the group before their 2002 major-label debut, Trinity, was finished) and roster shakeups, SV has yet to attain the heights many predicted for them.
Now on their third LP, Detroit Deli (A Taste Of Detroit), SV’s personnel roster has undergone yet another facelift, as they have now dwindled down to two members; with only newcomer Elzhi and Slum Village “survivor” T-3 remaining. While the group’s sophomoric slump can be directly attributed to the departure of Jay Dee, with Detroit Deli SV begins to the right the ship; thanks in large part to Elzhi’s emergence and the consistently vibrant production of newcomers Black and Young RJ.
Though SV’s original members were at best mediocre emcees that sounded dope over Jay Dee’s hydro scented beats, Elzhi adds a lyrical element that had long been missing, as he waxes sentimental on the horn laden “Intro” and snugly nestles himself around yet another infectious soulful nod from Kanye West on the LP’s plush lead-single “Selfish” which also features John Legend—and with lines like “I got Paris you got Nikki/and for those fake boobie’s I paid the benji’s” it seems as if Kanye is growing tired of the conscious stylings that highlighted The College Dropout.
However, Elzhi really gets his chance to shine on “Keep Holdin On” where he drinks away the pain over Black and Young RJ’s spaghetti noodle acoustic guitar strains “when I’m alone I be thinking I’m against all odds/praying to God will show me the evens/but I’m sick of being poor thru the seasons/smoking dro thru the drinking with two hoes thru the weekend/bout to bone till I semen” and the aptly-titled “Reunion” where Jay Dee returns to add his spacey production. Perhaps, the most interesting facet of “The Reunion” is how each member is assigned a different task pertaining to the group’s past, present and future, as Jay Dee speaks of new beginnings, Elzhi works on mending the past with erstwhile former member Baatin (in a contemplative and assertive manner) and T3 bridges middle ground. And while the prospects of a full-fledged SV reunion are left unanswered, “The Reunion” is more then enough to tide us over for the immediate future. Yet, perhaps the most telling examples of SV’s growth are “Keep Holding On” and their touching ode to Mom dukes, “Old Girl/Shining Star,” as both display a depth that was previously absent and prove they can do more then rehash their usual freaky tales.
While the previously unknown tandem Black and Young RJ are given the unenviable role of filling Jay Dee’s shoes, they do an admirable job of chipping in an assortment of diverse beats; from the celestial horns of “Intro,” to the funky “Do You” which features a reinvigorated and scene-stealing MC Breed sounds as if the mothership has touched back down in Detroit.
With appearances from Kanye West, Dwele and John Legend, Detroit Deli is not lacking in star power. Yet, the aforementioned collaborations all exude a natural chemistry, the lone exception being Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s appearance on “Dirty”, as he seems to appear for namesake alone. But sans O.D.B.’s misplaced hook and a reliance on still going to the “sex talk” well more then needed, Detroit Deli is enough to make up for the transgression SV committed on Trinity. By finally letting down their guard, SV truly gives us A Taste Of Detroit. I guess it takes two to make this thing go right?
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