To an ear accustomed to the mainstream sounds of "coastal" hip hop - whether the menacing drawl of West Coast Gangsta or the stripped down breaks of East Coast rap - Slum Village immediately offer something very different. Emerging from Detroit's underground hip-hop scene, their music is shot through with the kind of rich, warm Soul that reaches back to the halcyon days of Motown records and its founder Berry Gordy, Jr. Their subjects are also far more laid back than most crews, revelling in the good life of wine, women and cars and generally sidestepping the urge to threaten, "dis" or spit political vitriol.
Given the fluidity (some might say instability) of Slum Village's line-up, it's a wonder that 'Detroit Deli' was ever made. Since their formation in 1998 the original trio of Baatin, Jay Dee and T3 has been whittled down to one member (T3). Luckily the addition of Elzhi to the line-up in 2000 added enough backbone for Slum to survive the losses and come back strong for this third album.
Detroit Deli is heavy on collaboration, featuring a broad spectrum of hip-hoppers: from Wu-Tang legend ODB (calling himself "Dirt McGirt") to Chicago beat-master Kanye West, to neo-soul musician Dwele, a long time Slum Village collaborator who grew up in the same neighbourhood as T3 and Elzhi. But this tendency to eclectic collaboration doesn't dilute Slum's offering - on the contrary it defines it. Embracing the fluidity of their group and the rap scene in general, Slum Village seem far more interested in weaving themselves into the grand tapestry of hip-hop than in being precious about their unique contribution to the culture.
Detroit Deli opens with the catchy "Zoom", a territorial pissing contest that bounces aggressively through Detroit's nightlife. Ole Dirty Bastard makes his star turn in the excellent but in-your-face "Dirty" - an abrasive, sexed-up celebration of open-minded women. But "Selfish" is the real highlight of the album. Dripping with silken Soul rhythms that swirl around perfectly pitched rapping, the track recalls Motown at it's most lyrical, and the whole package is counterpointed by a beautiful piano hook. Another great cut comes from the rapid-fire energy of "It's On" where MC Breed joins T3 and Elzhi in an infectious call to "represent" the "hood".
The duds on the album are few and far between. "The Hours" attempts to capture the frantic energy of the streets but ends up a confused mess and "Count The Ways" is a bit too soporific for it's own good. In general though, 'Detroit Deli' is superb at everything from lyrics, to tunes to production.
Perhaps the most attractive thing about Slum Village is the aura of genuine street cred that surrounds their work. Unlike the elaborate, ghetto-fabulous facades of many mainstream rappers, this duo actually comes from the "streets" - in this case the tough Detroit suburb of Conant Gardens - and they continue to live on and sing about those same streets. This is not to say they aren't still full of all the same boasting, bluster and tall stories as the rest of their hip-hop compatriots - just that their brand of trash talk seems to come from actual experience and not just an urge to sound cool.
Is Detroit Deli worth buying? Definitely. Even casual and relatively green hip-hop fans will be captivated by the energy, the distinctive and delicious Motown flavours and the superb quality of the rap. And old school fans should find that this Deli's selection of prime cuts keeps them hungry for more.*You can listen to 30 second samples of all tracks referred to in this review. Click the links in the box on the Left to hear them.- Alistair FairweatherWHAT OTHER CRITICS SAID:"...an extremely enjoyable and highly listenable album, but it sure ain't looking to enlighten the world with its lyrical content."- Dalton Higgins from Amazon.com
"Slum Village has shown that Detroit has real hip hop talent. Listen and I promise you'll move to Slum Village."- Elliott Sylvester Tonight
"Soulful R&B vocals, hypnotically-smooth production, laid-back delivery, and mellow flavor are what Slum has established as their signature sound and this CD has plenty of it." - Ife Oshun, ABOUT Rap
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