If you review a Slum Village album you mention J Dilla. It’s practically a law. I’m not even complaining about that fact. I’m bringing it up for two reasons — SV would never have existed without him, and several iterations prominently featured his younger brother Illa J (John Derek Yancey). The passing of the older Yancey continues to haunt rap decades later, followed tragically a few years later by the passing of SV’s Baatin (Titus Glover). With that much heaviness hanging around the hearts of some diesel Detroit emcees, you wouldn’t have been surprised if the SV engine had a block seizure. Somehow through various lineups and formations though Slum Village has survived to the present day.

F.U.N.” is a very tight album in terms of both length and quality. Clocking in at 31 minutes and 12 tracks with no interludes, the album breezes by and immediately demands a second listen. The current lineup of the group is solidified by Young RJ on the boards and T3 on the mic. The latter has been SV since the beginning and RJ was “day two” so this lineup suits me fine. Would I have liked to see Elzhi return? Of course. I consider him a part of the fam ever since he stepped in while Baatin was having health issues. Would it have been wrong to see Illa J here? Absolutely not. I like having some Yancey representation on any SV project. Respect to both men though as their solo careers currently have them moving in other directions. I’m not sure if anybody reached out to them for this one and I don’t imagine there’s any animosity if nobody did. Time keeps moving on no matter what.

The Detroit/Dilla flavor is still kept strong through guest appearances like Phat Kat on “All Live Pt. 2,” Fat Ray on “Keep Dreaming” and the crispy drumming of Karriem Riggins on “Yeah Yeah.” It would not be inaccurate to say these were some of Dilla’s favorite people when he was still alive. That’s what I mean when I say his ghost haunts us — even when his brother isn’t here, James Yancey still is. You can feel him in the air on a Slum Village album if the vibe is right. “So Superb” his perfectly with the same Bob James sample Run-D.M.C. made famous with “Peter Piper,” blending that comforting backdrop with smooth soul soothing jazz and lyrics that “don’t stress about problems when they occur.”

If I were to call Slum Village an ensemble act at this point it would only be as a compliment. I could accept virtually any lineup or combination as long as either RJ or T3 was involved, and both of them on “F.U.N.” more than suffices. The album lives up to its name by leaving you smiling while listening and to its artwork by lifting your spirits. The trends have been going in a different direction for a while now to the point where it’s cool to be relentlessly negative. Drink too much, smoke too much, watch for the opps and the cops at all times. Not SV. You can let your guard down for a half hour and just soak into the grooves, and that’s as worthy a tribute to J Dilla’s legacy as you could ask for.

Slum Village :: F.U.N.
8Overall Score