If you are reading this, you probably know the story of Slum Village. Or at least know enough to realize that they have been through a lot of shit. Despite everything that has been thrown their way, they always seem to persevere and continuously work towards keeping their legacy going. But as they start their press junket for their latest album, Villa Manifesto, their future remains unclear.
There has been much speculation about what’s next for one of Hip Hop’s most resilient groups. Fans witnessed what seemed to be inside turmoil erupt throughout various media outlets as well as Twitter. But no matter what might be going on behind the scenes, their sixth studio album is sure to add to their phenomenal catalog of music.
KN.com caught up with T3 of Slum Village to speak about the new album and why it serves as a memorial and a reunion, how the SV brand was born, where they stand as a group, and what’s up next.
Arasia–Hey, what’s up!
Arasia—Are you the only one on the line?
T3-Yeah, it’s just me!
Arasia–Okay, I was told it would be you and Young RJ.
T3–He’s right next to me but it’s going to just be me.
Arasia–What is your time frame looking like because I have a lot to cover. We might have to do a part two!
T3-Well, I have about a good 20 minutes so we can get it popping!
Arasia–Cool. You remember me?
T3–(Laughs). Yeah, I remember you.
Arasia–The one that knew all the words in Chicago?
T3—(Laughs). Yeah, I remember.
Arasia—Cool, well let’s get right into it. Where does Slum Village stand right now?
T3–I knew you were going to go for that one—we’ve been getting this question a lot. We are still working together. We are still doing stuff. It’s just a lot of negative stuff that’s been coming out lately. But we are still working together. We are still together and doing what we have to do for the time being. You know Elzhi is focusing on his solo career and I support that. I’m doing solo stuff. We are still doing shows. It’s just a lot of negativity. It happens with groups. They like to pick groups apart—outsiders….that’s how I see that situation.
Arasia–So, is Slum Village you, Elzhi, and Illa J?
T3–No, it’s me and Elzhi and we are featuring Illa J on this album.
Arasia—Well, I’ve heard all types of crazy shit. The last one I heard was that there was going to be a new line up with featuring some notable names from the Hip Hop elite in Detroit so can you clear this up
T3–People are going wild with the rumors. These rumors are crazy. I don’t understand where this is coming from. We were just in Chicago, we just did a show together, and people know that we are working. It’s just all this outside stuff.
Arasia–Well, you all have always done outside projects away from the Slum Village foundation.
Arasia–But I’m going to keep it 100 with you. I don’t know if you noticed but I happened to be at the sound check you all did at the Double Door when you were in Chicago.
Arasia–And I noticed that Elzhi wasn’t there and once you all came back to perform, there was an obvious disconnect while you all were performing.
Arasia–A lot of the fans noticed and were talking about it not to mention the set you all did was extremely short. So it was clear that something was going on between you and Elzhi. I’ve seen you all perform before and this time it was clearly different.
T3—(Laughs). We had just did a show in Detroit before we did that show. I’m not going to say there is any drama because me and El talk every other day. It’s situations but it’s more like family business but not between me and Elzhi. There is no problem between me and Elzhi. And if you talk to El, he will say he is still down for Slum and working and getting whatever we need to get done. It’s family business that needs to be handled but it’s not between me and El. That’s all I can say. I talked to El yesterday and everything was all good.
Arasia–Understand, I’m not one of those journalists that try to conjure up mess but I do want to get to the bottom of what has been going on.
T3—(Laughs). I get it.
Arasia–I want to know what the real is as do a lot of your fans.
T3–You have to understand this though…number one…when Dilla left, if the Internet was around then, we would’ve got a bunch of flack but it just wasn’t popping like that then. And some people were upset about that. And then when we brought Elzhi in, people didn’t even like him. They didn’t like Elzhi as a part of SV. Now, I know you recall that.
Arasia–I do…I remember that.
T3–But like I said, it happened. And the fact that we are featuring Illa J…you know we are used to this. This is how people do. They try to pick a part this and that and analyze this and that. I feel like it shouldn’t be about that…it should be about the music—if the music is good. And I guarantee when people hear this new album…the new music is great you know what I’m saying. You have me, Baatin, Elzhi, Illa J—the music is just great. You have Dilla on beats and on verses. I don’t know what else a SV fan could possibly want.
Arasia–Well, you know the whole Twitter fiasco sparked a lot of questions…
T3–Ha-Ha…I didn’t even respond to that.
Arasia–I noticed you didn’t but there is a difference from where you guys were last year when I saw you at Rock The Bells to where you are now outside the obvious.
T3–Yeah, that is true. But there was a lot of stuff. We just lost Baatin. We went through a lot of stuff.
T3–But I just felt like there are people out there who don’t want to see this blossom for some reason…I don’t know why but I just ignore that. My goal is to make good music. And Slum Village has always been known to switch their line up. I’m not saying we are switching our line up now…what I’m saying is that this is what we do. We constantly do it and we constantly get flack. About this or that. You know what I’m saying. It’s just what it is right now. It’s a lot of drama going on…most of it I ignore. I don’t say anything because it is not worth talking about. Its just controversy. We are used to having this. We are always going through something. When Dilla left, when Dilla passed, and when Tin’ passed or all that or Baatin’s condition. You know, we’ve had a lot of situations popping off. As you know.
Arasia—Yes, I do. SV is definitely one of the most resilient groups in Hip Hop’s history.
T3–Yeah, we keep making it happen. I gotta keep pushing as a founding member. And people keep asking why do I keep doing it. It’s because I feel like this is what my people want me to do.
Arasia—I feel you. Now this is something I always wanted to know because again, I’ve heard several accounts.
Arasia–When you all first initially came together—you, Baatin, and Dilla—were you supposed to just be the manager, which lead to you rapping with the group?
T3–Nah, nah, nah…
— T3 steps away to get on the elevator and says he’ll call back. —
— In the meantime, I start bumping —-
————– Alrighty — back to our scheduled program ————–
T3–I never started off as a manager. Slum Village started off as a battle between us in my grandmother’s basement. And we decided that we were the best that night. So I was never the manager. I started off managing Elzhi. I managed his solo career with Wajeed. And then Wajeed backed out of it and then it was just me managing him. I got Elzhi his first placement on the Welcome To Detroit album before he got on a Slum album. So that is how that started off. Then I stopped managing Elzhi and we started having him as a feature with Slum Village and then we made him a member because Baatin wasn’t around as much as he should’ve been when we were recording the Trinity album, which was probably the most stressful album that I’ve made. Plus it was the first time I really became the leader of Slum Village. That’s how that all stared.
Arasia–So let me make sure I understand. It was you, Tin’, and Dilla battling in your Grandmother’s basement?
Arasia—Was there anyone else down there that we might know?
T3–Oh, it was a bunch of cats! Nobody that you would know though.
Arasia–Because you know Detroit runs thick.
T3–We do! We do!
Arasia–But then ya’ll don’t
T3–Exactly. I think Frank from Frank and Dank was down there but I think that’s the only person you’d know.
Arasia–Okay, now tell me about Villa Manifesto. Why were there so many delays outside of Baatin’s passing?
T3–Number one was the whole feel of the album changed after Baatin passed. He passed during the making of the album so that was the biggest delay. And the other delays–we were touring, we did Rock The Bells and we were having fun with that. So those were the main delays. And once Baatin passed, I had to change the whole structure of the album. I had all these verses from Baatin, I got beats from Dilla and vocals from Dilla, I got me and El, and Illa J so now this album becomes a memorial as well as a reunion album. I had to change some of the things I wanted to talk about…I had to change some of the songs to fit to where we were at that time before this album came out with all the stuff that was going on.
Arasia–So is this really the last SV album?
T3–It could possibly be. Because I don’t know where I want to take it from here as far as SV. Where do I really want to take it…it’s really my choice rather we do another Slum album or not. El said he was down to do another and we still have Illa around. I just don’t know right now so I am just leaving it up in the air. I just wanted to say this was the last album because if it is, I’m not mad at this chapter. I like this album and this is a good way to close out because you got a little bit of everything. You have original Slum on there. You have Baatin, Dilla, and me on a track–just us three. We haven’t done a track in eons. And we got me and El, me and Illa J and Baatin–you got a lot going on so I feel like if you like any part of Slum or any era, we’ve covered all the eras from Vol 2 to Detroit Deli…all that. That’s why I’m happy with this possibly being the last Slum album.
Arasia–One thing I’ve always noticed about Slum is you all have that core fan base and then you have the elevator fans.
T3–Yeah we do.
Arasia–Your elevator fans come in and dibble around and then they get right back on that elevator and they go somewhere else. And then you have the nerds like me who have been trying to figure out what the hell the original lineup for Fantastic Vol 2 is (We both laugh). And I’m sure you know SV is very much about the vibe and emotion that comes with the music.
T3—(Laughs). Right right.
Arasia–But I am going to probe again because I saw the “Reunion” video.
Arasia–Elzhi wasn’t in the video. What was up with that?
T3–I am not going to go in depth as to why Elzhi wasn’t in the video but I will say this–Elzhi isn’t on the song. And people have to remember this—Baatin wasn’t on the first “Reunion” either.
Arasia–I remember. I wanted to know what was up with that also.
T3–Baatin is kind of responding to what was going on with him. So when you hear that first verse and he is saying I was in a mental hospital…I wish Elzhi would’ve taken me to this church, he was responding to him. We could’ve put El on it but it wasn’t really necessary to do all that.
Arasia—Okay, well I didn’t want to assume—I’d much rather ask and get to the bottom of it.
T3–I feel like this. SV has had our drama, whatever; we’ve had our ups and downs. Me and El are still out doing shows. It’s all good. El is going to do his thing and I am going to do my thing. There really are no hard feelings. Its just people trying to make it bigger than what it is. I can still pick up the phone and talk and me and El can go to lunch. Outsiders are making it big. I feel like, in a lot of situations, people like to pick a part groups. Lets say Little Brother…they will say Phonte’ is the best and people try to front on Big Pooh. I don’t think you should do that. You should just like the music as it is. If Little Brother makes good music, Little Brother makes good music. Don’t try to pick a part the sections and think I am going to get the best part. It don’t always go like that…like Busta Rhymes…sometimes its better. I’m not saying that for them but I am just saying sometimes it is better to stay together.
Arasia—With everyone playing their position?
T3–Right. And I don’t think people understand what I do for Slum Village. They don’t understand my role.
T3—(Laughs). I’m going to clear it up. Number one–I am a producer, which means I make beats and I write most of the hooks as well as do my verse. So that is what people don’t understand. They pick it a part like okay, El has to go first but don’t just pick it a part without really analyzing it first. You know what I’m saying. You know…like for some of the singles–like writing the hook for “Tainted.” Or this song or that song…producing “Count The Ways,” producing a bunch of songs for Slum. They pick it a part…don’t get me wrong, El is a dope lyricist. He’s fresh…he’s one of my top favorites, which is why he is in Slum Village in the first place. I feel like people shouldn’t do that though. Picking a part groups. It happens with all groups. The only group that I can say that was able to stick it out was De La and I really commend them and really just you know…
Arasia–It is rare. Very rare. So what is SV’s legacy?
T3–Our legacy is a lot. I think we did a lot in the game. We are like a musicians, musician. A lot of people in the industry who do music have given us a lot of praise. We are one of those groups that inspired other musicians to make music, which is great. We had some fame…we did a little of this a little of that. I think our legacy is inspiring other people to do music. When I get cats like D’Angelo and ?uestlove and this guy and that guy telling me how Vol 2 or Vol 1 inspired them…and guys that I love and grew up on–I appreciate what they do musically as a musicians as far as their production and the lyrics. So when I get that love, that lets me know that our legacy is that and not only that, you have the Baatin legacy, the Dilla legacy, I mean…Slum Village has really put down a lot and I’m surprised at all the people we’ve touched. I just got a tweet from Taraji Henson saying some “Get Dis Money” lyrics. I never knew she was a fan. But I saw it today and was like wow. So if the chapter is closed, I’m not mad. We have tons of music. We officially did six albums but there are other variations of albums which make it 11. So, I’m happy with everything. If it has to end, I will just go off and do my production and produce other situations. I’m happy with what we put down.
Arasia–What do you think some of SV’s biggest mistakes have been?
T3–I’m sure we’ve had our ups and downs but you can’t always look at that. I don’t even acknowledge that. I mean…most of it was follow up. That’s it. Following up. We’d have a great single and we just didn’t follow up rather it was us, our label…you now. We’ve been through a lot of labels but I think its follow up. I don’t think people expect our records to be big records because they are kind of on the line of being normal but not being normal. And that kind of gives them hesitation to go full force. When we did “Tainted,” they didn’t really know if it was going to be a big record. They put money into it. I’m not saying they didn’t but I don’t think they really understood it. It’s just hard for people to really understand us. I feel the same way about Dilla. You understand when it’s too late. And I think that’s the messed up part. Don’t love me when I am dead. Love me now.
Arasia–I feel you. I frequented the D a lot and I don’t remember hearing a lot of SV’s music being played on the radio.
T3–Well, they played “Selfish”…they played “Tainted.”
Arasia—(Laughs). Yeah but I wanted to hear “Look Of Love” or “Climax” or “Get Dis’ Money.”
T3—(Laughs). Nah, you weren’t going to get none of that.
Arasia–Why do you think that is?
T3–Detroit is really a hood place. It’s really kind of ghetto in a sense. That’s what they identify with. I’m not mad cause I grew up on the same tip but I just changed my outlook musically. That’s what I think that’s all about. I’m not mad at that. And the people that really supported, they really did support. We had some support. I’m sure Kanye’ doesn’t get as much love as he probably should in Chicago. I’m sure he gets love but when you do different kinds of music sometimes it’s like that…you now what I’m saying.
Arasia—I do. It’s those labels and the sound of the beats. A lot of people labeled you all as conscious rappers because of how the beats sounded and the vibe that you all gave off. You guys spoke about everything but you all were placed in a box and it seemed like it hindered you. People expected you all to be a certain way musically.
T3—Yes! That is a really big thing and that is what kind of stopped us at first. We were down with people like Tribe and De La and these other cats but we weren’t talking about the same kind of things that they were talking about. You know it kind of made us look funny because they wanted us to be like Talib Kweli or something and we weren’t talking about the same kind of stuff. Although Kweli is my mans and he appreciates Slum and our music. But it is what it is on that. But Maseo from De La told me that he was happy we did that. He said we broke a barrier that our Native Tongue rappers couldn’t do. He said when he started rapping in De La, he felt like he couldn’t talk about the things that he wanted to talk about being in De La but when we did it, it gave him a chance to go out and start talking about other stuff…more street stuff and stuff like that. But people have to understand, Detroit is street so we are always going to have street themes in our music even though the music may be similar to some conscious beats or what people think are conscious beats. And then you also gotta understand Dilla was producing for a lot of people too…that sound that some of those other cats were using broke before we got a chance to really get it in like we should have but I’m not mad at that.
Arasia—True that. It’s interesting to me how some people are still shocked to hear about the Funky Cowboys (Dilla and Proof’s group). Now let’s shift a little bit. What’s your favorite SV song to perform?
T3—(Laughs). That’s a good one. I’m going to say…well, we have a lot of great songs. I’d say “Raise It Up.” It’s hype, its amped–I love “Fall In Love,” “Get Dis Money,” l love all my songs–a lot of the classic joints and some of the new joints—I’m feeling out what I like on the new tip but I don’t know… we gotta come back to Chicago because I feel like we could’ve done a super long set and we didn’t.
Arasia–You know that is what we wanted!
T3–We just weren’t really prepared. It kind of creeped on us at the last minute even though we had knew about it, it just kind of creeped on us. So I don’t know…we gotta show ya’ll some more love.
Arasia–Please do. So are there talks to get out on the road to do some more dates?
T3–We are setting up a couple of tours right now…maybe like the end of August. We are working on a couple of situations right now. And yeah, we will get it popping and hit the road. It will be me, El, Illa J and whatever we do with a live band or a DJ…we are doing different variations of that.
Arasia–Favorite SV moment?
T3–One of my favorites is the okayplayer tour. It was so new to us and it was just all the people that we grew up listening to. Not just grew up listening to but were listening to at the time. You had Talib, Guru was on some days as Gang Starr and The Roots, Jaguar, and Jazzyfatnastees. It was just a dope tour. All that. It was just a good time
Arasia–Well I do have a lot more things to dig into so we may have to set up a part two because there are still some things that I want to know.
T3–Well just hit me up and we can set something up. It was nice talking to you though.
Arasia–You too! I am going to keep on it until we speak again and I see ya’ll in Chicago. (Laughs).
T3—(Laughs). Okay, okay. Nice talking to you.
Arasia–You too! Thanks!