One of the ways J Dilla can be remembered after his passing is through his lyrics showcased on Slum Village's Fantastic, Vol. 2 album, which celebrates its 25th anniversary today (June 13).
Slum Village was one of the acts that attempted to continue what the Native Tongues started. The Native Tongues are one of the most influential collectives in the
history of hip-hop. Consisting of top-tier groups like A Tribe Called
Quest, De La Soul and the Jungle Brothers, the crew of talented lyricists would release some of the most lauded albums of all time and help blaze a trail for a new generation of aspiring artists more concerned with beats, rhymes and life than guns, jewelry and fast living.
Slum Village proved to be worthy successors to their rap heroes. Consisting of the late J Dilla (then known as Jay Dee) and MC Baatin in addition to third original member T-3, the Detroit-based group would showcase a slew of impressive performances throughout the local underground scene and J Dilla's association with Q-Tip and production team the Ummah landed them a spot on A Tribe Called Quest's farewell tour.
While the group intended to release their debut album, Fan-Tas-Tic, Vol. 1, on A&M Records, the LP was ultimately shelved due to a prolonged spat involving the record label. The setback was a major one, but Slum Village bounced back, eventually releasing their official debut, Fantastic, Vol. 2, on June 13, 2000 via GoodVibe Records.
J Dilla manned the boards on all but one track and also dropped verses alongside his Slum brethren, both of whom came equipped with a litany of dope rhymes and flows that captivated listeners and critics alike. Regarded as a classic effort, the impact of Fantastic, Vol. 2 has grown over time and is to this generation what A Tribe Called Quest's The Low End Theory or a De La Souls' 3 Feet High and Rising may be to their older brothers or sisters.
It's been 15 years since this LP touched down and to celebrate the occasion, we picked the five songs that exemplify its excellence and all around dopeness. R.I.P. to J Dilla and Baatin. Check out Five Best Songs From Slum Village's Fantastic, Vol. 2 Album.
Hand claps and drum kicks abound on the hazy offering "Players," which finds J Dilla, Baatin and T3 opting to forego a traditional hook and let the beat breath in between quick-strike verses from each. T3 emerges as the MVP on this outing, dropping noteworthy quips like, "It's the 788, DDT'n, just like Jake the Snake / Actually we don't participate / But if you do, then we gon' see you at your wake." He flows with finesse all over the sparse soundscape. Add in the fact that J Dilla was able to manipulate the Singers Unlimited sample he utilized for the beat to sound as if it says "players" instead of "Clair" and the song is another example of Slum Village's subtle brilliance.
"I Don't Know" is a pleasant ditty that finds SV rhyming over dainty keys, crisp drums and kicks amid sampled James Brown adlibs. Jay Dee sets it off before handing the mic to T3, who delivers a few lines then gives Baatin air-time. He lobs it back to Jay Dee, thus continuing the lyrical three-man weave. "It's like you know you scandalous as hell / Yeah, I can tell, from your nails to the Chanel," Dilla spits on the second verse, making it no secret he and the crew are more than hip to their significant others' gold-digging ways.
"Hold Tight" Featuring Q-Tip
"I'ma leave it in the hands of the Slum now," Q-Tip raps on the Fantastic, Vol. 2 standout, "Hold Tight." Rhyming over a subdued soundbed powered by drums and tambourines, Dilla, Baatin, T3 and Tip each deliver 16 bars of their own, featuring one liners such as the clever J Dilla bar, "Hold tight, you don't pay attention, man / That's why your money is the size of your attention span." More than being a dope song, "Hold Tight" is the official crowning of Slum Village as the heirs to the Native Tongues' throne and serves as a pivotal cosign that proved to be invaluable asset to their career.
The album may be known more for its more mellow offerings, but the group prove that they can amp up the energy with "Raise It Up," an indelible selection that greets your ears with the equivalence of a punch in the face. J. Dilla takes pole-position on this cut, rapping, "I ain't got none of that dough with none of them cars / I ain't f---ed none of them hoes in none of them bars / I don't smoke weed, I ain't use to mess with the streets / I ain't from the D, no I wasn't blessed with the beats", proving he's nearly as adept with the bars as he is on the beats. The final single released from Fantastic, Vol. 2, "Raise It Up" may not have any plaques to show for it, but is considered underground gold and still gets a reaction from rap enthusiasts to this day.
"Thelonious" Featuring Common
If you were smart enough to let Fantastic, Vol. 2 play from beginning to end, you were pleasantly surprised by a bonus cut titled "Thelonious" at the end of your musical journey. Featuring Common, the song is an enticing treat that catapults an album people already thought was superb to another plateau of greatness. Common bodies the track with a rewind-worthy verse full of heat, including the bruising couplet, "Inviting wack n----s to dinner / I Trick Daddy MCs and I don't know 'Nann N-----' / Who can take it where I take it / You better going to God like Ma$e did." When you go rhyme for rhyme, "Thelonious" may be the most impressive cut on Fantastic, Vol. 2 from a lyrical standpoint.