Slum Village, Trinity (2002)
In the music of Detroit trio Slum Village, the hip-hop underground is an aural paradise in a “dirty district” filled with “transvestites wearing two-dollar wigs and ghetto bitches’ kids looking like Garbage Pail Kids” and a street-based language that actualizes unspoken and anti-social desires into ”disco shit” with “funk so nasty it can make you lose a nugget.” Like Common and other “conscious rappers” (albeit through different lyrical means), Slum Village create a harmonious community out of a hostile, rapacious urban environment, a hip-hop village in the midst of a record industry slum. Much has changed since Q-Tip left the future “in the village of the slum” on the group’s memorable 2000 debut, Fantastic Vol. 2. Group leader, MC, and producer Jay Dee left to pursue a solo career. Slum Village replaced him with rapper Elzhi (who debuted on Jay Dee’s Welcome to Detroit last year) for Trinity. He leads a Jason Kidd-like transformation of a trio once derided as repetitive and monosyllabic MCs into full-throttle, hard-hitting rappers. On “Lala,” he demonstrates a thrilling use of metaphors, rhyming, “I’ve never been down to Earth, I’ve just been deep in thought/Peeping all you mediocre MCs deleting culture/I cry freedom like the eyes leaking/From a deceased soldier/You think it’s over, not by a long shot.” His example leads the other two to sharpen their lyrics, too, particularly Baatin, who snarls on “All-Ta-Ment,” “You can’t be rich if you can’t share your bitches/Your ultimatum for getting rich is at a limit/You can’t spend it all on them getting new snakes/But you spend a grand on a bitch from Twin Peaks.” In turn, SV’s newfound depth on Trinity allows their primary strength of scatting catchphrases like “We’re number/One/You’re not number/One/It only takes/One/So feel it y’all” on “One,” to become a highlight instead of annoying distraction (as it often was on Fantastic Vol. 2). However, Jay Dee’s visionary production, so unforgettably demonstrated on SV classics like “Fall In Love” and “Get Dis Money,” is irreplaceable, though several producers on Trinity do their best. On “What Is This,” Curtis “Nottyhead” Cross remakes Herbert’s “Foreign Bodies” into a nocturnal sex mystery, while T-3 himself steps behind the boards for the proto-house funk of “Disco.” Like Fantastic Vol. 2, Trinity has its share of weaker tracks, particularly “Slumber,” which sounds like a lethargic remake of SV’s own “Raise It Up.” Still, Trinity is a solid if not spectacular follow-up. Capitol Records.