Slum Village: Interview with Young RJ - Valerie Yoder
Slum Village is a collective of hip hop artists dedicated to continuing the sound and story behind the group’s original era as influential hip hop legends. Throughout the changes in its lineup, over the years Slum Village has maintained a consistent production style by incorporating the original members’ designs methods within the recent era of hip hop sound-culture.
Slum Village originated in Detroit in 1993 as the dynamic trio of hip hop artists and producers J Dilla, Baatin and T3. The current members include the only living member of the original group, T3, and Grammy-nominated producer Young RJ. Together, the hip hop duo has produced an exciting new tour, featuring a highly anticipated set in Denver on September 16th at Your Moms House venue and nightclub.
Their latest tour and production under the Slum Village label is an exciting showcase of their continuing efforts to invigorate the hip hop music scene while continuing to pay tribute to the original group and their legacy.
As a founding member, T3 is the consistent factor in Slum Village, Young RJ said in an interview. “Dilla taught us, me and T3, the formula for making these songs,” he said. “As far as production, T3 has been doing the hooks since the beginning, so a lot of the ideas were T3 and Dillas. So having that, the consistent founding members, is what keeps the glue, as well me and T still going into studio and working like we used to. You're always going to have that consistent sound, because the people who's been at the helm of it since 2001, are still present.”
The Slum Village formula is a stylized method behind the group’s classic sound design and core brand. Young RJ explained, “It’s how we choose to take whatever samples we want to use, how we go to look and shop for records—what we're looking for on the back of the cover or certain labels that are consistent and put out dope music. It’s the approach of how we choose to swing our music and where we choose to pull inspiration from for our hooks, and things of that nature, and what we choose to sample drum-wise. All those things are what goes into the formula.”
The combined production efforts of T3 and Young RJ became a catalyst for the group’s long-lasting success. Young RJ explained their transformation as the latest members of Slum Village, describing the pressure of picking up production after J Dilla left in 2001 to pursue his solo career. “In 2010 we started working on Dirty Slums. And after that, it just kind of got easy. We found our groove going into Dirty Slums Volume 2 and we got it at a good point now,” he said.
In the past decade, Slum Village has released a variety of new albums including popular albums Evolution released in 2013 and Yes! released in 2015.
Today’s Slum Village pays tribute to the origins of the group and their classic production techniques. Young RJ said, “We've maintained and have been able to push forward and keep the brand even bigger now than it was 10 years ago. We just put our heart into music, making sure that we like it, and we dig it first.”
He added: “That's how It started back in early days, them just making music that they wanted to make, and that they felt like they wanted to listen to. And we keep that same thing today, we want the fans to get a little bit of our history, and learn what records Dilla made that they didn't know about. Baatin was influential in what he was doing, T3 as well. We just want to give our audience a history lesson and want them to have a great time.”
Slum Village begins their next tour dates as the debut run in a number of upcoming tours. Young RJ said the vision for the upcoming shows is as an enthusiastic revival from the old Slum Village.
“We are putting together a show that people haven’t seen from Slum Village,” he said. “We are preparing to do an even bigger show—just a great show with great energy, hearing all the classic songs that you would want to hear. We may do a couple of Dilla songs in there to pay tribute to him and Baatin. We always want to keep our founding members present and bringing them to the new audience.”
In addition to their upcoming tours, Slum Village, T3 and Young RJ anticipate a lineup of album releases coming soon. Young RJ’s newest album, World Tour will be released September 23, featuring Pete Rock, Pino Palladino. Slum Village, Abstract Mindstate, Abstract Orchestra, Blu, Mega Ran and Eric Roberson.
He said, “T3 is working on a couple of different albums. He has one album coming out with Jermaine Holmes, as well as working on a solo album. Me personally, I have an 80s album that’s a mix of 80s punk rock and other genres, and then have another album with Mega Ran, as a follow up for 2 Hands Up. I have a project I'm finishing up with Kanye West group, Abstract Mindstate, that's coming out. And then I have a hip hop album coming out. And Slum is working on a whole new album as well.”
Slum Village will be releasing featured singles from their new album later this year and plans to release the full album toward the end of 2023. Their tour dates, including their upcoming show in Denver can be found in the links below.