Artist: Slum Village
Album: Fantastic Vol. 2
Rating: 2.5 / 10
Reviewer: DJ MF
Ugh. Everywhere you go in certain circles of hip hop nowadays, you’ll hear- “Jay Dee is a GOD!”, or “He’s so INVENTIVE!”.
As my British friends would say – BOLLOCKS.
That’s not to say that the man can’t make a decent beat. In fact he has. Multiple times. It’s just that it’s been the same beat over and over. For some producers, this works (see DJ Premier), but this usually only holds true when that one beat is SO good that you can’t help but admire the classicness of it. Jay Dee has no classic beats.
And therein lies the problem with a group like Slum Village. Obviously, my opinion is the ying to the yang that others spout. The fact of the matter is, you won’t know if you like stuff like this until YOU listen to it, but rest assured that if you like what I like, you’ll probably loathe this stuff.
Of course, my hatred of most things Jay Dee clouds the fact that the MC’s of Slum Village are more than a little lacking in skills. If you want Ras Kass or Nas levels of lyricism, look elsewhere. Heck, if you want DMX levels of lyricism, look elsewhere. The MCing by T-3, Baatin, and Jay Dee first of all lacks personality. These guys sound like 3rd rate Tribe Called Quest rejects. And I’m being kind. The fact that they sound so horrible may cloud the fact that for the most part, they’re also saying NOTHING of note. Even the battling portions are soft. Ugh.
A boring intro opens things up, and is followed by one of the higher points of the LP, the song ‘Conant Gardens’, which features a fast paced bassline over some shuffling snares, and intermittent sounds that sound like semi-scratches. Decent enough, although the MCing leaves much to be desired.
DJ Jazzy Jeff makes his way from Philly to help out on the jazzy ‘I Don’t Know’ which is next up, and utilizes a nice piano loop, and assorted James Brown samples. Wow, SO inventive. Can you smell the sarcasm? Guess what? The MCing still blows hard too. YAY!
This type of pseudo-jazzy crap pervades the whole LP. Luckily enough, I didn’t nod off during ‘Jealousy’and managed to hear the track ‘Climax’, which also served as a single for the group. It has a nice enough beat, with some seriously deep bass, and nice effect before the chorus, but again, it can’t disguise that the lyrics are absolutely booty, and that this is just thinly disguised pseudo-R&B pablum.
I spoke earlier of Tribe? Well, the real deal shows up for ‘Hold Tight’ which features Q-Tip. Oh wait, that’s the Q-Tip of TODAY. Not the same thing. The bassline is the same old same old, and the interesting guitar loop at the start is discarded after the first 30 seconds. It’s like they’re purposely TRYING to get me to turn it off.
Remember what I said about pseudo-R&B pablum? That could also be applied to the next track, ‘Tell Me’ which features superstar D’Angelo. This would be a good solo D’Angelo track, but unfortunately for Slum Village, it’s a SLUM VILLAGE track. I must have missed the bus on hip hop becoming a sleep inducer, because this does the job. On the plus side, you could put this on when a honey was around, and you’d seem “nice” so it’s got that going for it I suppose.
Look at the liners for the next track, and notice that Busta Rhymes is featured on ‘What It’s All About’. WOAH. If there’s anyone that could wake this album up, it would be Busta. I mean, he could wake up a 25 year coma patient. So what does Slum Village do? They provide a mid-tempo disco type beat with some sh*tty singing for him to rhyme over. NEXT.
Look at the liners for the next track, and notice that Kurupt is featured on ‘Forth And Back’. WOAH. Should be interesting, and MIGHT wake things up since there are few G rappers better than Kurupt. So what does Slum Village do? They provide a mid-tempo disco type beat for him to rhyme over. He actually does a pretty good job, but this isn’t what I want when I hear Kurupt. Hey Jay Dee, castrate him for a better effect next time, OK?
Remember what I said about how Jay Dee CAN make good beats? Well, the middle of the album provides the only highlights of the LP. Sandwiched around the narcoleptic ‘Get Dis Money’ are the standout tracks of the LP. ‘Untitled/Fantastic’ manages to get the jazzy fusion right, while ‘Fall In Love’ sounds like it would be at home on a Roots LP (which is a good thing), with its almost mournful sound. The real treat of the trifecta though, is the anthemic ‘Raise It Up’, which is so different in scope from the rest of the album, that one wonders if it’s the same group doing the track. Jay Dee quite simply provides one of the hottest beats of the year with a snappy snare, and a xylophone type rhythm also acting as a bassline. Just hot. Never mind that the lyrics barely manage to rise above mediocre.
‘Once Upon A Time’ which features Pete Rock, and ‘Players’ however, continue the sleepy feel, and add nothing to the hip hop lexicon- either in terms of beats or lyrics. By this point in the album, you’ll also notice that Jay Dee just loves those hand claps, since they should be grating on your nerves a little.
‘Eyes Up’ uses what sounds like live instrumentation, and is the better for it, with a nice jangly guitar portion, although again, the beat is just booty. The closing tracks ‘2U4U’ and ‘Go Ladies’ sound like derivatives of the earlier ‘Climax’, and ‘CB4’ just sounds unpolished, which itself is a surprise, since even though the album sucks, everything sounds clean and tight.
So there you have it. Should you believe me? Should you believe the other writers on the site? Your call.
In my opinion, this album stinks to high heaven. There is little inventiveness to the beats except for a couple of tracks, and the attempt at a jazzy-hip hop fusion only yields the result of sleep inducing beats that all sound the same. This wouldn’t be a problem if the MC’s could rise to the challenge. But of course, this is Slum Village, so that ain’t the case.
Highest recommendation to avoid.