Slum Village boasts, “we’re still fantastic, everything we spit is classic” on the intro to their new EP, but times have been everything but sweet for the Detroit group. Producer/founding member J Dilla left the crew and died years later; health issues forced Baatin to leave as well, and the glee of him rejoining ceased with his mysterious death after the trio completed their new album. To help rebuild a buzz that suffered from several release delays, Barak Records drops this digital EP as a teaser for the full-length Villa Manifesto LP, now set for a 2010 release.
Villa Manifesto EP shows promise because it captures many of the same elements from Slum Village’s last self-titled album in 2005, while still moving them forward. The trio’s ultra-lyrical leg, Elzhi, has established more of a solo career since their last group album, and on Manifesto EP, he sounds even more confident and motivated than before. “Nonbelievers, I line ‘em up like a caesar, swing the cleaver, draw heat and give ‘em the fever,” he spews on the bar barrage of “Nitro.” Dexterous rhymes continue on “Da Night,” where T3, who’s known for a style over substance approach, nearly gives his partner a run for his money. And listeners can’t help but enjoy hearing Baatin’s one-of-a-kind voice, flow and charisma alongside his homies like it’s supposed to be.
Villa Manifesto also excels sonically. In J Dilla’s absence, the group later enlisted most of their production duties to Black Milk and Young RJ, collectively known as B.R. Gunna. RJ contributes upbeat numbers for over half of the EP’s songs, and Slum doesn’t miss a beat over Madlib’s spacey, nostalgic sound on “Money Right.” Ironically, Dilla’s melodic sound and Slum’s female-friendly rhymes are most closely duplicated on “Cloud 9,” with a piano-driven backdrop from Aftermath producer Focus and a chorus by Marsha Ambrosius.
If death, breakups and makeups can’t break up Slum Village, industry politics won’t either. If Villa Manifesto EP is emblematic of what the album has to offer, the group doesn’t only have an opportunity to go full circle—they can add another layer to their legacy, altogether.