Monday, April 20, 2009

J Dilla, Slum Village and Fantastic Stuff.

I can’t really add anything to what has already been written about the sadly missed hip-hop producer Jay Dee (aka J Dilla), but it’s hard to forget the first time you ever heard a Jay Dee track. I remember hearing Slum Village back in late ’99 or early 2000. Their material had already been circulating since ’96 or ’97, when their Fantastic Vol 1 record dropped on indie label Donut Boy Records. It soon became extremely hard to find and was finally given a re-release in 2005. In late '99 there was much excitement about the upcoming US release of their follow-up album, Fantastic Vol. 2, on the Good Vibe Recordings label out of Los Angeles. It had already dropped on the British imprint Wordplay Records in 1998, creating a serious buzz. 

By this time Jay Dee’s impact on hip-hop was fully realized, due to his work with some of the genre's finest, including A Tribe Called Quest, The Pharcyde and Busta Rhymes. In early 2000 the hype surrounding the imminent release of the second installment of Fantastic was palpable and bootlegs were already circulating. I scooped two of them and they both contained a track called “Players,” which just blew me away with its languid groove and atmospheric feel. All the spacey funk of Dilla’s grooves was coupled with some very distinctive flow from rappers Baatin, and T3.

The bootlegs were merely a warm up to the killer package that Good Vibe put together for the release of Fantastic Vol.2. I bought it on triple vinyl and CD and gave both a good old twirl. Tunes like “Players,” “Climax (Girl Shit),” “Back and Forth” and “What It’s All About” were in heavy rotation at my apartment, work and on the decks when I would play hip-hop out. Around the same time Detroit rapper Phat Kat released his “Dedication To The Suckers” EP on the House Shoes Recordings label, featuring the track "Don't Nobody Care About Us," which had another devastating beat by Jay Dee, and featured the prolific Detroit music impresario Brian Gillespie in the executive producer’s chair — a man who we can thank also for bringing us Detroit Grand Pubahs.

So the point is that Slum Village’s Fantastic Vol. 2 made a really big impression on me and still does when I pull it out for a re-twirl. If you see it around on CD, or if you are so lucky to find on wax, scoop it on sight. It’s proof of how good hip-hop can be when it’s not a corporate controlled monster, and a valuable testament to the sonic genius of Jay Dee. It sounds good in the heat as well, and it’s hot as bejaysus today.


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