Artist: Slum VllageTitle: Detroit Deli (A Taste of Detroit)Rating: 4 StarsReviewed by: Matt Barone
Not many groups in this rap game have had to endure as many setbacks and roadblocks as Michigan’s capital representatives Slum Village. Founding member T3 and his current partner Elzhi have weathered a long storm since 2000’s Fantastic, Vol. 2 received critical acclaim. The duo has been plagued by label drama, skepticism concerning their lyrical abilities, and member changes that would make Destiny’s Child feel a little better. Proving to be quite resilient, Slum Village’s T3 and Elzhi have taken matters into their own able hands, turning their fourth album Detroit Deli (A Taste Of Detroit) into their best effort to date. Not only is Detroit Deli the group’s strongest release, it is easily one of 2004’s most pleasant listening experiences thus far.
This year’s golden boy Kanye West both produces and is featured on the smooth and breezy “Selfish”, making for the only track not blessed by Detroit’s resident production wizards Young RJ and Black, collectively known as B.R. Gunna. B.R. Gunna are just as valuable to this disc as T3 and Elzhi are, as the beat-making duo creates perfect backdrops to fit the flows exhibited by Slum Village. The beautiful blend of flutes and light percussion that grace “Closer” inspire romantic verses from SV, while veteran D-Town native MC Breed checks in to ride B.R. Gunna’s throwback funk on “Do You.” The rougher-edged beats heard on tracks like “It’s On” and “The Hours” show the versatility of B.R. Gunna, and allow for T3 and Elzhi to flex their harder lyrical muscle.
T3’s gravelly voice makes his lines consistently entertaining, but Elzhi’s effortless flow and impressive wordplay anoint him as Slum Village’s top lyricist. On “Old Girl/Shining Star,” single moms are given their just due over piano keys and vocal samples, as Elzhi comforts with, “Baby daddy left you as your stomach and your breast grew, you thought he was special, only if you just knew, but you don’t need him and it sucks he ain’t leaving extra bucks, when it’s freezing, catch the bus just to feed him.” Further uplifting is practiced on “Keep Holding On,” addressing the hardships of life and how to overcome them, while original SV member and producer J Dilla joins forces with his former associates on the hypnotic “Reunion,” Elzhi’s bars stand out on this track as he directly speaks to former Villager Baatin rather candidly, only to point out that, “Believe me, me and T3 kept it low, don’t take it as a diss, this is just to let you know that I love ya.”
While many had counted Slum Village out with a premature ten count, T3 and Elzhi have risen to the occasion with this undeniable album. Detroit Deli clearly demonstrates that Motown’s rap star shines past Slim Shady and his band, and defines the duo as true musical survivors. Platinum plaques may not be in Slum Village’s immediate future, but with this release, they have delivered a disc that will easily be one of 2004’s sleeper records, renewing the love of hip-hop within the lucky ears of those smart enough to invest their hard-earned funds.