With Trinity: Past, Present & Future, the group’s third album, Slum Village answers doubts about its viability after the recent departure of producer Jay Dilla (Jay Dee, who still produced three tracks on this disc). Dilla had been considered by many the cornerstone of the group. The new lineup still features T3 and Baatin, and introduces new member Elzhi. The result, most SV fans will be happy to know, is not far from the norm.
Trinity is a concept album. The project breaks down into three parts that distinctly feature SV’s past, present and future sounds. The good thing about concept albums is that the listener is usually treated to a more intriguing experience, where the fluidity of the project becomes more important than singles. In that regard, “Tainted,” the lead-off smash, may be the only song on the album that radio accepts with open arms. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, if the fans remain loyal.
When SV dropped Fantastic: Vol. II, two years ago, I predicted that the group would be a slow burn, and would later enjoy mass appeal. That’s happening now. Still, SV dares to challenge the senses by breaking so many rules. T3 and Baatin are not the most lyrically astute MCs in the world, but stylistically, few are more engaging. As Jay Dilla once did, Elzhi carries the most weight when it comes to vocabulary. But who can deny the dopeness of T3’s staccato when he says “We c’sit around an j’k’k da blahzay splee,” or when Baatin kills half a verse in Arabic on “Harmony?”
Musically, producers like Wajeed, Scott Storch and Kareem Riggins diversify the old Jay Dilla style just enough that it evolves without changing too much. Ultimately, it’s the same type of Slum as before, which means there’s no gray area. You’re either going to welcome Trinity as innovative and creative, or you’ll reject it. The successful marketing of “Tainted” will probably take the album gold. The rest is up to you.
As for me, hip-hop needs genre-benders such as Slum Village. So, slow burn or fast, blaze ahead, fellas. Blaze ahead.
E-mail Khary Kimani Turner at firstname.lastname@example.org.