To some, the basement studio of Slum Village’s DJ Dez might appear completely shambolic. To others, it’s a thing of power and beauty. In its many teetering stacks of records lies a genre-defying cornucopia of great music — both obscure and (surprisingly) common. What’s amazing is Dez knows exactly where everything is. He’ll ask you if you’ve heard the little-known ’70s rock combo UPP, one Jeff Beck produced, then reach into a stack of records on the verge of collapse and pull it out. It’s like that.
This indelible wealth of music that literally surrounds the onetime Ozomatli member is what fuels Slum’s beats. Dez, a Detroit-native — who’s the son of noted percussionist Nengue Hernandez — resembles his old pal Jay Dee in that there’s genius in his ability to harvest samples from the unlikeliest sources. He’s as likely to pull out Suzanne Vega’s Solitude Standing, the Bee Gee’s Trafalgar or Laura Nyro’s Smile as he is Newcleus’ Jam On Revenge. All this magic happens in the basement of his grandmother’s house (where Dez currently resides) near Seven Mile and Livernois. Proof’s old karaoke machine is there, now a makeshift Jay Dilla shrine. It gazes down upon his studio as if blessing the vinyl that hits the turntables. It’s a lonely blessing at times. “My record collection is a reflection of me and my background,” Dez says. “Sometimes I feel like I’m the only one listening to these records.”