The story of Slum Village will likely go down in hip-hop history as one of the genre’s grandest tragedies. And not as the sort of insipid, Behind the Music-style cautionary tale that’s marred the memories of Biggie, Tupac, and others. Slum Village didn’t lose it all in a whirlwind of sex, drugs, and guns; they simply got mercilessly fucked over by man and nature in ways that would make Sophocles blush.
Slum Village’s problems started early. Label politics at A&M prevented their acclaimed 1996 debut Fan-tas-tic (Volume 1) from seeing a proper release until fucking 2005. Good move, thankfully defunct A&M, because having a record to push couldn’t possibly have helped Slum Village crack the mainstream when they opened for A Tribe Called Quest on the group’s farewell tour in 1998. But everybody gets fucked over by their label, you say. When did the cosmos decide to take a swipe at Slum Village? A couple of times, actually: first, when former member and current hip-hop martyr Jay Dee succumbed to lupus in 2006, and again in 2009 when crucial MC Baatin died of unknown causes.
The group’s future has been in limbo ever since Baatin’s death, but the manager of eLZhi, Dilla’s SV replacement, appears to have finally put a fork in the whole thing. According to Hex Murda (yes, this is the man eLZhi trusts with his career), “For all intents and purposes concerning eLZhi, Slum Village is defunct.” He went on to say that the group’s upcoming LP Villa Manifesto, out July 27 on E1 Records, will be the last under the Slum Village name. But just to make things even more confusing, SV’s manager responded by saying that founding member T3 has no intention of retiring the Slum Village name just yet, planning instead “to take Slum Village as a brand to the next level.” And while the marketing possibilities of Slum Village™ are exciting, without Dilla, Baatin, or Elzhi, what’s left to brand besides the group’s sterling legacy? And is it worth it for T3 to live in the past if only to enjoy the success that Slum Village should have obtained in its heyday? You be the judge or something!