T3 and Young RJ of Slum Village discuss their upcoming album, food, wrestling, J. Dilla, and more exclusively with HotNewHipHop.
Detroit rap group Slum Village has certainly endured a lot in its 18 years. Members have tragically passed on, while others have left the group for various reasons. T3 is the only original member left. But despite all that; the veteran rap group personifies Detroit hip-hop. They carry on the legacy of deceased members J. Dilla and Baatin in the most beautiful of ways. Journalist Layne Weiss caught up with Slum Village members, T3 and Young RJ, to discuss everything from food, music, superheroes, and priceless memories.
HotNewHipHop: Can you guys describe a defining moment where you knew you wanted to make music?
T3: Defining moment where I wanted to make music…Are we talking about kid age or are we talking about new age?...I guess when I knew I wanted to make music was probably when I was nine. Then I started taking rap seriously. I started performing for my class.
RJ: When I decided I seriously wanted to do it, I probably was about six. I knew I wanted to do something with music, and then I picked back up full steam when I was about 14.
HNHH: Can you tell me about what you’re currently working on? I know we’ve talked about it previously, and, you know, you said you were working on an “album produced by Jay Dee..” Could you maybe elaborate on the different phases of J. Dilla (Jay Dee and Dilla)? And describe the project you’re working on now? :
RJ: Right now we’re working on the new Slum album. We haven’t put the title out yet. It’s produced by J. Dilla , Black Milk, and myself. And the different eras …The reason why we say it’s produced by Jay Dee is because of the era. The Dilla era started in about 2000. The Jay Dee era started in ’95. Well really, ’93 all the way to 2000, and that’s the sound you hear with like the [Fantastic] Vol 2 sound, The [A] Tribe Called Quest sound, “The Stakes Is High,” and all of that. So it’s just the eras of music with the different styles that you hear from Dilla.
HNHH: Have either of you been to Allee Jay Dee in [Montpelier] France, and how does it feel knowing that he touched the world like that?
RJ: Yeah, I’ve been there. It’s dope. I mean it’s good to see that people around the world is recognizing my mentor’s music. You know what I’m saying? It’s not a lot of people that can say they’ve got a street named after them in another country. Ya know? So it’s just good to see that the music that we work hard to make and we still doing is appreciated and things of that nature., and that his [Dilla] legacy is continuing.
T3: Yes, I have [been there] and I mean, you know, it’s great…To see that a guy from the inner city of Detroit, came up from the same high school as I came up from, and to accede these heights that we are at right now…So you know, I’m definitely proud of Dilla’s legacy…I’m definitely proud to be a part of his legacy, not just, you know, looking on the outside. I’m also a part of this.
HNHH: On the “Yes Yes” track (released on February 7, 2014, Dilla’s 40th birthday), you can hear Dilla speak. Do you remember what was going on that day, and how that song came about?
T3: That was a song that…It’s an original Slum Village track, by the way. So it ain’t like we took something that wasn’t meant for Slum Village. It was always meant for Slum Village…So we just didn’t get around to putting our verses to it. So basically, sometimes with certain tracks, Dilla would freestyle on the track, and then he would play it for me and be like “Do you all wanna do this, or not?” to get our approval…And with that track, the vibe was…it was more a fun track, and the reason why we didn’t use it [was] because at that time, we didn’t…the hook wasn’t defined, and usually when we had a track and we decided to use a track or not, the hook was always defined. But it took us all the way to 2014 to realize what the hook was. So when me and RJ heard it again, cause I hadn’t heard it for years, me and RJ figured out a way to make it pop like “Ohhh. That’s the hook!” So we took part of this and part of that and made it a whole hook, and then we just sang with it.
HNHH: That’s dope.
T3: The vibe of that is just to have fun, really. Talk your S-H-I-T and have some fun.
HNHH: What are your thoughts on the current state of Detroit hip-hop?
T3: I think Detroit is always evolving. You know you got your Danny Browns, Black Milk’s been around, Slum. You got Guilty (Simpson). Of course you got Eminem, who’s like the biggest of all of Detroit hip-hop. But what I’m saying is it’s always evolving.We always had talent. It just took a long time for people to realize that.
Even with Slum Village, we couldn’t get discovered in Detroit.We had to get discovered outside of Detroit and then bring it back to Detroit. And that’s always the case with Detroit hip-hop, you know? It’s kinda sad, but that’s how it goes. Because a lot of other states…they make the rules…you know cause that’s where most of the labels are.
HNHH: Right. What are your thoughts on Dilla’s legacy? Like I think it’s cool and interesting that guys like Kendrick Lamar and some of, you know, eight years after his death, some of the younger artists are still using his beats…
T3: You know what? I know, personally, that Dilla’s music is timeless, but seeing those younger cats realize it is definitely inspiration, you know…Kendrick Lamar, Joey Bada$$...and all these younger cats that’s really into the Dilla legacy, it’s definitely an inspiration and it just shows how big Dilla’s legacy is and his musical influence. This wasn’t a normal guy when it comes to production. The musician’s musician loved Dilla. And not just cause they loved him just cause they knew him. They loved him because what he did. Questlove said, as a drummer, “the way Dilla programmed his beats inspired” him. And he is a professional drummer! You know what I’m saying? So, it just shows you Dilla wasn’t your normal guy. He made beats like a musician, and that takes things way farther than you can imagine. A true musician has no boundaries when it comes to making music. So, that alone puts Dilla as a producer, [above] all of the rest. Now, there are producers that are musicians, but Dilla is the type of musician that could play things by ear. Dilla played instruments just off of listening because he was just pure genius. And I know people throw that around, “genius.” But I’ve only seen genius maybe three times in my life. One of them is Dilla. The other one is Questlove, and the other one Is D’Angelo. The reason why I call these people geniuses is because they can do anything at anytime. Like Dilla could cut your hair and he could deejay. He could produce. He could rap. It’s like anything you can possibly think of …
HNHH: That’s crazy.
T3: He was genius. That’s not a normal guy. Some people can do one thing and that’s it…ya know what I’m saying?
HNHH: Yeah, like on True Detective. I don’t know if you watch True Detective, but Matthew McConaughey’s character said, ya know, you barely have enough time in one lifetime to get good at one thing.
T3: Right. Dilla was good at everything! That’s crazy. It’s like…Dilla has cut my hair. Layne: And it was all even? T3: And it was perfect.
HNHH: That’s awesome!
T3: Yeah, it was perfect…It was overwhelming the amount of talent that he had. Anything he put his mind to, he would be great at.
HNHH: That’s amazing.
T3: Not just good, he would be great.
HNHH: Who are your favorite artists and your favorite producers right now?
T3: I’m always a Kanye fan. Always. I’m still mad that Jay Electronica [‘s album] is never coming out, by the way…Andre 3000…Those are my favorite artists/producers. There’s a couple producers coming up that I like...and a couple old school…I’m always gonna be a big fan of Dr. Dre, and I’ve always been a…a fan of a lot of producers.
HNHH: Are there any producers right now who you think that J. Dilla would be really impressed with or proud of?
T3: The super producer would still be Pharrell. Pharrell is like a super producer, ya know what I’m saying? I know Dilla…Dilla’s biggest influences would have to be Pete Rock, definitely, Preemo, and probably Pharrell and Dr. Dre. Those are Dilla’s biggest influences cause these guys are ridiculous. Even today, those guys still ring bells and still make it happen.
HNHH: Can you talk a little about your plans to turn Dilla Day into a 3-day festival?
T3: We’re really talking about doing it next year, making Dilla Day a 3-day fest.
HNHH: Next year?
T3: Next year. Because what we wanna do is make it like…If you make it, you make it, if you don’t, it’s sold out. And we’re gonna make it two floors, and make it pop. We want it to be an EVENT. Dilla Day is cool, but I think we need a Dilla weekend. Detroit needs that….a hip-hop festival. The only festival we have in Detroit is the (Movement) Electronic (Music) Festival, and Slum Village opened up for the first Electronic fest. And then after that, it just got weird. It just got straight electronic. But the dope thing about the Electronic Festival…it was like…It was just a festival of music you don’t hear all the time. I’m still a super fan of electronic music, but since we don’t have that…I think “The Dilla Fest” is what we’re gonna call it…I think it’s necessary.
HNHH: What superhero are you?
T3: I am definitely Spider-Man because he’s a little self conscious, but at the same time he gets the job done…But he’s not so full of himself where he thinks it’s gonna happen at anytime.
RJ: I would say Batman because he’s…It’s not like he’s just superhuman. He’s just super smart, and he thinks about what he’s trying to do to get what he needs to get done.
HNHH: Who would play you guys in a movie about your life, and what would it be called?
RJ: When is this movie being shot?
HNHH: I don’t know. It could be shot today or…It could be shot during your childhood…Whatever you envision…
RJ: (To T3) Who would play you in the Slum Village movie?
T3: In the Slum Village movie, it’s gotta be the guy…What’s his name? Who played Proof with the dreads? RJ: Mekhi Phifer T3: Mekhi Phifer would play me, definitely, and the movie would be Almost Famous because I feel like with Slum Village…it’s like people know us, but they don’t. Ya know what I’m saying? So, it’s like we here, but we not…If you ask Pharrell about Slum Village, he’ll know us, but [not the average fan]. So the title would definitely be Almost Famous. It would definitely be Mekhi Phifer playing me.
HNHH: Who would play RJ?
T3: We’d get Diddy to play RJ. He’s gotta be dripping in diamonds…and Illa J would probably be Andre 3000, the actor, Andre 3000, not the rapper, but actor.
HNHH: Have you guys tried any of the doughnuts at Dilla’s Delights, and if so, do you have any favorites?
T3: They’re ridiculous. They are wonderful.
HNHH What’s your favorite, both you guys’ favorite?
T3 (to RJ): What’s your favorite Dilla Delight doughnut you ate? I think the glazed is ridiculous. We both say the glazed. He’s got a broccoli and cheese doughnut that’s pretty good.
HNHH: Oh, wow. That sounds really good! T3: Dilla’s Delights…those are really good, really tasty. I’m not just saying that. The whole Donuts (Dilla album)/doughnuts thing started…when we did [Fan-Tas-Tic]Vol 1..or before we did Vol 1, me and Dilla used to stay up till 5 am to get doughnuts because we knew they would be fresh…So we used to go to Dutch Girl (a 24-hour donut shop in Detroit), right…
HNHH: Yeah, I’ve heard Dutch Girl, I’ve never had it, but I’ve heard Dutch Girl is better than Krispy Kreme.
T3: Yes. They’re ridiculous. So, Dutch Girl…From that experience, the first company I started was Donut Boy Records. Donut Boy Records only had two releases, and one of them was Vol 1, Slum Village Vol 1, and the other one was my solo album, Olio,with me and Black Milk. And RJ did a joint on there too. So that’s where all the Donuts thing comes from. It comes from me and Dilla going early in the morning..
HNHH: I wish I was friends with you guys then! You guys were smart…Umm..if a restaurant named a sandwich after you, what would it be called and what would be on it?
T3: I would be a Slim Jim like from Big Boy
HNHH: Yeah, yeah. So you’d have like the Swiss, and ham, and I think Russian dressing…Is that what it is?
T3: Yup. Russian dressing…The reason I would do that is because me and RJ are both working out, getting our swoll on. And right now, we’re about slimming down..we wanna make it prime right now…So that’s where we at wit it.
RJ: Well, first of all, my sandwich would be plain cause I don’t eat nothing on my sandwich…All I like is the bread and the meat…So it would be called “I’m Plain.
HNHH: “I’m Plain.” Ok, and it would just be like turkey on bread with no..
RJ: Just olive oil, and salt and pepper. That’s it.
HNHH: What about like cheese. Or lettuce, tomato…?
RJ: No cheese, no lettuce, no tomato. That’s why it’s called “I’m Plain.”
HNHH: Favorite wrestler…Did you guys ever watch wrestling?
RJ: Jake “The Snake” Layne: Nice! That’s a good one.
T3: My favorite wrestler would be “Rowdy” Roddy Piper
HNHH: Yeah. He doesn’t get enough credit for the whole…you know he kinda made Hulk Hogan what he is. I don’t think he gets enough credit for that.
T3: Yeah…”Rowdy” Roddy Piper. He was my guy.
Layne: What keeps you guys up at night?
T3: Mostly music. It’s either music or women keeping us up late at night. There’s really nothing else that keeps me up. It’s either rhymes or guts.
RJ: What keeps me up at night? Making dope music…or…getting my freak on. That’s about it.
HNHH: When I say the word happiness, what’s the first thing that comes to mind?
T3: Vagina. Ya know what I’m sayin? It gets the day going
HNHH: Can you tell everyone about upcoming shows, where people can find you?
T3: We’re going on a tour…it starts in Texas in April, and we’re gone till July. We’re going to Canada,.We’re gone. We got a whole tour coming up. The first part is gonna be with Pharoahe Monch and the second part is gonna be with [The] Pharcyde…and after that, we’re gonna hit Europe. So we’re basically gone the whole year.
HNHH: Well, thank you guys so much. I hope you enjoyed this.
T3: No problem. Thank you for interviewing us, and for looking out for us…and making sure we got it poppin.