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 musicâ¦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 youâre currently working on? I know weâve talked about it previously, and, you know, you said you were working on an âalbum produced by Jay Dee..â Could you maybe elaborate on the different phases of J. Dilla (Jay Dee and Dilla)? And describe the project youâre working on now? :
RJ: Right now weâre working on the new Slum album. We havenât put the title out yet. Itâs produced by J. Dilla , Black Milk, and myself. And the different eras â¦The reason why we say itâs produced by Jay Dee is because of the era. The Dilla era started in about 2000. The Jay Dee era started in â95. Well really, â93 all the way to 2000, and thatâs the sound you hear with like the [Fantastic] Vol 2 sound, The [A] Tribe Called Quest sound, âThe Stakes Is High,â and all of that. So itâs 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, Iâve been there. Itâs dope. I mean itâs good to see that people around the world is recognizing my mentorâs music. You know what Iâm saying? Itâs not a lot of people that can say theyâve got a street named after them in another country. Ya know? So itâs 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, itâs greatâ¦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 nowâ¦So you know, Iâm definitely proud of Dillaâs legacyâ¦Iâm definitely proud to be a part of his legacy, not just, you know, looking on the outside. Iâm also a part of this.
HNHH: On the âYes Yesâ track (released on February 7, 2014, Dillaâs 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 thatâ¦Itâs an original Slum Village track, by the way. So it ainât like we took something that wasnât meant for Slum Village. It was always meant for Slum Villageâ¦So we just didnât 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 âDo you all wanna do this, or not?â to get our approvalâ¦And with that track, the vibe wasâ¦it was more a fun track, and the reason why we didnât use it [was] because at that time, we didnâtâ¦the hook wasnât 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 hadnât heard it for years, me and RJ figured out a way to make it pop like âOhhh. Thatâs the hook!â So we took part of this and part of that and made it a whole hook, and then we just sang with it.
HNHH: Thatâs 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 Milkâs been around, Slum. You got Guilty (Simpson). Of course you got Eminem, whoâs like the biggest of all of Detroit hip-hop. But what Iâm saying is itâs always evolving.We always had talent. It just took a long time for people to realize that.Â
Even with Slum Village, we couldnât get discovered in Detroit.We had to get discovered outside of Detroit and then bring it back to Detroit. And thatâs always the case with Detroit hip-hop, you know? Itâs kinda sad, but thatâs how it goes. Because a lot of other statesâ¦they make the rulesâ¦you know cause thatâs where most of the labels are.
HNHH: Right. What are your thoughts on Dillaâs legacy? Like I think itâs 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 beatsâ¦
T3: You know what? I know, personally, that Dillaâs music is timeless, but seeing those younger cats realize it is definitely inspiration, you knowâ¦Kendrick Lamar, Joey Bada$$...and all these younger cats thatâs really into the Dilla legacy, itâs definitely an inspiration and it just shows how big Dillaâs legacy is and his musical influence. This wasnât a normal guy when it comes to production. The musicianâs 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, âthe way Dilla programmed his beats inspiredâ him. And he is a professional drummer! You know what Iâm saying? So, it just shows you Dilla wasnât 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, âgenius.â But Iâve only seen genius maybe three times in my life. One of them is Dilla. The other one is Questlove, and the other one Is DâAngelo. 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. Itâs like anything you can possibly think of â¦
HNHH: Thatâs crazy.
T3: He was genius. Thatâs not a normal guy. Some people can do one thing and thatâs itâ¦ya know what Iâm saying?
HNHH: Yeah, like on True Detective. I donât know if you watch True Detective, but Matthew McConaugheyâs 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! Thatâs crazy. Itâs likeâ¦Dilla has cut my hair. Layne: And it was all even? T3: And it was perfect.
HNHH: Thatâs awesome!
T3: Yeah, it was perfectâ¦It was overwhelming the amount of talent that he had. Anything he put his mind to, he would be great at.
HNHH: Thatâs amazing.
T3: Not just good, he would be great.
HNHH: Who are your favorite artists and your favorite producers right now?
T3: Iâm always a Kanye fan. Always. Iâm still mad that Jay Electronica [âs album] is never coming out, by the wayâ¦Andre 3000â¦Those are my favorite artists/producers. Thereâs a couple producers coming up that I like...and a couple old schoolâ¦Iâm always gonna be a big fan of Dr. Dre, and Iâve always been aâ¦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 Iâm saying? I know Dillaâ¦Dillaâs biggest influences would have to be Pete Rock, definitely, Preemo, and probably Pharrell and Dr. Dre. Those are Dillaâs 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: Weâre 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 likeâ¦If you make it, you make it, if you donât, itâs sold out. And weâre 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 thatâ¦.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 Festivalâ¦it was likeâ¦It was just a festival of music you donât hear all the time. Iâm still a super fan of electronic music, but since we donât have thatâ¦I think âThe Dilla Festâ is what weâre gonna call itâ¦I think itâs necessary.
HNHH: What superhero are you?
T3: I am definitely Spider-Man because heâs a little self conscious, but at the same time he gets the job doneâ¦But heâs not so full of himself where he thinks itâs gonna happen at anytime.
RJ: I would say Batman because heâsâ¦Itâs not like heâs just superhuman. Heâs just super smart, and he thinks about what heâs 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 donât know. It could be shot today orâ¦It could be shot during your childhoodâ¦Whatever you envisionâ¦
RJ: (To T3) Who would play you in the Slum Village movie?
T3: In the Slum Village movie, itâs gotta be the guyâ¦Whatâs 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 Villageâ¦itâs like people know us, but they donât. Ya know what Iâm saying? So, itâs like we here, but we notâ¦If you ask Pharrell about Slum Village, heâll know us, but [not the average fan]. So the title would definitely be Almost Famous. It would definitely be Mekhi Phifer playing me.
HNHH:Â Who would play RJ?
T3: Weâd get Diddy to play RJ. Heâs gotta be dripping in diamondsâ¦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 Dillaâs Delights, and if so, do you have any favorites?
T3: Theyâre ridiculous. They are wonderful.
HNHH Whatâs your favorite, both you guysâ favorite?
T3 (to RJ): Whatâs your favorite Dilla Delight doughnut you ate? I think the glazed is ridiculous. We both say the glazed. Heâs got a broccoli and cheese doughnut thatâs pretty good.
HNHH: Oh, wow. That sounds really good! T3: Dillaâs Delightsâ¦those are really good, really tasty. Iâm not just saying that. The whole Donuts (Dilla album)/doughnuts thing startedâ¦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 freshâ¦So we used to go to Dutch Girl (a 24-hour donut shop in Detroit), rightâ¦
HNHH: Yeah, Iâve heard Dutch Girl, Iâve never had it, but Iâve heard Dutch Girl is better than Krispy Kreme.
T3: Yes. Theyâre ridiculous. So, Dutch Girlâ¦From that experience, the first company I started was Donut Boy Records. Donut Boy Records only had two releases, and one of them was Vol1, 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 thatâs 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 smartâ¦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:Â Yeah, yeah. So youâd have like the Swiss, and ham, and I think Russian dressingâ¦Is that what it is?
T3: Yup. Russian dressingâ¦The reason I would do that is because me and RJ are both working out, getting our swoll on. And right now, weâre about slimming down..we wanna make it prime right nowâ¦So thatâs where we at wit it.
RJ: Well, first of all, my sandwich would be plain cause I donât eat nothing on my sandwichâ¦All I like is the bread and the meatâ¦So it would be called âIâm Plain.
HNHH: âIâm Plain.â Ok, and it would just be like turkey on bread with no..
RJ: Just olive oil, and salt and pepper. Thatâs it.
HNHH: What about like cheese. Or lettuce, tomatoâ¦?
RJ: No cheese, no lettuce, no tomato. Thatâs why itâs called âIâm Plain.â
HNHH: Favorite wrestlerâ¦Did you guys ever watch wrestling?
RJ: Jake âThe Snakeâ Layne: Nice! Thatâs a good one.
T3: My favorite wrestler would be âRowdyâ Roddy Piper
HNHH: Yeah. He doesnât get enough credit for the wholeâ¦you know he kinda made Hulk Hogan what he is. I donât think he gets enough credit for that.
T3: Yeahâ¦âRowdyâ Roddy Piper. He was my guy.
Layne: What keeps you guys up at night?
T3: Mostly music. Itâs either music or women keeping us up late at night. Thereâs really nothing else that keeps me up. Itâs either rhymes or guts.
RJ: What keeps me up at night? Making dope musicâ¦orâ¦getting my freak on. Thatâs about it.
HNHH: When I say the word happiness, whatâs the first thing that comes to mind?
T3: Vagina. Ya know what Iâm sayin? It gets the day going
HNHH: Can you tell everyone about upcoming shows, where people can find you?
T3: Weâre going on a tourâ¦it starts in Texas in April, and weâre gone till July. Weâre going to Canada,.Weâre 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] Pharcydeâ¦and after that, weâre gonna hit Europe. So weâre basically gone the whole year.
HNHH:Â Well, thank you guys so much. I hope you enjoyed this.
T3: No problem. Thank you for interviewing us, and for looking out for usâ¦and making sure we got it poppin.Â Â