Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Track by Track, Slum Village's Villa Manifesto

Track by Track, Slum Village's Villa Manifesto

A Detroit spin on Nas’s classic rhyme on “New York State of Mind pt. 2” would go something like this: “Slum Village has had five members total. Five has turned to three rappers, got two in heaven…now all they have left in the end is Elzhi, Illa J, and T3, and they’re all going to the death for these ends.” That’s what it feels like for SV on their sixth album Villa Manifesto. Luckily, J Dilla and Baatin make strong apparitional appearances on the LP, especially Baatin who miraculously spotlights as the lead emcee. The connection here is both brotherly and supernatural. It looks as if the V was like “Screw this, ‘til death do us ART.” And cutting edge art at that.

After being privy to a private listening of Slum Village's new offering, here is a quick run-down of what you can expect to hear.

“Bare Witness” featuring DJ Babu

Produced by Khrysis and starring Babu on the ones, this is the typical (or not so typical because of the intense energy) scratched hook intro song. The horns spruce it up some.

“Lock It Down”

Baatin comes loud and clear on this drum heavy jawn. It’s immediate with its classic Slum Village snare and kick. You can thank J Dilla’s beat vault for this.

“Scheming” featuring J Dilla, De La Soul, Phife (A Tribe Called Quest)

Gotta love the concept of this song. It’s a posse cut where each emcee is scheming on a girl. Phife drops a cute truffle: “You’re like a SV song I sing/ on my mind like lines and rhymes and things.” The track has a hot beat that breaks down into dazzling spoken word with a solo piano similar to Common’s “It’s Your World”. Stand out track.

“Earl Flinn”

Urban legend says the Earl Flinn is a Detroit hand gesture that could get you stomped out if you wave it at the wrong people. Despite the hard concept, SV’s filler rhyme kryptonite start to rear its ugly. Luckily, Elzhi picks up the slack, spitting, “Broadcasting live from your district/like in between your eyes with the biscuit.” The beat has some human beatbox in it. By the way, is that a kazoo in the background?

“Faster” featuring Colin Munroe

This is Villa Manifesto’s lead single to date. Produced by Young RJ of Detroit City of Soul fame, the song makes good use of the R&B chorus, which along with the other pop diversions on the album, does not come across as cheesy. “You need that feeling that young girls dream of/ That Italy gondola boat upstream love/ That Paris in the Spring time, Wakiki winter.” Panty dropper.

“2000 Beyond” featuring J Dilla, ?uestlove

The old school breakbeat is provided live by ?uestlove. Dilla adds to his own mystique. One for the organic good guys.

“Dance” featuring AB

Love the synthy organ on this one. Sounds like something that would play in a modern day Studio 54. “Someone told me this song was for the ladies”, says David Bosch, SV’s media relations manager. “But shit, I like it too.” AB (check out AB & Daru) sounds like a young Prince.

“Don’t Fight the Feeling”

is Neosoul’s King Midas. This is a certified head nodder. Mr. Porter is turning into underground ‘Hop’s King Midas also. “Don’t Fight the Feeling” is that “welcome to my lazy boy, shorty” type song. Definitely wanna play this when transitioning into night gear.


Sounds tribal. Yeah like a modern day tribal song. Lots of claps and choral shouts. Mostly instrumental with chanting spruced in. Nice change of pace to an otherwise organic Hip-Hop album. “Daylight, we’re talking daylight, shine on…” is the momentous echoed phrase.

“Um Um”

The tribal drums continue. Unidentified female spits with energy. There’s sexual innuendo flying all over the place on this one.

“The Setup”

Storytelling track. T3 and Elzhi trade bars excellently. “I’m about to tell a story and I tell the story well, very well,” goes the refrain. Beat entrée served hot by Hi-Tek. Another gem for his legacy.

“The Reunion Pt. 2”

T3: “I deserve to hold my nuts when I’m in an interview.” Braggadocio drips all over this record.

“Where Do We Go From Here” featuring Little Brother

Love how SV bookends Villa Manifesto with scratched hook songs. Peep the quotable: “For the Mason-Dixon line that you can’t cross.” Phonte and Pooh also represent well.

“We’ll Show You” featuring AB

Sounds like a classic SV song that could have appeared in an earlier album, which is probably one of the highest forms of flattery a backpack track can receive. This is a closure song with ominous piano and dissonant chords. A suitable finale to a transcendent album.

-Sidik Fofana

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