Slum Village

Detroit Deli (A Taste of Detroit)

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When J Dilla left Slum Village after Fantastic, Vol. 2, the group wasn't predicted to flourish, let alone survive, in the aftermath. After all, J was the star producer, T3 and Baatin just a pair of old friends yet to make their name outside the 313 area code. Nevertheless, their next record, Trinity (Past, Present and Future), saw the trio actually improving in the production realm, and bolstering their rap credentials by adding local phenom Elzhi. But after another lineup change -- Baatin was booted after increasingly erratic behavior later diagnosed as schizophrenia -- prospects for Slum Village again seemed dismal. This time, though, it has to come as a lesser surprise that Detroit Deli (A Taste of Detroit) shows the group at the same high level. Slum's anchor, T3, wisely handed over production reins to young guns BR Gunna, one of whom (RJ Rice) had proved his mettle with tracks from Trinity and 2002's Dirty District compilation. Rice and co. constructed a parade of digital R&B jams that skillfully navigate the divide between cutting-edge headphone productions and bumping club tracks. Despite posing in front of Detroit icons from Greektown to Mexicantown and everywhere in between, T3 and Elzhi set their sights beyond the region to collaborate with Chicago's most wanted Kanye West (on a track he produced) and Wu-Tang culprit Dirt McGirt. On McGirt's feature, "Dirty," BR Gunna's production has an atmospheric sheen and high-grade handclaps that surprisingly compliment McGirt's trademark mic-spraying. Even with a couple of glitzy features, Detroit Deli spends plenty of time paying respect to Slum Village's Motown roots; old friend Dwele stops by for two tracks, labelmate Phat Kat features on the opener, "Zoom," and Flint's own MC Breed drives down for "Do You." T3 and Elzhi get more personal on the record too, fortunately without descending into maudlin territory; "Old Girl/Shining Star" endearingly calls out single mothers, and the closer, "Reunion," features a J Dilla production and a few worried rhymes about Baatin's exit.

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