Fantastic, Vol. 2

Slum Village

(LP - Ne'Astra #NMG 5763LP)

Review by Jason Birchmeier

After being talked about and awaited for months, Slum Village's Fantastic, Vol. 2 finally reached the public's ears, reinforcing the fact that the group -- and particularly producer Jay Dee -- planned to continue where A Tribe Called Quest left off. Jay Dee's solid production track record for renowned artists such as Common and Q-Tip garnered the majority of the hype for this Detroit trio's second album. He specializes in a clean, musical style of hip-hop beats with an emphasis on crisp acoustic percussion and other classic funk sounds. The synthesizer-based sounds, such as Mannie Fresh's ass-shaking electro beats, Dr. Dre's signature West Coast synth lines, and RZA's hallucinagenic orchestral ambience are nowhere to be found in Jay Dee's production. Similar to how his production looks back to a classic retro style of pre-Bernie Worrell funk, Slum Village's lyrics also have more in common with the past than the present. Gangsta motifs, violence, bling-bling, drugs, misogyny, ice, trash talking, nonsense? These topics are also notably absent here, leaving Jay Dee, T3, and Baatin to rap about less dramatic and more egotistical topics such as their skills. One can't help but notice that Slum Village sounds strikingly similar to A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, and Common, which isn't surprising considering the fact that Jay Dee produced all three artists. The problem lies in the fact that Slum Village isn't nearly as interesting as lyricists and their album follows rather than precedes these other groups. If Fantastic, Vol. 2 had hit the streets in the mid to late '90s rather than in 2000, it would have been a landmark album with Jay Dee's signature neo-JB's hip-hop. Unfortunately, his sound isn't new anymore, and though many may like the fact that Slum Village doesn't rap about decadent topics, one often finds Eminem's psychosis, Easy-E's promiscuousness, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony's odes to bud, and DMX's inner conflicts more entertaining than Slum Village's mundane topics. In the end, no matter how much one hears Jay Dee's squeaky clean production, it never gets old, justifying the hype surrounding Fantastic, Vol. 2 and making it an exciting record for anyone in love with purist hip-hop.

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