Slum Village

Detroit Deli (A Taste of Detroit) sounds like the latest in a series of diminishing returns for Slum Village. Once considered a leader of the hip-hop vanguard for its acid, chopped-up raps and Jay Dee’s sylphlike beats, the group has been decimated in recent years: Jay Dee departed for a wandering solo career, occasionally returning, which he does here. Baatin exited after their last album, Trinity: Past, Present, and Future. While a promising new member, Elzhi, was inducted, Slum Village is now just T3 and Elzhi, and they’ve been reduced to rhyming over Kanye West’s tasteful approximation of a Jay Dee beat on “Selfish.”

Incidentally Jay Dee, along with T3 and Elzhi, addresses the future of Slum Village on “The Reunion.” “You thought we broke up but we was just reassembling,” he claims. Lyrically the group is as maddening as ever, spitting player philosophies and personal confessions (“See that’s Satan making my heart cold as the breeze until it’s frozen from freezing”) that seem to contradict each other.

On Trinity Slum Village employed several producers who copied Jay Dee’s musical style, with generally positive results, including the hit single “Tainted.” This time around it turns over the reins to a teenage production duo called BR Gunna (Black and Young RJ), leading to a series of hits and misses. “Dirty,” bolstered by a “smack the nigga out” chorus from Ol’ Dirty Bastard, eerily mixes up handclaps and a bass drum. But “Zoom” sounds incomplete with its steel drum percussion and distorted big beat, and “Closer” comes off like a fake-sounding Casio track.

Alarmingly, Detroit Deli doesn’t have the momentum that made Trinity a welcome surprise for Slum Village fans. Its inconsistent qualities give the sense that the group is vainly holding on to the time when it represented the future of rap, when songs such as “Fall in Love” and “Raise It Up” were treasured by discerning hip-hop fans around the world. Those days are over. — Mosi Reeves

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