Welcome to Timeless Affairs, the corner within Steppin' Into Tomorrow, where we'd like to shine a spotlight on essential albums that have shaped our culture (and lives in some cases). We lovingly revisit, explore and zoom in on these gems in their full length. Digging out stories and fun facts from the making of the masterpieces that have built the foundation of the music today and continue to shape the future.
Today is a big day. 'Fantastic Vol. 2' by Slum Village turns 21, which means it’s time to grab a drink of your preference, hook the speaker up and properly celebrate this cult classic album. Cause it’s fan-tas-tic.
Hailing from Conant Gardens neighborhood in Detroit, the city in Michigan known to many as Motown, the three original members connected during their senior year of Detroit Pershing High School in the early 90s, bonding over passion for music and shared love for hip hop. Evolving from various collaborations among local rappers and DJs, what started as Ssenepod (dopeness spelled backwards, together with Waajeed and Que D), has turned into what was established as Slum Village, on this album still composed of the original core members: Young James Yancey a.k.a. Jay Dee, who later became notoriously recognized as J Dilla, R. L. Altman, better known under his MC name T3 and the turban sporting Titus Glover a.k.a. Rasaul Rassi a.k.a. Baatin. Each member has played a vital role in shaping the SV sound, whether it was contributing to the hooks, the raps or the production.
Jay Dee, aside from his on-mic skills, was known for his superhuman ability to artfully snatch unorthodox samples off rare wax and crafting beats built around elaborate bass lines, polyrhythms and drums with slightly drunken grooves (when Questlove heard Dilla's sound for the first time, he said it “sounded like the kick drum was played by like a drunk three-year-old”, hence the term "drunk"). The groups unofficial 1997 studio debut record, 'Fantastic vol.1' was composed of a series of demo's and wasn't properly released until 2005, although the bootlegs circulated heavily in the underground waters in the meantime. It was this highly sought after album that spread the word around the up-and-coming hip hop formation at the time.
"Fan-Tas-Tic's influence extended far beyond Detroit, as its sound heavily influenced the sounds of D'Angelo, Erykah Badu, and The Roots just to name a few. Questlove has even declared that: "Hands down this album birthed the neo-soul movement."
Fantastic Vol.2 is in many ways an organic continuation of Vol. 1 with a few added re-recordings. Although created in 1998, due to the tricky financial label situation with A&M at the time, the release of the final version was delayed for two long years. It wasn't properly released until 2000, when the group eventually managed to get released from their deal settled with a small indie label in Bay Area called Good Vibe Recordings. When it did, the receival by the rap critics did not quite correspond with the influence it had on the genre over the years. Fantastic Vol.2 has grown into an important milestone in history of hip hop that introduced a new approach to making music and continues to shape generations of young emcees and producers.
Btw, in case you're wondering who's responsible for the beautiful cover of the album, it was designed by a close friend of the group: Waajeed of the Platinum Pied Pipers, and founder of the Bling47 record label.
Featuring appearances by DJ Jazzy Jeff, Kurupt, Q-Tip, Busta Rhymes and Common, the production and mix on this album is solely Jay Dee’s masterpiece for the most part, being joined on the production duties by D’Angelo on “Tell Me” and Pete Rock on “Once Upon A Time”."I Don't Know" was one of the first tracks that showcased Dilla's talent with production - already appearing on Vol.1, playfully inserting James Brown samples into the lyrics of the raps on the track. Speaking of samples, apart from JB you can catch snippets of Prince, Herbie Hancock, Gap Mangione, Diana Ross, Alicia Myers and generally lots of great music, so in case you're in the mood to dive deeper into the sound, we've put together a list of used samples on this album:
"Fall In Love" is most likely THE ultimate anthem of this album and beyond, however "Untitled" is the one that touches special place of the heart. It's uniqueness also lays in it being a 6-bar loop instead of the more traditional 4 or 8. On "Hold Tight", Q- Tip rhymes: "I'mma leave it in the hands of the Slum now. Take it away from where it comes from now". With this line, he pretty much stated that he's passing on the torch to Slum Village.
In 2010, there was a re-release by Barak Records as 'Fantastic Vol. 2.10' to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the album, bringing additional tracks, alternative versions of a few songs, instrumentals, even a brand new intro and many small skits appearing between songs that never made it to previous editions.
The tragedy of Dilla passing away in 2006 and Baatin three years later has undoubtedly had a huge impact on the group. Over the years, Detroit's own Karriem Riggins and Black Milk contributed with beats, Elzhi and Young RJ were drafted in as members, later also Jay Dee's little brother Illa J. As T3 said:
"Slum Village is a revolving door. We have a lot of members, a lot of situations, but the key of the group is always the same."
It's a family affair. And when it comes to Fantastic Vol. 2, the album is often considered SV's finest work to this day. Rap classic in its truest form that will be honored for many more years to come. Much love to T3 and Young RJ for keeping the legacy of Slum alive til this day.
Rest In Beats to Baatin & Jay Dee
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