Looking back at the album that introduced Slum Village to the world at large
Slum Village had been around long before this underground hip-hop trio from Detroit finally managed to release its major label debut.
Fantastic Vol. 2 was originally finished in 1998, but due to their record label’s financial decline, the project was left in limbo for more than a year. As a result the group were left to look elsewhere to release the record, eventually settling with Goodvibe Recordings & Barak Records in 2000.
Although technically, while it wasn’t the group’s first official album, it’s predecessor, Fan-Tas-Tic Vol. 1, was only leaked to a small underground circuit. It wasn’t officially released for another eight years and several of the tracks were actually redubbed for Vol. 2. The group was also forced by its label to release the Best Kept Secret, a 10-song EP, under the name J-88.
In the beginning, the group consisted of three key components—the lyrical aptitude of Detroit rappers T3 and Baatin with the artfully sampled beats of James “J Dilla” Yancey—often made them considered the torchbearers of groups like A Tribe Called Quest and De La Soul.
AUDIO: Slum Village Fan-Tas-Tic Vol. 1
“It was a lot of shit with that album. You can’t talk about Vol. 2 without talking about Vol. 1. The fact that Vol. 1 was heard word of mouth to guys who were already established made Vol. 2 so great,” T3 said in an interview with Okayplayer last year. “All those artists on the album, we didn’t have to pay those artists. They loved us based off our history. Nobody gets that. This was before favors were handed out. Now that’s the norm, but back then, no. Those were all favors. Pete Rock, D’angelo, Kurupt. These are people who just wanted to be there, like ‘I gotta be on this album!’”
J Dilla had already established somewhat of a name for himself by the time the album was released in 2000. He was one of the co-creators of The Ummah, a production collective formed with Q-Tip and Ali Shaheed Muhammad, and a key ingredient behind the Soulquarians collective, led by The Roots drummer Questlove, with D’Angelo, and James Poyser, who were responsible for numerous hit records including Mama’s Gun by Erykah Badu, Things Fall Apart by The Roots, and Like Water for Chocolate by Common.
Fantastic Vol. 2, was primarily produced by Jay Dee, with some guest production by D’Angelo, Pete Rock, and Questlove, and appearances by Q-Tip, Busta Rhymes, Kurupt, DJ Jazzy Jeff and Common.
“It’s just a classic project. You can’t turn back a classic. It was so ahead of its time that the powers that be didn’t get it until after the fact,” T3 told Okayplayer. “Not to get too deep about it, but we were a part of the album. People think it’s just J Dilla by himself in a think tank. No! That’s not how this album was done. It was me, Baatin, Dilla, and a few other dudes there as well… There’s a lot of shit that we did on the album that people don’t necessarily know about. It’s a legacy with that. It’s a group effort.”
The album cover was designed by Waajeed of the Detroit hip-hop/R&B group, the Platinum Pied Pipers, and founder of the Bling47 record label. He has remained a close friend of the group over the years, and was the one who later connected the group with Elzhi. He was also the executive producer behind Dwele’s self-released debut, Rize, which helped land him a deal with Virgin Records in 2003.
Originally running about a minute in length, “I Don’t Know,” was one of several tracks reimagined for Fantastic Vol. 2 with a remix featuring DJ Jazzy Jeff. Other tracks that were re-recorded from the group’s demo include “Beej N Dem,” “Forth and Back,” and “2U4U” featuring Karriem Riggins on drums.
Dilla was a master of the sample. He used tracks by Steve Miller Band, Alice Cooper, Kool & the Gang, Don Blackman, Sugar Hill Gang, Crown Heights Affair, and The Singers Unlimited to create tracks like “Climax (Girl Shit),” “Go Ladies,” “Players,” “Fall-N-Love,” and “Forth and Back.”
VIDEO: Slum Village “Raise It Up”
“Raise it Up” was also a major single for Slum Village, but originally featured a sample from a bootleg recording. The instrumental uses a sample of the track “Extra Dry” by Thomas Bangalter of Daft Punk, who just so happened to also be a fan of the Detroit rap group. In exchange for their permission to use the sample for the track, the group agreed to remix the group’s dance hit, “Aerodynamic” for their 2003 Daft Club remix album.
The album was re-released for its 10th anniversary as Fantastic Vol. 2.10, a two disc double album featuring additional tracks, outtakes, instrumentals and an alternative intro from the original record.