Rising from the rugged streets and rich musical tapestry of Detroit, Slum Village were poised to carry on the old-school, funk, and soul-filled hip-hop torch of genre pioneers A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, and the Pharcyde. Growing up in the Conant Garden neighborhood of Detroit and forming during high school at Detroit's Pershing High School, MCs Baatin, Jay Dee, and T3 quickly garnered praise and recognition in the local underground scene. In the mid-'90s, Jay Dee became part of the hip-hop elite as a member of the Ummah, the production team responsible for multiple hits by Q-Tip, A Tribe Called Quest, D'Angelo, the Pharcyde, De La Soul, and Common, as well as remixes for Janet Jackson and Brand New Heavies. In 1998, Slum Village gained further recognition as an opening act for A Tribe Called Quest's farewell tour. Two years later, after some record-industry politics, the group released Fantastic, Vol. 2, an album featuring appearances from D'Angelo, Q-Tip, and DJ Jazzy Jeff. For fans with an ear to the underground and a few questions concerning the whereabouts of Fantastic, Vol. 1, the trio assumed an alias (J-88) to release Best Kept Secret.
Two more years went by before the group was heard from again, but "Tainted" broke the silence in the summer of 2002 to become a growing hit on MTV2. The album that followed, Trinity (Past, Present and Future), boasted fewer guest appearances and a well-rounded combination of the first album's rough-and-tumble productions with the second album's soulful vibe. The record also featured Jay Dee in a reduced role, with new member Elzhi picking up the slack. Later that year, Slum Village released Dirty District, a compilation of Detroit MCs produced by T3 and compatriot RJ Rice. By the time recording began for their fourth proper album, Baatin was gone from the lineup, a victim of schizophrenia that briefly incapacitated him (he later mounted a solo career). T3 and Elzhi picked up the slack by inviting high-profile guests including Dirt McGirt and Kanye West, and Capitol released the results, Detroit Deli (A Taste of Detroit), in June 2004. A year later, Slum Village were off the label, making the move back to the independent Barak. The mixtape Prequel to a Classic announced the impending September 2005 release of the duo's self-titled full-length. Within the next four years, the duo was dealt a pair of serious personal blows when both Jay Dee and Baatin passed away, but they persevered and released Villa Manifesto in 2010.
Elzhi left the group late that year, leaving T3, new recruit Young RJ, and Jay Dee's younger brother Illa J as the group's lineup for 2013's aptly titled album Evolution. Illa J left before the release of 2015's Yes!, but the album did feature a set of posthumous productions from his older brother. ~ Brian Musich