Slum Village has long been a staple of the underground rap world. Their music, inventive but reverent, spread from Detroit like wildfire and has proved durable over the years, even as what it means to be ‘underground’ oscillated wildly. Their latest effort, Yes!, is due out June 16, but is available to stream above. Nine of the album’s 12 songs are produced or co-produced by J Dilla, the legendary Detroit beatsmith who played an integral role in the group’s development. Slum Village has always had a shifting lineup of sorts, and Dilla’s brother Illa J–who was once an official member–is a featured guest here. Also appearing on Yes! are fellow Detroit artist Black Milk, A Tribe Called Quest alum Phife Dawg, the entire De La Soul and younger cats like J Ivy and BJ the Chicago Kid, who sings on “Expressive,” the album’s lead single. Yes! strives admirably to update Slum Village’s sound without losing the plot or leaving their core fan base in the dust.
The group, then a trio consisting of Dilla, Baatin and T3, shot to local fame in 2000 with the release of their debut, Fantastic, Vol. 2. Still highly regarded in hip-hop circles, that album sported features from such heavy hitters as Q-Tip, (with whom Dilla had worked on Tribe records), Busta Rhymes, Kurupt, Common, Pete Rock and D’Angelo. In 2002, Elzhi joined Slum Village, bringing with him his unique blend of battle-rap sensibilities and highly conceptual writing. It was he and T3 who released 2004′s Detroit Deli, which was preceded by the Kanye West-featuring “Selfish.”