The essential J Dilla album (audio)
Unfortunately when people talk about essential hip-hop albums, Slum Village’s Fantastic Vol. 2 never gets brought up. The reason being not that it’s underappreciated, since it’s probably the most critically celebrated album of Dilla’s career outside of Donuts. It probably has more to do with the fact that no one bought it (or more over, could buy it). Since it’s release in 2000, I’m pretty sure the album has been released and re-released on at least three different labels, although it could be more.
Given that this album was released in 2000, after achieving some success in the mid-to-late 90’s, the album really shows a turning point for Dilla; the production still has the soulful elements that became the trademark of his sound, while also pointing to the future, including some more atmospheric elements that would be part of some his early 2000’s production. But for me, the reason this album is just too good is the funk on here is turned up to eleven. If you’ve noticed, I talk about “swing” when I bring up Dilla’s drums and that “swing” is most evident on this album. Dilla was notorious for programming his drums by hand and never using a metronome or quantize and that live sound that he would become his signature is just solidified on this album. Combine all that with the playful energy that runs throughout the entire album and this is becomes probably Dilla’s most enjoyable album he’s ever made. On the rap side of things, this is probably the best that Dilla’s ever sounded on a record, and that goes for Slum Village cohorts T3 and Baatin as well. They touch on all the the well-worn topics of late 90’s, early 2000’s: girls, money, bragging etc. but at least they sound like they’re having fun throughout the album. Arguably the only really weak track on here is “Go Ladies” which sounds not only underdeveloped as an instrumental standpoint but as rap as well. But it’s such a minor blemish on what’s ultimately a consistently fun, creative album (it does have one of the funniest skits on the album) that it doesn’t do a thing to derail the album. So if you haven’t listened to a J Dilla-produced album this is the one to start with. It’s an culmination of everything that had made him the go-to producer in the 90’s and previewed what you could expect from the man in the future; a sound that you would explored more on his BBE follow-up Welcome 2 Detroit. Simply put: to me, this is the essential J Dilla album.
With that, I close out Dilla Week for this year. Rest in peace to the legendary producer and thank you all for allowing me to indulge. Back to the grind next week.