As he prepares for the July 27 release of “Villa Manifesto” — the first Slum Village album to feature all four members, including the late J Dilla and Baatin — co-founder T3 says the future of the Detroit rap troupe is up in the air at best.
“For us to continue, I don’t know where to go with that or where that would be,” T3 (real name R.L. Altman III), who co-founded the group in 1996, tells Billboard.com. “What it would take, I don’t know. It would take a miracle. If this album does phenomenal and the supporters just overwhelm me, I wouldn’t have a choice but to do another record — and I believe this record could be phenomenal for us. I think this is a powerful record, and I think it’ll do good.”
The 14-track “Villa Manifesto,” according to T3, was hatched from a vision he and J Dilla shared before the latter passed away in 2006 to “do the Blues Brothers thing” and make an album with all of the group members, past and present. Slum Village actually started working on the project before Baatin died in July of 2009, after which T3 and additions Elzhi, who’s been part of Slum Village since 2001, continued with a variety of collaborators — primarily Young RJ — piecing tracks together from recordings the two departed members left behind.
“Luckily, (Baatin) recorded maybe 17 songs, and I had beats and vocals that were never released by Dilla,” T3 says. “I went inside myself and pulled out this project. It was hard, but I feel like I had to do it for ‘tin and Dilla and their legacy because of a promise I made with Dilla before he passed. That’s why I wanted to do this record.”
“Villa Manifesto’s” first single features a vocal hook by Colin Munroe, and other guests on the album include the Roots‘ ?uestlove (“200O Beyond”), A Tribe Called Quest‘s Phife and De La Soul (“Scheming”), Little Brother (“Where Do We Go From Here”), DJ Babu (“Bare Witness”) and Dilla’s brother Illa J. Longtime Slum Village cohort Dwele, meanwhile, sings on “Don’t Fight the Feeling,” which was produced by D12 member and Eminem hype man Denaun Porter.
“With this album, I want to say, ‘Here’s the full spectrum of (Slum Village),’ ” T3 explains. “So if we don’t make another album, it’s got a little bit of each part of Slum Village for people to hear.”
T3 expects Slum Village to play some live dates, “probably in August,” with Illa J joining he and Elzhi. The three MCs and producers are also working on solo projects, with T3 describing his as “very dark…based off horror movies,” which he plans to release around Halloween.