Interview with T3
How’s the new Slum Village album coming?
It’s coming fantastic, man. We’ve been grinding on it for a few months, maybe two and a half, three months. It’s just about done. I’d say it’s about 99% done. We just gotta do a few little tweaks here and there. I’d say it’s 95% done. This is some of our best work, I think.
What producers did you work with on this album?
We got some mixed up production. Young RJ is on there and Karriem and Pete Rock and Hi-Tek and some other producers I can’t think of right now. We got some great producers. We got a lot of great producers on there because we reached out to a lot of cats to try to get this album done and have it sounding right and some people got back to us and some people didn’t. You know how it is. We’ve been gone for a sec.
Did you get what you wanted for the album?
Yeah, I think so. You know what? Sometimes I try to think it out and with this album I really didn’t. I just let it come to me, like picking the best of what came to me and I think that’s a different approach and I think that’s kind of what we needed for our direction. Once it started coming together, I was like, ‘Yeah! Okay! I’m not mad!’ I am happy that I opened up a channel for that just to come through and not to be as critical as I would be. (laughs) I really gave a lot of different producers a chance because usually we just kept it all in-house. In the Dilla days it was just him and then it was Young RJ and me and Karriem. We always kept it in the family and kept it tight. This one we kind of opened the doors and did it here and there but we worked with producers that we hadn’t messed with before besides Pete Rock.
When you were working with producers outside of the SV fam, do you try to bring them into your world or do you let them bring you into their world?
In this day and age, it’s hard to sit down with producers as much. We do a call and they ask me what’s the direction of the album or they want to hear some snippets or stuff like that. With this one I just gave them a real general feel, like, ‘Just keep it hype’ or, ‘Let me get something for the ladies.’ I just kept it real general because I didn’t want them to give me what they thought of Slum Village and get a “Slum Village type of beat.” I just wanted to give them a general idea of what we were thinking.
How do you hear the Slum Village sound evolving in 2009?
There’s a lot of things stepped up on this. The music is bigger. It’s broader. The concepts that we’re talking about, we’re really talking about some things and some real-life situations. It’s a little more mature but it’s not old school like that. It’s a little more grown up on this album. We still play a little bit on this album but it’s a little more grown up. We feel like it’s time now. It’s time for us to take the spot back. We feel like there’s a void in this hip-hop shit right now, sort of. We feel like it’s time for us to take that spot back. That’s what our music is saying, really. There’s something unresolved and you’ll hear that. It’s time for us to come back and take our spot.
It’s been four years since the last Slum Village album. Do you have to do some reintroducing of Slum Village to the younger fans?
Yeah. The old school fans that roll with us, they’re rolling with us. Some of our fans are fly by night and the young fans, you have to reintroduce yourself to those, the young fans that still fuck with hip-hop. But we have fans across the board, across from the kind of hip-hop fans that we usually get. We got records that will touch a lot of different people. It’s like we’re starting fresh and starting over and it feels good because the skills are still there. The beats and the rhymes are still there and if it wasn’t then we wouldn’t do it but it is and we still got a lot to say and I think it will touch a lot of people.
You also got Focus involved on this project. What was it like working with him?
Focus killed it! I had talked to Focus on the phone through Scrap Dirty and Young RJ. They had already been cool and introduced me to him. I had heard some stuff that he did and I got excited. I wanted him to do at least one joint on my album. It just came together wonderfully. I’m excited about that record, a lot. I think it’s going to be our first single. I think that’s going to be the first one. We gotta sit down at the roundtable and vote. That’s how we usually do.
What’s it like having Baatin back in the picture?
It’s always interesting working with Baatin. Baatin has a lot of energy. The way that came about, I felt like I needed to bring Baatin back to this album. And not only for music’s sake, but for his sake. I needed to save Baatin. I had to go back to the old neighborhood. I was doing something in the old neighborhood while I was shooting this BET thing about politics. I was like, ‘You know what? I’m gonna sneak by and get Baatin.’ And I grabbed him and he did the interview with me and then we started building from there and we talked to the label and they thought it would be a good look to have Baatin be a part of the equation.
With Baatin, man, he’s just so talented, man. He went through a few issues and I feel like he’s focused and he’s really ready to put himself out there. But we had to start with small steps first, though, to make sure that he could still handle all the pressure that comes with the music biz. But he’s doing excellent, man, and his pen game got a lot better. It was a great experience working with Baatin and having him back. The next step is preparing for shows to do with Baatin which is lovely because he usually brings a lot of energy to the table.
When you started working on music with Baatin again, was it like you never missed a step or did it take some time?
Yes and no. Yes and no. You feel that nostalgic thing. We recorded this album in a basement. It was a nice basement, but it was a basement. We tried to keep that grimy feel. I slept on the couch and didn’t wash up for a couple of days. We went back just to feel that hunger in the music and that definitely came through and me and Baatin just laughed about a lot of things because we share a unique sense of humor and we joke all day. He do impersonations and we just wile out. That’s the greatest part. It brought a lot of fun to the record, which our last couple of records didn’t really have without him there. It didn’t really have that super-fun factor that Baatin can bring to music.
How are you, Baatin and Elzhi working together?
The chemistry is there. That’s all day. Elzhi, you know, he’s going to come through and come through with the sledgehammer! (laughs) I’m the guy who sets it off. I’m the setoff guy. Baatin comes through and puts some extra seasoning on it and then Elzhi comes through and smashes it with the sledgehammer. That’s how we usually do a lot of the songs. A lot of the songs, even if I don’t write first, I’ll usually start it off with and come with the concept. Baatin and El will do that too sometimes but I usually get it popping from the top. Me and RJ usually sit down and map some things out. That’s usually how we get the ball rolling. I mean, the chemistry, that ain’t never going away.
How has growing up changed Slum Village?
It’s not the same Slum Village. Definitely not. But it does have a few of those nostalgic pieces in there because that’s part of the little things that we do, but it is not the same. I think it’s a bigger Slum Village. The music is a lot bigger. I think we just came a lot stronger. The vocals were a lot better than they were lyrically. It’s like a touched up version of Slum. It ain’t like nothing was wrong with us in the first place, but it’s just better with the times.
There were reports that Illa J was a new member of Slum Village. Is that true?
He’s featured on the Slum album and he’s definitely a part of the family. He’s an extended part of our family and he always will be. He’s on a few records now on the album. We’re still putting him in here and there, just to spice it up and give it that flavor that he got that’s embedded in his soul. He’s definitely a part of this family. He’s a member but I wouldn’t say it’s official. What would you call Jarobi (A Tribe Called Quest)? He’s there and he’s contributing. He’s definitely a part of the family.
Young RJ is executive producing this SV album. What’s it like having him as the EP?
Young RJ has been working on Slum records since he was 18 and he’s been working with Dilla since he was a young lad. That’s always been a part of the Slum Village legacy. He was there producing since day five. He’s always been a part of Slum Village.
Are you guy still doing an album with only Dilla beats?
We’re still trying to work that out. We’re trying to work out the legal things. It was definitely in the works and we definitely got a couple of those joints. We got some joints. If we can get past the legal thing, it will happen. I’m hoping that this is the year Mom Dukes gets everything sorted out so we can finally release that project. I mean, it’s up in the air for right now because the lawyers and all that. That’s really the problem on that situation. I hope that we can get that worked out and get that released this year.
How far along are you on the project?
We got joints when it comes to Dilla beats. You know, we’re always going to go back and re-freak this. More or less.
Do you have a huge archive of his beats?
I mean, we got some stuff that nobody got. No, we got a lot of stuff that nobody got. But people are so, what’s the word I’m looking for, people are so crazy about Dilla that they’re researching Dilla and they’re going deep and they ask their aunties and uncles that might have bought something. We got some special pieces that ain’t nobody got but it’s not as much as people think but we still got a nice little catalogue.
There are a lot of J Dilla projects and collaborations happening today. Are you happy with the way your man is being repped?
Yes. Yes and no. And this is something I always wanted to say. What I do like, I like the fact that okay, you’re on the Dilla bus. You’re on the Dilla bus. I ain’t mad at you. Okay. And that’s cool. And he’s starting to be in places that he never was before. What I don’t like about the situation is that a lot of people do stuff with Dilla and then they don’t include his core family. You can’t do Dilla without including somebody from Detroit, whether it’s Phat Kat, whether it’s Slum, whether it’s Wajeed or whether it’s Frank N Dank. If none of those people are in there, I don’t feel like it’s official and they do stuff and there’s a Dilla before and after Slum and they don’t understand that there’s 20 years of Dilla stuff! 20 years of projects! How are you going to not include that core? It doesn’t necessarily have to be with Slum Village but it should be somebody from that Detroit core and when I don’t see that Detroit core, I wonder if they did their research.
I mean, in a sense, it should be like that but it’s really up to Mom Dukes and whatever she wants to do. Whatever she puts her stamp of approval on, I mean, she’s his mom. I’m just saying out of respect they should want to contact the core family. Out of respect. But you can’t expect people to just do what you want them to do but as a respect factor I think they should. Frank N Dank are his closest people and if you’re doing something with Dilla and you don’t holla at them, I don’t get it. They’d been doing things together since they were in middle school. If you’re not hollering at Slum and that core, I don’t think the respect factor is there. If the core family isn’t there then it isn’t real to me. That’s just my personal opinion.
There’s so much music that they’re missing but all in all, it ain’t even really all about that. It’s about Mom Dukes and his family and getting through this lawyer stuff and his kids being taken care of. As long as that’s taken care of, I haven’t really feared nothing. I just chilled and played the back. When they call upon us and we could get everything worked out, I would do it. That’s my own little pet peeve that I got with this situation.
Do you think Dilla’s getting more respect after he passed?
Yeah, definitely. Dilla was like an industry secret. Everybody in the industry knew who he was, from Dr. Dre coming down and record shopping with Dilla to Questlove. Everybody in the industry knows, from Pharrell to everybody. Some of the southern cats may not have knew but everybody knew about Dilla in the industry but the general public didn’t really know. He didn’t really get his respect there. But with guys that made beats, they knew Dilla and they knew his name for quite some time and they had been copping every record that he had been doing. But it’s just good that the public is finally seeing that foundation that Dilla set.
Detroit’s been trendsetting for a long time. That’s what we do. There’s always something that we bring to the table. It’s all love at the end of the day. It’s all love. Even though it’s late and there’s a lot of people late (laughs), there’s a lot of love.
Do you think Dilla would be proud of the legacy you guys are leaving as Slum Village?
I think so. I think he would definitely be proud because we’re holding that legacy down and we’re constantly dropping music and bringing it to the forefront. I definitely think that he would be proud of us. The only thing Dilla wanted, as long as we keep taking risks and bringing that hustle…He used to call us all the time. “What up, T? Where them beats at?” He used to say that to me all the time. I felt a little discouraged because I’d tell him I had some beats but he was Dilla. You don’t need my beats! I might come with one or two, but you’re Dilla! “Nah, T, come on!” And since now, with his passing, we definitely have to rep a little harder and push our music and get it out there.
A lot of producers have cut their teeth working with you and went on to do big things in the game. What new producers are you working with?
Man, it’s hard to find producers these days. I feel like Young RJ is still new in the game and he’s been around for a long time. I still see myself as a new producer. But I did a blog where I was asking for beats from everybody, from the random guy to whoever. I heard a few but I didn’t really hear that guy with the consistency being there. I heard some potential. I don’t know, man. I got my ear open, looking for some new cats. There’s a couple of guys that I kind of like but I ain’t gonna give them a sample just yet. I’m not holding no flags yet, though. I need them just to come with one joint where it’s like, ‘I respect that dude.’ For me to respect an artist, you have to come with just one ridiculous joint. I will always respect you musically. Just one joint. And some artists come with a lot of all right joints, but the artists that I respect, they came with at least one ridiculous joint.
Are you working on a solo album?
Yes! I’m trying to finish up my album right now. I’m trying to make sure the Slum album is done and we’re like 95% there and I’m immediately trying to finish up my album. It’s long overdue because the last project I came up with was the mixtape. I’m trying to put out The Night Gallery this year. I’ll have that knocked out, which is a bunch of dark rhymes and beats, which is based on, you know, the TV show The Night Gallery.
What inspired you to name your solo album after The Night Gallery?
I’m a big fan of Rod Sterling from Twilight Zone on down. I’m still trying to get this animation done. I want it to be like an animated type of movie/album, which is why it’s taken me so long. I didn’t know animation was so complicated but it is. I’ve been working on that for a long time. I’m also a big fan of horror movies and weird stories so I wanted to base my project on that.
What are your top five horror movies of all-time?
Okay, on the funny tip, I would say Evil Dead because I love Evil Dead I and II. I mean, it’s not really scary-scary, but it’s probably my top. What else, what else? I really liked Texas Chainsaw, even the original one, because it was so crazy and so off the wall and the family was crazy. I also liked…You kind of put me on the spot. The first Chucky was cool but it got cornier and corner with each one. You had your good Friday the 13th. I haven’t seen a horror movie in a minute, in a long time.
How far along are you on The Night Gallery?
I’m like 65% done with it. I just have to hit the lab and put on the finishing touches. It should be a couple of weeks.
How is the Slum Village album coming out?
You know what? I don’t exactly know. I don’t know. I mean, but to me, it doesn’t really even matter today, whether you’re on a major or an independent. We’ve been on seven major labels, at least. Today, everything is viral so it really doesn’t matter. I feel like as long as you get the product in the right places, we don’t really need that. We can get out and go on the road. I think it will be an independent release but I don’t know. Right now it’s a Barak album. I don’t know whether it’s going to be Barak slash another label, but right now it’s just Barak Records.
What’s the next move for T3?
Getting the Slum album out and doing some shows. We’re trying to tour and we got our solo albums. We got a lot of records in the works. We’re trying to be a part of each other’s records. I want to be a part of his record and I want them to be a part of mine. I feel like their projects are mine and vice versa. We don’t want to do it separately because we feel like you need all the support you can get for your record. That’s what’s up with T3. I’m getting my chops up and getting out here and DJing and doing this DJ stuff. Scrap Dirty showed me a lot on the 1’s and 2’s. I’m taking some film classes too because I want to shoot some films. That’s going to be my year this year, man. That’s the goal. Those are a few of my ideas that I want to do. I just want to get it going, man. I’m going to go to school and get my nerd on real quick and get it popping! (laughs)