Was in Amsterdam last weekend and caught Benji B and Pharoah Monch in Oosterpark. Good news for Pharoah fans - he's doing his new album entirely with Alchemist. Very Bad news about Baatin, though. A tragic end to a (sometimes) tragic life - apparently he had schizophrenia and was living on the streets for a year or so before he was welcomed back into the Slum Village fold very recently. I think 'Cloud Nine' was probably Baatin's (as well as S.V's) comeback single.
I thought/think that 'Cloud Nine' could have blown up this summer, a summer sunburst of clattering cymbals and toms, soulful harmonies, mournful brass and joyous piano, not to mention a performance by S.V themselves (T3, Elzhi and Baatin, if I'm not mistaken?) full of an appropriate energy and swagger (not to mention quotables for days (''frontin' like they diamonds when they cubic zirconias'', for example). The MCs on 'Cloud Nine' exhibit the same quality that made them so perfect for Dilla's sultry, thumping, hypnotic beats on 'Fantastic' vol. 1 and 2 - the ability to FIT in with the beat, an innate understanding of the rhythmic role a rapper plays over a particular rhythm. All those little pauses and breaths and hiccupy stop/starts on the Dilla stuff, and the almost incantatory chanting and back and forth interplay between the MCs - these intimately replicated the stuttering, syncopated swing of Dilla's beats, their hypnotic bump, the misty/foggy quality of the samples. And on 'Cloud Nine', while the replication of rhythm is largely restricted to the characteristic 'thinkin' bout ya, thinkin' bout ya', the delivery is all excitement and enthusiasm, quite dissimilar from the majority of S.V. material I've heard, and fitting the concept of being high on love (for a girl/for music...) to a tee.
Now, you could hardly say that S.V. were the best lyricists in Hip-Hop (not that their lyrics were BAD), but in an underground where obsession with lyrical content often makes people forget the importance of voice/flow (that's 'flow' not in the sense of thousands of multisyllabic words, though that can fall under it), Slum Village's best work is a potent reminder of the voice as rhythmic instrument. It is this characteristic of their music which, along with Dilla's boom-bap + filtered jazz-loops, that made them the heir to ATCQ in a lot of people's eyes/ears. Listening to 'Cloud Nine' it seems obvious to me that there was life after Dilla for them, and presumably there'll be life after Baatin for them too... but still, R.I.P.
Thinking of doing a top 20 favourite dilla beats in the future, but not sure about it. For now, look out for Slum Village's new album 'Villa Manifesto' (22nd September) and DL 'Cloud Nine' legally so my dream of predicting a shock summer hit can come about 3 downloads closer to a reality!