Elzhi-Era Slum Village Rip The Mic In A Never Before Released 2002 Freestyle (Audio)

Few Hip-Hop groups have experienced the setbacks of Slum Village. Two founding members, J Dilla and Baatin, died from health complications in the 2000s. Elzhi left the group, with reports of a less than amicable split between himself and anchor T3. Dilla’s brother Illa J also had a stint in the Villa’. Although never “an official” member, Black Milk was also closely tied to the Detroit, Michigan collective before leaving B.R. Gunna production partner Young RJ, and going on to a celebrated solo career with acclaimed albums under his name. There have label woes, and for the longest, the game-changing debut album was not found in stores.

In all of its many iterations and challenges, Slum Village has made great music. 2015’s Yes! is not to be slept-on. While the two Fan-Tas-Tic albums are revered, one could argue that group reached a lyrical pinnacle afterwards. Elzhi, who had made a striking appearance on Binary Star’s Masters Of The Universe and released two strong EPs (Out Of Focus and 2000’s The Breakfast Club with Dwele, Big Tone, 87, and Lacks), was the new kid on the block in a group with caché. Approaching 2002’s Trinity (Past, Present and Future), El’ had one thing to do: show and prove.

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Tim Westwood released a 2002 freestyle that shows just that. Flanked by the late Baatin and T3, listen as Elzhi steals the damn show. At 30 seconds in, a boastful T3 (claiming S.V. and Motown made Big Truck Music) hands Elzhi the mic, and he unravels a series of blistering bars with themes, imagery, and crisp cadence. After a minute, the beat flips and after some chatter. The mic circles, with some blessings from the band-mates. At 2:45, with Clipse instrumentals kicking, Elzhi lashes out: “I roll with the Slum / And throw my condolences to sons / And daughters / Departures / To walk with the marvelous Father / In skies that are blue is the eyes of a portrait of Jesus / Every n**ga that’s ignorant is supporting my genius.” He spits at the disparities between rich and poor communities, addresses police brutality, and stresses why he’s a top-rankin’ MC.

Baatin and T3 give El’ another go-round. He was jumped in the crew, and appears to have earned his stars and bars immediately.

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The album tied to this era would be the Villa’s Top 20 LP, making Hip-Hop Heads proud in the major label system. Last year, Elzhi released an exceptional sophomore solo, Lead Poison.