Elzhi: Slum Village’s Lost One Breaks His Silence

Slum Village is a group synonymous with controversy. Hailing from the Conant Gardens section of Detroit, the trio of T3, Baatin and J. Dilla were heralded as a breath of fresh air when they burst on the scene in the late 90s. When their 2000 disc, Fantastic, Vol. 2, dropped it was dubbed an instant classic. Things were looking up for the high school friends, but then Dilla left for greener pastures, racking up production credits for the likes of Pharcyde, De La Soul, Busta Rhymes and Janet Jackson.

While Dilla was finding solo success, T3 and Baatin kept the SV brand going by adding local lyricist Elzhi to the fold. Slum’s new lineup found success of their own with 2002’s Trinity (Past, Present and Future), which included the hit single “Tainted.” All seemed well in the D, but then news broke that Baatin had suffered a mental breakdown and left the group, leaving T3 and Elzhi to hold down 2004’s Detroit Deli (A Taste of Detroit) on their own. Still, Dilla made appearance on the aptly-titled “Reunion,” where he, T3 and Elzhi spoke on their hope for all four members to one day get back together.

As fate would have it, though, that would not be possible. On February 10, 2006, Dilla passed from complications brought on by lupus. In the wake of his death, Baatin rejoin SV and began working on a new project. Then disaster struck once again. On August 1, 2009, Baatin passed suddenly from health conditions, in Detroit while the remaining members of Slum Village were on tour.

Despite the loss, T3 and Elzhi continued to carry on the SV legacy and looked to complete the group’s sixth album, Villa Manifesto, which includes beats and rhymes from all four members. Diehard fans eagerly anticipated the disc, which dropped this pass Tuesday, but in the weeks leading up to the release, news broke that Elzhi was no longer a part of the group. Some reports said Dilla’s younger brother Illa J had stepped in as a replacement, while T3 maintained that the young beatsmith/rapper was more of a featured guest. However, murmurs of tension continue to swirl when the video for “Reunion 2” dropped and Elzhi was noticeably absent from the record. In a recent radio interview, T3 was confronted by fellow Detroit MC Phat Kat and reiterated that he still has an amicable relationship with Elzhi.

With everyone talking except Elzhi, XXLMag.com caught up with the Detroit MC to get his take on what’s really going on. While there’s no love lost for Slum Village as a whole, the same doesn’t apply to the group’s longtime label, Barack Records, and its founder RJ Rice. This is Elzhi’s manifesto.

Let’s cut right to the chase; are you in Slum Village now or not?

Elzhi: Am I in Slum Village or am I not? As far as what’s going on… As far as, like, me not having any say so to any treatments to videos being shot, or me not going to do the interviews to promote this new Slum Village album, or [Barack Records and T3] not contacting me or my management, and… as you can see in the “Reunion 2” video, I would say I wasn’t in the group. And at the same time, them taking me off records, so now I’m on a minimal amount a records for the [Villa Manifesto] album, I would say I wasn’t in the group.

So you recorded way more material than what the final track listing wound up being? How did things fall apart?

Basically, I got new management and what happened was it was a shock to the label, even Slum’s manager [Tim Maynor]. They just couldn’t take the fact that I had new management, and just from that as far as I could tell, they overreacted and it got to the point where we was all on a conference call and my new management asked to see the paper work and the contract from E1 and RJ Rice ain’t wanna show us. I’m thinkin’ like, “Why you ain’t wanna show us; that’s how we do business.” But we asked to see that paperwork; he didn’t show us, then he threatened to take me off the whole album at one point when I recorded 13 cuts for the album. So it went from them threatening to take me off the whole album to them keeping me on five-seven records and something musta got lost in translation with the label… It was just funny to know that they took me off the record [we did with Phonte of Little Brother], but they didn’t give me the say so on which records I wanted to be on. So they just did everything theyself.

Just to clarify, is the issue more so with RJ Rice and Barack, or is T3 involved in that tension as well?

Well, my thing is this, T3 is the leader of Slum; I’ve always looked at him as the leader of Slum. I’ve always respected the direction to where he wanted to take Slum because he’s part of the co-founders of Slum Village, but you know, when you got T3 tellin’ me this isn’t the direction he wanna go into, but I’m lookin’ at behind the scenes footage of the “Reunion 2” and him talkin’ about basically this is the Slum Village crew and then when I’m thinking about the “Reunion 2” as far as the way that it popped off… Because I didn’t even know that that video got shot. They shot that video behind my back and didn’t tell me.

Word, so what did you think when you finally saw the video?

When I see the video I’m like, “Wow. It’s crazy ’cause they got all these new faces in there and no disrespect to the new people that’s tryin’ to get in where they fit in, I just thought it was real disrespectful and I think the fans did too ’cause I went on this website where they was commentin’ on the video, I think it had probably like 64 comments, and the fans saw right through the bullshit… They even broke down T3’s verse and saw that he was tryin’ to diss a lil’ bit.

Where do you think he tried to diss you on the record?

It’s like the things he was sayin’ as far as like, you know, basically Dilla spoke to him from the heavens and said keep this goin’ because Elzhi’s doin’ solo shows and he don’t know where ’Tin is at so, yeah, I’m about to create my own runway with [Young] RJ and Scrap Dirty and all this and that and it’s like, “Damn, you really puttin’ it out there thinkin’ that our fans is stupid,” but our fans know what’s up, we got some smart listeners… I mean [T3’s] tellin’ me that’s not his direction, that that’s RJ’s direction, but I mean from this point I can’t tell.

At this point, is there any hope for a real reunion between you and T3?

As much as I was tripping off the fact that T3 allowed the label to take me off half of the album, he wasn’t sticking up for me and did a video behind my back; [the way] I was looking at it at that time was as long as they know my worth what I brought to the table, my legacy, they cooperate and they willing to negotiate with me about certain things… ’Cause honestly I haven’t even got paid in full on the [new] album yet. But I was just looking at it like as long as they get their act together, Slum Village can still keep on making music.

What would it take to make that happen?

A lot of things gotta to be reconciled, I gotta really know where that brother stands and like I said the label gotta get their act together because they still haven’t got their act together all they ever done, me and my management, is be humble about the situation and come in peace but I mean as the days go on we starting to see their little plan to phase me out of the Slum Village legacy and move on without me. We not gonna stand for that like I said I put as much work as much as anyone else and I still, don’t get me wrong, I love the Slum Village music, and I love the movement for what it was but now it’s on some whole other shit.

You think things would have panned out different if Baatin and Dilla were still here?

Hell, yeah, it’d be different. I think T3 was put in the position to lead Slum Village, [because] T3 was like the guy in the middle, he was the guy that brought Dilla and Baatin together and when Dilla left he was the glue and he was put in that leadership role in Slum Village. If Dilla was still around, if Baatin was still around, and I was brought into the fold I feel like the direction of Slum Village would not be going in the way it’s going [now]. I feel like [Dilla and Baatin] would really have a problem with this because it’s disrespectful. I feel like it’s not only disrespectful to those guys but to the fans… I’m just sad I’ma always keep reppin’ the Slum Village movement… but there’s a lot of shit going on that needs to be answered… Ii hope it come back together for the sake of the music for the sake of the fans, but right now I can’t tell. —Anslem Samuel

  • sunshyne84

    This some ol Destiny Child ish. I don’t know why people are so scared to communicate especially with people that are supposed to be your friends. if Elzhi wants new management that’s his business. I guess someone felt threatened because he was doing things on his own, but that’s what you gotta do to keep your name out there, not just for yourself, but the group too. It doesn’t mean he doesn’t want to be a part which they seem to have assumed. Hopefully, they’ll get out their feelings and settle things. It just looks real silly.

  • NYlove765

    eLZHI PLEASE DO SOLO SHOWS!!! Don’t even entertain them clowns!

    • 6ix

      @NYlove I feel you my dude. I wish I can peep a dolo show.Without eLZHI on SV, theirs no point in copping another album after the Manifesto. I feel as the hardest in the group was Dilla & Elzhi.

  • Q461

    sucks to say it, but most groups in hip-hop only stay together for so long before issues between members fuck shit up..

  • http://N/A J-D

    This totally f*cks me up man! I knew something wasn’t right from the beginning cuz some of the hottest tracks were left off Villa Manifesto that would’ve takn this album to another level (Cloud 9, Actin Normal, Da Night, etc). Slum is my second favorite group of all time (Wu-Tang being #1) so I hope these good brothas come together like men and work the issues and kinks out. With all this bullsh*t these wack rappers is tryna push and promote, I could always count on SV to create that music that puts me on a whole nother vibe. This is sad man.

  • kedordu

    JUST REAL FUNNY THAT THIS WENT DOWN . ELZHI IS 10000 TIMES BETTER THAN ANYONE ON SLUM AS A LYRICIST .

    • bee

      slum sucks without elzhi. bottom line.

  • KonMan

    ElZhi i love Your Rhymes ,but i met you in Sacramento and you was real Hollywood.That label prolly is on some shh,but i was taught to find out the whole story so until then i dont believe nobody. Alls well ends well

  • http://www.discogs.com/artist/R.J.+Rice 88keyz

    RJ RICE’s BARACK RECORDS & NeASTRA MUSIC GROUP’s….

    ……..plan to bully Elzhi out of the group has back fired. everything RJ Rice touches does not work because of His Greed… Dilla Left the group because of his bullshit Black Milk Left. There is no one from the camp But T3 and he will find himself working @ Mc Donalds because RJ never gave a fuck about nobody but his self. Im sorry but your plan to slide Illa J in and Elzhi Out shows how stupid you really are. You took Elzhi off of 6 songs ….So Fuck the “NEW” Slum Village! Because the Artist Have never been given label support just your cons and scams. You need to be investagated for corruption! Elzhi would be better off solo.

    thanks cookie!..i figured out who this RJ guy is. and i took this comment from 2dopeboyz cuz its obviously what’s really going onl!

  • Sha

    T-3 and Elzhi forgot something…..

    “INDUSTRY RULE #4080… RECORD COMPANY PEOPLE ARE SHADY”

    I don’t believe it truly matters if they reconcile or not. Slum Village is dead and has been so since Dilla left.

    But Elzhi has a point…. I checked the videos and I immediately picked up on this being the second video that Elzhi was absent. Yeah, I thought it was disrespectful.

    But on some real? What the fuck is Illa J doing in Slum Village? This nigga’s claim to fame is that he is the brother of J-Dilla. That’s it! His album came out when Dilla died. Prior to that, I doubt it would have seen the light of day. I could see him being in a J-Dilla video after Dilla passed (only as a tribute), but to have in as a full-fledged member in Slum Village? Yeah… That’s stupid. I think adding him speaks volumes of T-3′s leadership skills. He has none.

  • gaddic

    Elzhi’s better than the entire group
    He’s leaving meaning he’ll focus more on his solo career which I think will be bigger than anything he did with Slum Village

  • Isee

    I think envy is the most savage beast of them all. It’s energy destroys everthing.

  • Anonymous

    Fuck It Elzhi. If they wanna start switchin members around like 3lw they gonna end up with the Cheetah girls. To be honest Elzhi doesn’t fit in Slum V. When I 1st heard him on Welcome to Detroit on J Dilla’s album I didn’t get they Slum Vibe I got a Ill ass Killer Mc vibe and you should just stay solo cuz You like the Ice Cube of the shit.I remember yall was on the Don’t bootleg Sv but this shit is gonna have everybody downloadin yalls album for free. like i did last nite cuz i wasn’t feelin them tracks that Elzhi was absent from. Illa J is a better fit for Slum.

  • sharee

    I truly think rj rice is the devil he been ripping folks off since he robbed john salley in the 90s the sad part is el will never get hs money believe me i speak from experience because young rj still living in farmington hills dede still wearing minks and rj will sell his soul just so he doesnt have to pay him

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  • moderndayslaveryinc

    So sad to read this, They probably did that shady shit because frankly Elzhi OUTSHINES ALL OF THEM, ESPECIALLY T3! Even with the original Slum, the whole package was great, but to break it down, T3, Baatin AND Dilla’s(R.I.P) lyrics have ALWAYS been mediocre in my opinion. When Elzhi came in, he further exposed that. T3 is garbage on the mic, lol.. For the sake of good music I hope a common balance can surface..

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  • djslowth

    日本語で頼む!

  • slum fan

    yoooo people need 2 talk about what they know about!!!…ive seen the whole situation…..cuz unlike u bloggers…this has nuthin 2 do wit the label..this has 2 do wit Elzhi bein a bitch ass diva!!!….and readin shit yall say about him bein THE DOPEST in slum…he has signed a contract..he has gotten his money..the nigga just wanna be the LEADER of slum…he wasnt in faster video cuz he didnt wanna be in it…he was only on 7 songs cuz he told the label he would rather go overseas 2 OPEN UP 4 Black Milk….and not handle his priorties with his group!!..Now what kinda bitch shit is that!!..on the real he need 2 stay in Slum..seein his lil solo shit he put out only sold 2,000 odd copies!!!!…Elzhi is str8 HOLLYWOOD!!..i know this nigga family!!..he dont even talk 2 his own family..he even hollywood them…yall gon catch that nigga workin back in the sex store sellin dildoes 2 put up his ass…and carryin bibles!!..LION-O FACE ASS NIGGA!!!..and take that FOUNDATION OFF PUSSY!!

    • audio tech

      T3 get the fuck off the boards & go work it out with ur man nigga

    • Clark

      Slum fan you sound like you work for Barak records, if you were a real slum fan like the rest of us you would admit that this Villa Manifesto album is garbage. I want my money back, shoulda downloaded the shit but thought I would support “Don’t bootleg SV” movement and come to find out Elzhi hasn’t gotten paid in full for the album! As far as El being Hollywood I’ve met Elzhi a couple times and I LIVE in Hollywood and dude wasn’t a diva. “2,000 odd copies” well once he gets on a decent label he’ll sell a lot more and if T3 tries to drop a solo album he won’t even do 2,000 (I was a T3 fan until this week.) I’m just keeping it real, I’ve been a hardcore fan of SV since 99, I feel cheated and most of all disappointed in this garbage. To all true SV fans don’t waste the $18 at Best Buy, you’ll regret it.

      • http://www.bboycult.com $yk

        lolz @ audio

        whaddup fam?

        @ Clark

        $18? wow.

        Keeping it 100 SV been dead. If dudes would have saw the bigger picture (looking @ T3), they would have passed the torch to Elz and gave him some of that Dilla crack.

        That would have shown great leadership.

        1

      • t-elz-in-illa

        i agree completely with u. except t3 has his moments. i wish i couldve met the whole group…

  • yo man

    It’s about time this group (no disrespect) was laid to rest, elzhi is a very talented MC and like Dilla, he needs to go solo and watch his talent take off

    T3 might have done this ish cause elzhi is the main feature of the group now or maybe he got all nostalgic from Dilla/Baatin’s verses on the new album

    ELZHI…USE YOUR POTENTIAL MAN

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  • SZ

    @slum fan Elzhi willl go solo. and he will get big. slum village is all hollywood. dem niggas gon crumble without elzhi. and puttin illa j aint gone work. da album sucks becuz el isnt hardly on it. I rather have him work more with black milk, royce, and phat kat. their way more talented than the whole SV Crew. Especially black milk, dis nigga diddnt even produce one track 4 dat wack ass album. Elzhi da greatest nigga, go die

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  • Sam Kisell

    Its Better this way i guess, El needs to do what jay dee did and Black Milk did and go solo dolo. Hey it is what it is R.I.P. SV.

  • audio tech

    dumb move on T3 and SV mgmt. part to kick out the best lyricist the group has

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  • mac mini

    yea the truth is comin out now.. But El was killin 3 on everything anyway, this group needed to break up.

  • Tecboy

    This is the usual bull when it comes to groups. SV you brothers know better than this! “TAINTED” is the question you should be asking yourself. You brothers we’re promoting the movement… “LOVE is always REAL”. Forget the some of the bad choices and COMMUNICATE with the TRUTH to one another. Like what it was when you brothers hooked up to make SLUM VILLAGE what it is. Too much of this inconsistancy with some of the best hip-hop groups out there. You guys earned that spot. You lost two of your members and friends (family) and ya’ll operating like this? C’mon son! GET IT TOGETHER! and make that good music people not just want to hear but NEED to hear!

    ONE

  • B Meads

    first of all . . . if you hating on Slum . . . FUCK ALL U Wack azz listeners . . .

    I am hurt by the fact that the group can’t get its act together and all. and YES i think Elzhi is an Ill azz Emcee. but SLUM VILLAGE’s BEST album . . . didnt even have ELZHI IN IT!!!!!!!!

    ya’ll forget that Fantastic Vol 2 is the classic album that had the ya’lls so called “wack rhymin’” T3 in it. he’s an Original. so as far as IM concerned, Elzhi MADE slum, and he didnt. If Villa Manifesto sucks then it sucks to ELZHI FANS . . . not SLUM VILLAGE FANS. cuz 2 b real, Villa Manifesto could have still been made without that nigga, cuz 2 Originals were still present at the time.

  • i’m at work and bored

    T3 should just kill himself. Then Dilla will beat his ass in the after life.

    Oh, and seriously, ILLA J? ahahaha, are u kidding me? Why not just call yourself J ILLA? or is that too obvious?

    I don’t care who his brother is, he can’t rap for shit.

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  • SV fan since middle school

    I can’t believe they put illa j on that reunion track instead of elzhi. I don’t care what the hell was goin down but that’s just disappointing. His lyrics are worse than even big pooh.

    Ya’ll really should’ve gave the fans what they really wanted. I was constantly looking for this album for 5 years now. It’s a damn shame that it had to end up like this. When tupac and biggie died I didn’t even give a shit but to see this group go down like this is a tragedy.

    Hip Hop needs you guys.

  • SVfansincevol1

    Sad Sad Sad. Shady business with the label and Shady business with the T3′s manager…..at this point. Fuck SV!!! Will always have love for Dilla, will always have love for Baatin, and will always support Elzhi.

    I fucked up and already bought the album….but if I had of known this before, I wouldn’t have.

    I COMMIT TO NOT PAY TO SEE A SLUM VILLAGE SHOW without ELZHI !!!!

    I don’t support assholes!

  • scott

    awww. dam. this is horrible for Slum village. Elzhi just move on man! w i will support you. i agree. I won’t be going to a SV show either with out Elzhi

  • Starving

    There was Slum before Elzhi and there will be slum after Elzhi. What type of jail house pu$$y sh!t is this! El, you going to magazines now? You handling your business like a fan bro! You went all Paris Hilton. Men handle things like men, face to face not sound bite or cute quotables. I cant respect that type of grimy mentality. The reason why the industry is in the state its in now is because of people like you. There would be no Elzhi without Slum village. All you casual fan know it in your heart to be true. You crying over not being in a video, are you for real? What part of the game is that? There is only one member of slum left, and I hope T3 continues to bigger and better. And from the cry babies dissing slum, only one question. Did you just start listening to slum yesterday? The brother said he put in as much work into Slum Village as anybody else, how can that be true if he came in on the high note? How can he claim as much credit as T3 when it is obvious that he wants more shine then he deserves?

    Elzhi has started to believe the hype. And we all know what Public Enemy has to say about that.

    • bmeads @ starving

      i agree with you . . . when i became a SLUM VILLAGE fan . . . there was no ELZHI. but dont get it twisted, when i heard SV, i became a fan of Detroit hip hop, and when i first heard El, i became a fan of his also. but when niggas start acting like El made Slum . . . that pisses me off.

      its like this

      RZA, GZA, and ODB created Wutang . . . and a player like Ghostface is part of that team, but if Ghost had this same problem, Wutang would still be Wutang without Ghost . . . because REAL fans recognize, that Ghost . . dont make Wutang . . .

  • Ghetto GODfather

    I’m hearing a lot of greasy shit about RJ Rice lately. I don’t know what’s really going on, but I’m pretty sure T3 and eLZhi’s people do. I hope they can work it out before it’s too late. But, until then, the lane is wide open for eLZhi. GO GET IT!!!!

  • http://paradigmsounds.blogspot,com BR

    reunion part 2 my arse…just about to play the preface through my boombox over here in Sydney…Elzhi keep doing it Elzhi.

  • bee

    T3 and illa j are trash (rip dilla) . Elzhi needs to do his thing solo and damn them cats. look whats in the D. Gulity, Phat Kat, etc. He’ll be fine without those cats. He’s really being humble in this interview. They slapped him in the face and he really should have just dissed ‘em.

  • hugh

    When I heard about the situation with Slum Village.I was hurt words can’t describe it at all.I love SV and all my Detroit hip hop they make a brother proud to be here.I hope things can can taled over and patched up because I love those brothers and they music.

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  • the truth

    Elzhi….i was wishing that 1day yall would hook up with producer Boone Doc..hes tha only one that can compare to the great music Man(j dilla)…if u are solo now please take this advise…get on Boone Doc Music..Please

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  • Skerbie Birdlife

    This Villa Manifesto album is a great piece of work! The foul part is Elzhi and Baatin is getting played. For one on the only reason elzhi is not getting paid properly is his management team aint going for the okey doke and they got muscle. Baatin only got $100 a track which was drug $ because RJ feels he sound better high! These are the reasons why I can not buy this album. Damn Shame its a classic!

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  • Jermz

    Real talk, Elzhi needs to just move on and get to work on his next Album. Europass was fire, Preface was Hot, there’s no doubt his next album is gonna be just as nice especially if Black Milk has anything to do with it. I’ve been a big slum fan for years through it all, but the Slum sound isn’t what it used to be, and it has nothin to do with whos being added. Illa J is nice, T3 is underrated, but if all the stuff in the background cant put everything together without the drama, then dudes like Elzhi just need to leave while they are still in their prime.

  • http://trackzondemand.webs.com mr. trackzondemand

    I can’t believe I’m reading this. I love Slum Village. This info is killing me man. I hope people get this thang back on track. Each member brings a unique quality. T3 has a laid back flow and Elzhi is that dude with the lyrical and rhythmic patterns. Come On Sv let’s get it together. Fix it!

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  • arealdetroitnigg

    t3 has always been the fake dude of sv for years. he got a pass just because of the real dudes that he was around. i never met dilla, but baatin, elzhi, and dj dez, all stayed the same and didnt get hollywood. t3 on the other hand always kept an arrogant swag about him and rj rice of barack records has always been shady. that’s why dilla stopped dealin wit em, that’s why black milk left, and that is y slum village never did real numbers. it’s sad that this label has been running this long and still doesnt know how to conduct business without bending the artists over. smfh

  • chickee

    RJ Rice just ripped of another good friend of mine off who has a Drone Camera. My friend worked for RJ Rice on a video shoot for him and RJ Rice Refuses to Pay. Also smiling with him acting buddy buddy, but never coming through with what he owes! This man needs to be held accountable for being unscrupulous and unethical.