STORY WRITTEN BY GARY GRAFF
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Dilla Day has become an annual event since the death of Detroit hip-hop producer James “J Dilla” Yancey 10 years ago.
But for Slum Village, the rap group Yancey co-founded during 1990 and still continues, every day is Dilla Day, both in the studio and on the road — this year in the form of the King’s Court Tour alongside fellow Detroit Dilla disciples Black Milk, Guilty Simpson and Phat Kat. The Kings Court Tour will be at Johnny Brenda’s in Philadelphia on Monday, April 18.
“It’s really just getting the family together,” Slum Village’s Young RJ (nee Rice) says by phone from a tour stop in St. Louis. “This is the first time we’ve done a tour wtih these people all together at the same time to celebrate the legacy of J Dilla” as well as Baatin, the Slum Village co-founder who passed away 2009
“You really lose track of the time,” adds Young RJ, 30. “We’re just trying to keep the legacy alive and let people hear the music.”
Young RJ and partner T3 did that in a big way with Slum Village’s latest album, “Yes!,” which came out last June and features a treasure trove of J Dilla-produced material from a storage container Young RJ was given just before Dilla died and finally opened and began cataloging. “We took them and updated them added some music to them, added some features to them,” he says. “J Dilla and Baatin were already on there, so the only thing we had to do was bring the new Slum and some features and make sure it had the integrity we were after.”
Dilla music has, in fact, been coming out at a steady pace since his death, and Young RJ doesn’t anticipate that will change any time soon.
“There’s so much music left,” he notes. “Dilla’s the one that taught me how to produce. And when Dilla left Slum Village as an official member (in 2001), he said to T3, ‘You got it. YOu know what you’re doing. Just keep it going, no matter what. Baatin said the same thing before he passed.
“So we’re just fulfilling the wishes of Dilla and Baatin. We actually have a whole nother album done. The hardest part was figuring out what to use and put out for the fans and what to hold onto for next time, and the time after that and the time after that.”
Young RJ and T3 are planning solo albums for their next moves, hopefully dropping around the same time later this year or early next year, while Slum Village box sets and memorabilia are also being planned. “I don’t want to say too much too early,” Young RJ notes. “I don’t want it to become old news, y’know? I want it to be as fresh as possible.”
The Kings Court Tour featuring Slum Village, Black Milk, Guilty Simpson and Phat Kat makes a stop at Johnny Brenda’s on Monday, April 18. Show is at 9 p.m., doors open at 8. For more information, check www.johnnybrendas.com