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DJ Young RJ performs during the Dillaville Tour in Italy, 2013

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The year 2000 had its fair share of pivotal Hip-Hop releases with the likes of Ghostface Killah, Beanie Sigel, Madlib as Quasiomoto, Dilated Peoples, Eminem, Planet Asia and Rasco as the Cali Agents among others releasing acclaimed works. The arrival of Slum Village‘s second studio album, Fantastic, Vol. 2, was something of a seismic shift for the culture and to date, the project is still highly regarded as one of the most important Hip-Hop albums of all time.

The origin of Slum Village, and, in some measure, Fantastic, Vol. 2, was expertly told by Medium music publication Cuepoint in 2016, with lone surviving original group member T3 offering the history lesson. Much like their freewheeling and leaked debut album Fan-Tas-Tic (Vol. 1), the sequel employed the same loose freestyle energy of its predecessor albeit with some production refinement. Black Milk, one of Detroit’s most heralded acts as both a producer and rapper, named Vol. 2 as his favorite album in an interview with FACT.

It was that production, provided by the late J Dilla, then known largely as Jay Dee, that guided T3 and the late Baatin to essentially merge their unique vocal tones with Dilla’s snapping drums and chunky basslines. Some critics rightfully hail the album’s production, often at the expense of the lyrical performance of the trio. Yet, the warm tones and left-field sonics are just as soul-stirring today as they were 20 years ago.

Fantastic, Vol. 2 feels like a warm-weather album thus making its summer release timely despite its long delay. From the gritty funk of “Conant Gardens,” shouting out their neighborhood home, to the high-energy hop of “I Don’t Know” featuring the legendary. DJ Jazzy Jeff, and scattery soul of “Jealousy,” it is one of the strongest opening songs of any album of its era then and perhaps now.

Q-Tip, Slum Village’s greatest advocate to the masses, joins the festivities on “Hold Tight,” and the roller skate rink-ready “Forth and Back” with Kurupt of Tha Dogg Pound, and the fan-favorite “Untitled/Fantastic” are all effective crowd-pleasers. Fantastic, Vol. 2 more than proved that Hip-Hop can exhibit soul and verve while still operating just slightly outside of the genre’s usual confines of straight-ahead rhymes. And then there’s the planned imperfections and sample chops that defy the conventions of the era, again pushing the album far ahead in the eyes of both listeners and critics.

With Dilla passing away in February 2006 just days after turning 32, and Baatin passing in July 2009 at 35, the group’s current iteration consists of the aforementioned T3 and Young RJ, keeping the spirit of the original trio alive. Illa J, Dilla’s younger brother, was a member of the revamped Slum Village as was Elzhi, but the magic and vision of DIlla’s soundscapes were never replicated despite valiant efforts..

The project has aged exceptionally well and while Slum Village has undergone a number of transformations aside from the tragic losses of Dilla and Baatin, Fantastic, Vol. 2 remains the group’s most monumental work.

Check out Slum Village’s Fantastic, Vol. 2 below along with reactions from social media in the gallery.

Photo: Getty