Slum Village - Evolution (Review)

"Evolution" is the seventh album by the group Slum Village, which currently consists of members T3, Young RJ and Illa J. The album features guest appearances by Havoc, DJ Jazzy Jeff, Rapper Big Pooh, Blu and others. Mostly all of the tracks on the album are produced by Young RJ, but there are a few tracks produced by other producers such as Focus and Early Mac. The album was released on June 25, 2013.

*This album was reviewed using the album stream available all over the web. I made a few minor tweaks when the retail dropped, but nothing that really changed the original score.*

1) Braveheart (featuring Havoc) - The first track on the album begins with some choir vocals that build up into a crazy synth sample over some boom-bap drums. Young RJ and Havoc spit some braggadocio bars before Illa J comes in and raps in double-time. The chorus sums up the topic of the song nicely.
"And they say, we carnivores
Savage, been raised by wolves
No complaints, it made us us
No praise, just breaks and hooks, Braveheart!"
This is good, but its not great. The beat is hard and all three emcees come correct, but its just Ok to me for some reason. The video version is a bit different than the album version since Havoc's verse gets replaced by a T3 verse.

2) Rock Rock (featuring DJ Jazzy Jeff & Rapper Big Pooh) - Ok, now this is dope. The beat on this song is definitely a banger and its got my head nodding like crazy. The sample is ill, the drums are dusty and DJ Jazzy Jeff's scratching pulls it all together. T3, Rapper Big Pooh and Illa J all rip it and rhyme about how dope they are. This song is fire.

3) Let It Go (featuring Blu) - This instrumental on this track has an ill piano sample, boom-bap drums and an epic choir sample. The beat bangs and adds to the positive message of the song - letting go of the fear, pain and doubt in your life. T3 and Young RJ come correct, but Blu absolutely bodies his verse. Dope song.

4) Forever - This was the first song released from the album and its fire. The track is produced by Young RJ and T3 and it has that classic, soulful Slum Village sound to it. T3, Young RJ and Illa J reminisce over past relationships and what could have been. None of these emcees are lyrical juggernauts, but the earnestness in their voices, the way they flow and their chemistry with each other and the instrumental makes the song great. Very ill.

5) Scared Money (featuring Early Mac) - This track, produced by Young RJ and Early Mac, has a funky, drum-heavy beat that's actually got my head nodding a bit. The beat is minimalistic, but its effective. Everyone sounds ok on here and rap about how "scared money" won't ever multiply. This is pretty good.

6) Summer Breeze - This is the first song on the album that is not produced by Young RJ in some capacity. Instead, Focus comes through with an upbeat instrumental with some airy strings and thumping drums. The lyrics are heavy with summer imagery and metaphors (rain, sprinklers, etc) as T3, Illa J and Young RJ spit about sex. Dope shit.

7) The Line (featuring Focus) - The instrumental on this track is upbeat and energetic, with a lively backing sample and some rolling drums. All the emcees come correct and spit about putting themselves out there and having things to prove. Nice.

8) Hustle (featuring Vice and J Ivy) - Like the previous song, the beat on this track has a ton of energy. The synths are dope and the drums are upbeat. Lyrically everyone sounds ok, but again there is nothing mind blowing on here, as is usual for Slum Village albums. Still, this is pretty good.

9) Bout That (featuring Focus) - I'm really feelin the instrumental on this song. The distorted keys and guitar strings sound great over the dusty boom-bap drums. Young RJ is really killin the beats on here. T3, Young RJ and Focus "paint pictures like Pablo" and spit about shit that actually means something instead of just cars, money and fame.

10) 1 Nite (featuring Vice) - This track, produced by Focus, has a nice, lighthearted feel to it. Illa J must have felt the same since he comes with a sing-song type flow on here, while Young RJ and guest Vice spit in their usual flows. The beat is soulful and the rhymes are dope. Can't ask for much more than that. We need more hip-hop music like this.

11) Greatness (featuring Joetka) - T3, Young RJ and Illa J spit some positive bars over an uplifting Young RJ instrumental while Joetka provides a beautiful chorus. The beat has a lighthearted feel, but the drums are definitely boom-bap. T3 sets it off lovely.
"Looking at the world through my mind's eye
Picturing the time as it flies by
Going at the speed of light, I’m leaving out your eye sight
I’m an invisible energy, feel the pure light
I can manifest anything tangible that I like
All I gotta do is visualize in they mind like
And all I see is love and it shines bright
It illuminates everything in my eyesight"
Very dope track.

12) Riot (featuring Rapper Big Pooh and Joe Scudda) - The last song on the album has a crazy feeling, with some wailing guitars, distorted drums and other sounds weaving in and out throughout the beat. Everyone is spitting with a bit more energy on this song in order to keep up with the chaotic instrumental. This is good, but there are better songs on here.

I'm going to rate the album

3.5 / 5

because there is some really ill material on here, but there is also some filler. Mostly all of the beats on the album are straight fire, but a few of them fall short of their mark. Lyrically the group doesn't fare quite as well, with many of the songs lacking standout verses. Despite all of this, the album is actually quite good. Nobody really listens to Slum Village for their complex rhyme schemes and killer flows anyways and its nice to hear some lyrics with a positive message instead of the usual tired topics so prevalent on the radio. For a group that has gone through as many roster changes as this one, its good to hear them still pumping out quality music, albeit with a very different players.


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