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Exploring the Legacy of Slum Village

By Chanel Cain

Music has the power to connect people across cities, countries, and continents. Black musicians have been pioneers of the artform, creating many classic American genres. At the forefront of today’s zeitgeist is hip hop, celebrating 50 years of greatness. 

A staple of the late ‘90s early ‘00s Detroit scene was Slum Village, composed of members J Dilla, T3, and Baatin in the original lineup. Moe Lynch, a Michigan native, was all too familiar with there work. It wasn’t until years later that his documentary about the group would come to be.

“This actual project came about when we were on a road trip, coming back from Louisville, to Atlanta, and that’s about a six hour drive. And I was just scrolling through my Apple Music and slum had released a project in 2016,” Moe Lynch said.

With the help of his producer/wife Nicki Lynch, the two created “Fantastic: The Legacy of Slum Village” detailing the history of the prolific group. With interviews from Q-Tip, Common, and other contemporary artists, the scope of Slum Village comes into full frame.

The documentary was a passion project for the duo. Coming from different backgrounds, they were able to use their strength to create the piece. When the two met in 2005, Nicki Lynch was not in the film world. Moe Lynch, alum of Specs Howard School of Media Arts, pulled her into the world of film he was passionate about. 

Nicki Lynch’s background in information systems lended her well to the role of producer, taking “the approach of project management toward it,” she said. While dating, they completed their first documentary together and have been unstoppable since.

“Our entire relationship, literally from when we started dating, and we’ve been married now almost 17 years, has been completely surrounded around us being filmmakers and us, you know, fulfilling the dream,” Nicki Lynch continued.

Digging into the history of the group revealed the trials they had to endure on the road to success, contextualizing how influential their sound really was. 

“I’ve always been interested in the background of artists to see where they get their inspiration from, see where they came from,” Moe Lynch said.

J Dilla, along with being a founding member of the group, gained notoriety in the producing world, working with industry giants like Janet Jackson, De La Soul and Busta Rhymes.   

“I was familiar with a lot of the music that J Dilla was making and I didn’t even know it was J Dilla,” Nicki Lynch said. “It just was the story that I felt that we all could learn from.”

Ownership of work and legacy is extremely important for the Black community, as it is often denied.

“I think now that we’re starting to have access and starting to have opportunity, and especially from an independent perspective, you know, nothing is stopping us from telling our stories,” Nicki Lynch said. “I think it’s highly important to do so.”

Slum Village is still active today, with Young RJ and T3 carrying the reins, their fantastic legacy will forever be immortalized.

Watch “Fantastic: The Legacy of Slum Village” on kweliTV.