As a forever present unofficial-turned-official member of the legendary rap group Slum Village, producer/rapper Young RJ has twice been entrusted with continuing the legacy of Detroit’s most important rap group. But with a prosperous music career behind the scenes and officially as part of the group, he’s ready to speak for himself with his solo debut, Blaq Royalt. And he explores various forms of corruption in new video “Huh?!”
The rapper/producer has produced for the likes of Slum Village, 50 Cent and G-Unit, Eric Roberson, De La Soul and Little Brother. On upcoming album Blaq Royalt, he shows the same musical versatility that made him such a reliable producer.
“Huh” employs ominous synths for a ruthless, chase-checking mentality to music; “Issues” (ft. BJ The Chicago Kid) finds common ground through everyday struggle; and “Right Now” has the seductive vibe of Slum’s classics. Music fans have depended on Young RJ’s ear for decades, and he delivers as always.
Young RJ’s solo career has been a long time coming. As a child, he toured with his parents, who founded the Detroit R&B band R.J.’s Latest Arrival, while family friend, founding member of Slum Village and legendary producer J Dilla taught him how to program a drum machine and mix songs as a teenager. Once Dilla felt he was ready, he asked for Young RJ’s help with completing “Climax,” a fan favorite from Slum Village’s seminal 2000 album Fantastic Vol. 2.
YOUNG RJ’s tutelage was put to the test when Slum Village’s roster was shaken up: Dilla left to pursue a solo career, Baatin left because of health issues and Elzhi entered as a new member. Young RJ co-produced and engineered on their transitional album Trinity (Past, Present and Future), and as on “Climax,” his contributions were largely uncredited. But after paying dues, RJ began to have his name attached to his works.
Soon-there-after, YOUNG RJ and Black Milk formed the group B.R. Gunna, produced a compilation project called Dirty District Vol. 2, and were tasked with producing Slum Village’s following two albums, Detroit Deli (2002) and Slum Village (2005).
Despite finding new mainstream success, Slum Village went on hiatus after 2005, leaving YOUNG RJ free to build his own catalog. Forever his mentor, an inspiring conversation with Dilla before his death in 2006 led Young RJ to work and study old school bands like One Way and Zapp to sharpen his music chord progressions. As his sound matured he began to place beats with 50 Cent, G-Unit members Lloyd Banks and Young Buck, Little Brother, De La Soul, Eric Roberson and Proof (of Eminem’s group D12).
But just as he began to build momentum, family business called: Slum Village was ready to return. RJ abandoned his outside work to resume a workhorse producer/engineer role. But the group dissolved just as quickly as they reemerged: Baatin tragically died in 2009, and Elzhi left the group.
Determined to keep the group alive, RJ honored a late wish by Baatin and in 2012 officially joined Slum Village as a producer and a member. It was his first time regularly rocking the mic since childhood, but nevertheless, he and T3 reinforced Slum Village’s legacy with two critically-acclaimed albums, Evolution(2013) and Yes! (2015), and during the past five years they performed multiple worldwide tours. He then returned to his Detroit studio to prepare his debut.
“Creating my first solo project gives me a different sense of freedom, although my music is based on the Slum Village philosophy of sound, people will now get insight into one of the men behind the music,” states Young RJ.