As a forever present unofficial-turned-official member of 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.
On BLAQ ROYALT, Young RJ shows the same musical versatility that made him such a reliable producer for the likes of Slum Village and 50 Cent – and a mic presence that’s just as potent. 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 he was tasked to co-produce their transitionnel album Trinity (Past, Present and Future); and his contributions were largely unaccredited.
Despite finding new mainstream success, Slum Village went on hiatus after 2005, leaving 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.
But just as he began to build momentum, family business called; as Slum Village was ready to return. Young RJ abandoned his outside work to resume a workhorse producer/engineer role. Yet, 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, Young RJ honored a late wish of Baatin’s and in 2012 officially joined Slum Village not only as a producer, but an official 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 the group has crossed the globe numerous times over and staged multiple worldwide tours.
After Slum’s last world tour, RJ returned to his Detroit studio and began preparing his solo-debut. Music fans have depended on Young RJ’s ear and with BLAQ ROYALT he delivers; as always. “Creating my first solo project gives me a different sense of freedom and 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. BLAQ ROYALT is self-produced and includes collaborations with BJ The Chicago Kid, De La Soul and as “Wait” suggests, Pete Rock and Boldy James and will be released this summer.
“Wait” finds the artists’ delivering three verses from different perspectives; RJ waxes poetically about trying to make it in life, but not exchanging your soul for it, Pete salutes the strength of his family for helping him survive the music business for two decades and Boldy James narrates his struggle on how hip hop kept him from becoming another statistic on the streets of Detroit.