Words + Interviews by Kathy Iandoli
Baatin is the one who's in the tree of life / hold tight, don't ever give up in the fight /grace can only come into the sight / soul power – it ignites like the sun /SV dominates the industry for fun…
When the late Dilla—Jay Dee at the time—and his compadre T3 first met with Barak Records’ founder RJ Rice, Titus "Baatin" Glover was not in the room. The deal was on the table, and the two emcees-slash-producers in their late teens sat waiting for the right moment to explain Baatin's extraterrestrial, head in the clouds, heart on his sleeve appeal. “Jay Dee was sitting there putting his hand over his mouth talking to T3 on the couch,” Rice recalls. “They said, ‘We got somethin’ to tell you. There’s another member in the group.’” Baatin was M.I.A. at the time, and had been completely absent from the original Slum Village demo. “Well do we need him?” Rice asked the duo. “Yeah…we definitely need him,” they replied.
Collectively, Slum Village reorganized the rap game. Sure, Dilla’s steady affiliation to the Ummah along with further Tribe-infused undertones made for Slum Village’s easy transition into organic rap royalty. But it was bigger than that. SV gave Detroit a new face for rap fans worldwide. While Eminem gave it a scowl, Slum Village gave it a smile. Their mission was to make beautiful music, and Baatin stood at the heart of it all. There was a natural progression to his style—what started as a peaceful growl at the dawn of Fan-Tas-Tic evolved into an abstract sophistication. Baatin pushed his creativity to the limits with every Slum release, and when he parted ways with the group in 2002, there was a deficit. Dilla left a year prior—he was replaced by Elzhi—and his presence was missed as he began his journey to superproducer. But everyone in Slum’s family agrees that without Baatin, there was no Slum Village.
Throughout his absence from the group, Baatin endured some struggles along the way. In 2004, he spoke out about his battle with mental illness—he was clinically diagnosed with depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia. Two years later he shattered his ankle and for the remainder of his life walked with metal plates holding the bones together. But that didn’t break his spirit, and despite rumors that his split from Slum Village was due to his underlying drug addiction, their reunion was inevitable. “When he called me last year, he said, ‘I want you to hear some music.’ I heard the music he was doing, I called T3 and said, ‘T, this is what we’re missing,’” says Rice. Jay Dee had passed away in 2006 due to complications from Lupus, so T3 was especially aware of the fragility of life. It was time to bring SV back together, and Elzhi agreed. While Barak had a Slum Village documentary in the works, including interviews with T3 and Baatin, once the filming ceased Baatin was geared for his return. He was grateful to be back, thanking everyone for letting him into the fold once more. Not long after, he was gone. The inconclusiveness of his death is ancillary compared to the tragedy of the loss. While Baatin’s legacy will live on through his past work and most recent reunion with his band of brothers, there will never be another Slum Village like there was with Titus Glover. RIP.
Audio: T3 discusses meeting Baatin for the first time
Audio: T3 speaks on bringing Baatin back
Audio: RJ Rice discusses Slum Village's legacy
Audio: Waajeed discusses growing up with Baatin
Audio: Waajeed: "Baatin was the Ol Dirty Bastard of Slum Village"
Audio: Waajeed on honoring Baatin's memory
Download: Slum Village, "Cloud 9"