Baatin as part of Organic Fresh with DJ Dopey and DJ Taktiks at Funhaus (526 Queen West), Saturday (December 6). $12 advance, more at the door. 416-703-4999. Rating: NNNNN
Detroit rapper Baatin knows the meaning of the phrase "near-death experience." It's behind what happened one sweaty night last May when Slum Village came to Toronto and let their fans down with a show that was decidedly on some wack shit.
Beyond the unveiling of new material that sounded more cock rock than hiphop, the performance suffered from a lack of cohesion.
But why should anyone have expected unity? Jay Dee, the group"s producer and heart, bounced from Slum an album ago, and that night Baatin was nowhere to be seen.
Onstage, Elzhi (Jay Dee"s replacement) mentioned that Baatin couldn't make it. What he didn't say was that Baatin wouldn't be making it ever again - at least not with Slum Village.
The breakup began with a breakdown.
"Let's just go back to March of this year," says Baatin over the phone from his home in Motown. "I was experiencing illnesses due to three years of touring non-stop."
Schizophrenia and a host of stress-related ailments had been plaguing Baatin overseas. Food poisoning in France didn't help too much either: a plate of shark almost killed him.
"The toxins came out (in) my flesh - even my taste buds - with this metallic substance. I almost was outta here, man. I was in a coma for, like, a day and a half."
From then on, the warmth shown between members on record didn't exactly translate in real life.
"When I was in the hospital, I didn't get too much support from no one," he says.
When he was holed up in another hospital in Detroit, the only visit Baatin received from the other Slum Villagers came in the form of a letter expelling him from the group.
"It just didn't work out, but I forgive 'em and all," he says.
It wouldn't be constructive for Baatin to harbour a grudge. To retain his publishing deal with EMI (read, get his fucking money), he still has to complete a few songs with the group.
"The whole experience made me look at the mistakes I've made in the music business and my life," Baatin says.
But, he contends, having to come home was one of the best things that could have happened to him. For one, his skin cleared up almost immediately. So did his mind.
"I went through a transformation mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually. I was pulled in another direction. I had a discussion with the lady I call my oracle - she's like a very wise mentor of mine. She had foretold Slum Village's success before we'd signed a record deal and stuff, so I go to her for my psychic advice. She told me I'd reached a plateau in my life where my focus was to uplift and to help people reach their highest potential through music."
Baatin's life experiences give him no shortage of material to bring to the solo album he"s working on. He's got some local Detroit producers on board and has also reached out to Snoop Dogg and the Neptunes for potential collaborations.
It's been a tough 2003, but at the end of it all he feels better than ever and, best of all, free.
Asked how it feels to be a soloist, Baatin replies, "Aw, man, I've got wings! I'm gonna fly one day!"