Baatin (born Titus Glover), a founding member of the rap group Slum Village, was found dead on August 1. Following his death, the word that was repeatedly used to describe his art and mode was "spiritual." The obit from the Los Angeles Times: "Born Titus Glover in 1974, the Detroit native adopted the name Baatin in the 1990s to reflect a newfound spirituality. 'Baatin' was 'Islamic for "hidden,"' he once said." From the obit headline in the Detroit Free Press: "Detroit native, known for spiritual lyrics, had recently returned to group" (Slum Village—he left it in 2002 to deal with mental-health issues). From Corprah Lanfrey's blog: "Baatin's voice and lyricism and content was a force to be reckoned with. You knew when he was on. You felt what he was saying. He was spiritual and he was fluent and he was flowing."
Lanfrey goes on to share a few anecdotes about meeting Baatin, about what a talented person he was in real life, and so on and so forth. But one thing is missing from this account of Baatin's mode and work. This missing thing has nothing to do with spirituality, and it represents his single most important contribution to the history of hiphop—a history that he entered in 1997. What the talented Baatin—with his rapping partner, T3, and the beats produced by the third founding member of Slum Village, Jay Dee—established on Slum Village's first collection of tracks, Fan-Tas-Tic Vol. 1, is an erotics of hiphop.
No other group before or after Slum Village has made a work so completely dedicated to the pleasures of sex. Wu-Tang Clan have "Ice Cream" (on Raekwon's Only Built 4 Cuban Linx...), but this is only a break from business as usual (criminology, sword fighting, chess). As for a rapper like Lil' Kim, sex for her is about power, not pleasure: "Some bitches suck dick just to get to the top" (on Mobb Deep's Quiet Storm). With Slum Village, sex was developed into a proper erotics. And it's not just the rhymes, but Jay Dee's sound. Track after track (and, like great sex, none of the tracks are too long) on the masterpiece Fan-Tas-Tic Vol. 1, and to lesser extent Fantastic Vol. 2, we feel and hear the delights of receiving and giving oral sex, of masturbating and watching someone masturbating, of the bliss of penetration and watching penetration.
Roland Barthes has a marvelous essay on the master (madman) of erotic literature, the Marquis de Sade. In this essay, there are many great passages and quotes from and about Sade. One: "Sade makes sperm the substitute for speech (and not the other way around)." Another: "I want to fondle your cocks while I talk..." Another: "You have killed me with voluptuousness. Let's sit down and discuss." Another: "The [writing] consists of saturating the erotic body by simultaneously occupying the principal sites of pleasure (mouth, sexual organs, anus)." Barthes calls this place that's saturated by the sexual the "Sadian Village." Whoever lives there (the Sadian Village) is not far from the Slum Village of Fan-Tas-Tic Vol. 1: "Hey you, we pussy eating, eating pussy for a hobby" ("5 Ela [Remix]"); "I remember the day you showed your ass, full mooning/Wolf nigga transforming" ("Estimate"); "Your fragrance got me losing consciousness... Suck a dick to the tip, tell a bitch that's the shit, so eat a dick/You need to... just give me your clit/As I get nasty like an old porno flick/Oral sex got me caught up in the bliss... /As I drop this dick between her tits" ("The Look of Love").
On "Things You Do," Baatin raps: "We will fuck on the roof at a tantra seminar/Molded by the stimulator/Tantric master visualize the lotus..." If Baatin is spiritual, it's at best the sexual spirituality of Tantrism, with its principles for generating the greatest amount of ecstasy out of the frictions, positions, organs of carnal desire. But spirituality in the West (unlike the East) usually means beyond the body, and this is precisely not the substance of Slum Village's raps. They are all (indeed, too much) about the body—cocks, pussy, flesh, mouths, lips, meat. And, as with Sade, the obsession with sex reaches the point of monotony—again and again sucking dicks, dropping dicks, sucking clits, masturbating ("The woman looks so good, she makes you masturbate"). And Jay Dee's repeatedly sensual beats (half in reality, half in sexuality) are also the subject of fucking: "Put your dick in the beat" or "Niggas fall in love with the music like it's a hole."
Baatin is dead, but what we should most remember him for is introducing to hiphop the pleasures that have everything to do with life: erotic pleasures.