Slim Thug is the voice of Houston rap, a 6’6” tall colossus who dominated the early-‘00s underground scene on Michael “5000” Watts’ Swishahouse imprint. In 2005 he released his Neptunes’-produced major label debut, Already Platinum, and followed it with his tremendously-popular eOne Music follow-up Boss of All Bosses four years later. He returns on eOne1/Boss Hogg Outlawz with his latest album, Tha Thug Show, due out November 30. The work shows him in top form and features single, “So High,” with chart-topping Atlanta emcee B.o.B. “What I’m trying to do is give fans the best of Boss of All Bosses and of Already
Platinum,” Slim says.
Born Stayve Thomas, Slim was already running things as a high school student. He drove around in a drop-top Cadillac, inspiring some of his older classmates to call him Boss Hogg — after The Dukes of Hazard character — which inspired the name of his record label. Many folks just called him Slim, however, and since he was doing thuggish things and looked and acted like a thug, he extended it to Slim Thug. “I was grilled-out since I was, like, 15 years old,” he explains. “I was walking around with braids, Dickies, white t-shirts, and Chucks all the time, so I looked like a thug.”
An aspiring rapper, his fate forever changed one night in high school when he performed a freestyle at a northside Houston teen club in front of Michael Watts, the influential local DJ and mixtape guru. Impressed by Slim’s verse, Watts invited him to his studio to lay down a track for a mixtape album. “I went over, did the shit, and it’s been poppin’ ever since,” Slim says. With Swishahouse and Boss Hogg Outlawz he moved thousands and thousands of CDs, and began drawing major label attention. But, considering he was already the making big money playing shows around Texas, he had no need for their puny offers. “Every label tried to sign me— Universal, Atlantic, Warner Bros, everyone. But the money they was offering, I wasn’t with it, ‘cause we were getting that out in the streets.”
Eventually however, one of the independent distribution networks trafficking his CDs went under. And so, when Interscope finally called with a good offer he signed on, and was eventually placed on The Neptunes’ Star Trak label. Pharrell Williams and his crew were the hottest thing working, and though their spaced-out, pop-friendly style strayed from the gritty, slowed, Houston sound Slim built his name on, Already Platinum debuted at number two on the Billboard 200, and spawned hits including “Like A Boss.” (That song inspired a wildly-popular
Saturday Night Live parody of the same name last year, featuring Andy Samberg as a not-so-bosslike boss.)
Meanwhile, also in 2005, Watts used a line from a Slim freestyle — “still tippin’ on fo-fo’s, wrapped in fo’-vogues” – as the hook for the breakout song from Swishahouse artist Mike Jones, called “Still Tippin’.” The track, which also featured Paul Wall, was a massive hit, bringing Houston’s emerging hip hop sound (and its references to lean, candy paint, grills and swangers) to the mainstream. Slim’s star was launched and he appeared on hits like Gwen Stefan’s 2005 song “Luxurious” and Beyonce’s 2006 number one, “Check On It.”
Despite his national success, the major label scene wasn’t for Slim, and a few years later he signed with eOne. “A lot of people thought I was stupid for walking away from Interscope, but I wasn’t going to be on the sidelines, while they pushed back records,” he says. “At the end of the day, I’d rather go with a smaller company and keep the money coming.” His critically-admired 2009 follow-up Boss of All Bosses may not have had a big budget or production from The Neptunes, but it returned to his original sound and was beloved by his core fans, selling some 150,000 units. Last year he also had another great look through a collaboration with Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show called, “Still A Boss,” a parody video about the way the economy is affecting the rap industry. (“I don’t pop bottles in the club/ It costs too much…‘Cause up at Costco it’s half the cash/ I buy a bottle, for what you’re spending on one glass.”)
Tha Thug Show aims to split the difference between the mainstream-accessible sound of Already Platinum and the Texas flavor of Boss of All Bosses. Much of the production comes courtesy of his collaborator Mr. Lee, and the album features Lil Wayne, Rick Ross, Yo Gotti, Nipsey Hussle and Big Krit. Single “So High,” with B.o.B., comes after the pair nearly worked together on Slim’s 2008 single “I Run,” which, in the end, instead featured Yelawolf. “After Yelawolf did it, it just sounded so right, I didn’t want to change it,” Slim says. “But I’ve definitely been knowing
B.o.B. since before he took off.”
It’s clear that Slim has settled into his role as a young Houston legend, and that returning to his independent roots has been good for him. “I might be local again, but I’m still getting money, so I’m cool on it,” he says with a laugh. “I’ve got better focus, and more power.” Even in these recessionary times, it’s clear, the Slim Thug brand goes a long way.