Slim Thug is a man who was definitely ahead of his time. Because in the early 2000s when getting a record deal was still the end all be all for rappers, he stayed independent. Today, it’s pretty common for artists to avoid labels and do things on their own, so Slim seemed to be on the right path from very early on.
But his nearly 20-year career may not be the most impressive thing about the 37-year-old, it could be how much he’s done for his hometown of Houston by putting on various charity events and doing his part to fight gentrification.
In 2015, along with the city council, Slim started Boss Life Construction to build quality, affordable housing in low-income neighborhoods. So far one of the company’s projects include a newly built housing development in the North West section of Houston, which will have six three bedroom homes with two bathrooms each. Future projects include newly built houses in Burns Village and 8203 North Main Street, also both in Houston.
He started the Boss Life Foundation in that year as well, a non-profit organization that secures college scholarship money for low-income individuals and provides them with training, education programs, mentoring and career guidance. The foundation is still in its first year, and they’re currently taking public donations. Their goal is to raise enough money to provide 10 college bound students with $5,000 each.
But before Slim became involved with entrepreneurship and community building, he made a name for himself by starting his own label Boss Hogg Outlawz many years ago. After that, he tried his hand at working with a label and signed to Pharrell Williams’ Star Trak Entertainment and broke out nationally.
Slim was also one of the main faces when the Houston hip-hop scene exploded around the globe in 2005 and 2006, along with rappers Mike Jones, Chamillionaire and Paul Wall. In fact, Slim’s come up is so impressive that it became the inspiration for Lupe Fiasco’s 2008 cut “Hip-Hop Saved My Life,” which is arguably one of the Chicago MC’s best songs.
If you’ve been following Slim’s career, then you might’ve noticed a slight change in his message, because although he’s always championed a do it yourself, independent way, his content has gotten a lot more positive in recent years.
In an exclusive interview with Atlanta Black Star, Slim talked about that new message, his community building efforts and the Boss Life Foundation. He also gave his opinion on whether young people should pursue a rap career these days or avoid it flat out.
*This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.
ABS: What was your motivation behind the “World is Yours” title, and what were you trying to capture in terms of the sound and message?
Slim Thug: For one, I’m a big fan of the movie “Scarface.” I’ve always been inspired by that movie. [Not to] sell bricks and be a drug dealer, but I got a to-the-top message [from it]. I was inspired by the movie, so I bought the statue of the world, you know, with the girls holding it, and I put it in my backyard, so that’s what really motivated me to name the album and do it like that.
Sound-wise I wanted it to come from a grown man [perspective]. I ain’t want to talk about no dumb sh–. I didn’t want to make an album at 37 glorifying [negative things]. To the people who grew up on me, I wanted them to have something they can listen to and can still relate to. I don’t want to sound like the youngsters and what they doing right now. I want to stay in my own lane and put a positive, motivating message out there for all of us who are trying to get to the next level.
ABS: I’ve noticed in the past couple of years, you’ve been encouraging young people to stay away from the drug game and street life in general. It’s somewhat of a shift for you and not a message that you typically hear from a rapper with such a loyal street following.
Sim Thug: There’s so much misinformation, there’s so much bad information, so many people are leading kids and whoever is listening, in the wrong direction and not even being real, not even telling their truth. They’re not being honest with what they’re saying about a lot of stuff. There’s so much dumb sh– … I’m just looking at it, like, ‘Damn, it’s crazy.’
I like try to keep it real with my fans and rap about stuff that’s really going on and say stuff that they really need to hear. Send them a positive message where they can look up and say ‘He said something real.’ Because in real life I’m trying to make boss moves and own something. My whole approach on the music game, being independent and Black-owned and not giving up my masters to some dude, selling it just to sell out.
ABS: Why do you think so many rappers seem afraid to switch gears and give their fans a message that’s more uplifting or one that reflects their real life?
Slim Thug: I think a lot of rappers are rapping to get the money. I think for the most part, a lot of rappers don’t plan to be independent or don’t try to be. When they rap, they say ‘Man, I want to rap so I can get a deal.’ Then when you get a deal, you on other people’s paycheck … So you always in their control. I feel like everything from a major label controls you, so I just wanted to be in control of my own destiny and boss up.
ABS: Let’s switch gears a little bit and talk about Boss Life Construction. How did it get started?
Slim Thug: We was just doing stuff in the hood, just for the hood. It wasn’t no cameras, it wasn’t for the radio. We’ve been doing something for like eight, nine years now. We do something every year for Thanksgiving. We always doing different stuff. The radio new what we was doing, they seen what we was doing. They reached out to the city and requested I get my own day, which is Feb. 25 coming up.
With me having my own day, me and my team decided to do it in a professional way. We set up the [Boss Life] Foundation … We didn’t want them to give us a day and not do nothing for the city. We wanted to make sure the day they gave me I earned it. So we had to come up with something that was for the community that made sense. We sat down with the city council, and we teamed up with them and that’s how we came up with Boss Life Construction.
ABS: Can you please talk about why it was so important for you to give back to Houston
Slim Thug: I feel like if I’m blessed I need to be a blessing. That’s just where it comes from initially. Then you got my neighborhood where you give back, these are my people. They made me, so it’s only right.
Then a lot of those kids who don’t have the hope, they don’t believe they can do it, they can’t make it out that hood, so I like to go back and kick it with them and let them know it’s possible. I’m from right over here too. You can do whatever I’m doing and more. That’s really what’s it’s about. Just giving them that hope and going back to where you came from and show love.
ABS: As far as your Boss Life Foundation, I see that it focuses heavily on education and encouraging kids to be other things besides athletes and entertainers. Some may find that ironic since you’ve been so successful in the rap game.
Slim Thug: I love being a rapper, but it’s such a shaky job. So many people trying to rap, it’s like trying to go to the NBA. It ain’t really that promising. Even if you rap good it ain’t promising. A lot of people can rap good who ain’t got no deal, ain’t got no money, ain’t successful. So I ain’t going to say I try to encourage people not to be a rapper, but I would rather encourage you to have something that you can do forever.
Because there’s a lot of smoke and mirrors with these rappers. A lot of these dudes look like they’re successful and making it look like they’re making a lot of money. They might be making some money right now, but that can end at anytime.
ABS: What do you think about hip-hop fans and younger Black people in general seeming to be more politically aware since Trump came into office? Do you think it’s a fad or will it last?
Slim Thug: I hope it keeps growing. I hope there’s more artists that choose to make these types of records and stay woke because that’s what we need more than anything. Maybe because I’m getting older — I don’t want to be the old dude hating on the young dudes or nothing like that, ‘cause I love a lot of their music — but sometimes I look at stuff and I be embarrassed and I be like, ‘Man, ‘I can’t believe they’re doing this for attention.’ It’s getting too crazy.
At the end of the day, you want to look at yourself in the mirror as a man and know that you ain’t do nothing crazy just for some fame or for some attention or for some money. You got to live with yourself forever. So this short time of whatever exposure you’re trying to chase, sometimes it ain’t worth it.