— by Alyssa Rashbaum, with reporting by Joseph Patel
Rapper Slim Thug may still be largely unknown to mainstream audiences, but in his mind he's already living the life of a hip-hop superstar.
His major-label debut, Already Platinum — which will be released on the Neptunes' Star Trak label — won't be in stores until December 7, but the rapper, who has already made a name for himself in and around his hometown of Houston, can't see any reason to feign modesty.
"When I say 'already platinum,' I ain't saying I am going to come out and just sell a million records for sure," he said. "It's just basically saying I've been living like a platinum rapper already. I've got a big 7,000-square-foot house, I've got a Bentley."
The 24-year-old rapper has been in the rap game for six years, releasing albums independently and earning a sizable following in Houston while allowing his popularity to bubble underground across the country.
"I feel like when I rap, somebody on the West can feel me," he said. "Somebody in New York can feel me 'cause it's just real life I spit."
Slim, who grew up on the north side of Houston, a city divided into rival zones, has made it his mission to compose rhymes that speak to both sides of the city.
"I'm not going to be just repping the north and hating on everybody else 'cause that would just limit my paper," he said. "I need fans on the south side as well as the north side."
The birth of Slim Thug as rap ambassador came in 1998 when the then-17-year-old MC was freestyling at parties in local high schools. Slim was introduced to one of Houston's hot DJs, Michael "5000" Watts, who helped kick off his burgeoning career.
"It was like overnight," Slim said. "I was doing shows on other people's beats, getting paid. It was crazy."
Slim started working on mixtapes with Houston's Swisha House, but after nearly two years, his entrepreneurial aspirations led him to leave Swisha, create his own label and form his own crew, the Boss Hogg Outlaws.
"I wanted to have my own label," he said. "That was my whole dream, not just to be a rapper. So it took me standing out on my own two feet." Still, after a few years on his own, Slim felt it was again time for a change.
Enter Pharrell Williams. The Neptunes producer took the rapper's career to the next level by not only signing him to his label, but bringing in producers from the rapper's hometown to work on the album and help it maintain the Houston flavor that made Slim's independent releases so unique.
"He's just got that mean, monster sound," Pharrell said of Slim. "You know what I mean, it's that down South thug music."
"I definitely respect what Pharrell was doing," Slim said. "And he respected what I was doing, so we just made a little fire and a big flame."
Already Platinum, the album that emerged from the fire, maintains Slim's vision of a sound that can appeal to all rap fans. Pharrell frames Slim's verses, steeped in a syrupy Texas drawl, with a familiar thundering echo, the kind of subversive funk that paints the rapper as an ambassador of the Southern sound, not a victim of it.
"We on our own slow-down music," Slim said, "some laid-back stuff. It's definitely a different look. We coming from a country background but at the same time we are a city. So it's real special out there. I think they're going to love what we got to bring."
With his interests spread over a wide range of business ventures — Slim owns several record stores, some real estate, and has early plans for a car dealership and a strip club — it's no surprise that even though his major-label debut has yet to be released, Slim Thug already sees himself as an established artist/entrepreneur.
"You know," he said, "you can't just be one-sided in being a hustler."
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