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Thug Life

Slim Thug has paid the cost to be the Dirty South boss

But as more and more local rappers have realized, Slim definitely not least among them, green trumps both red and blue. He's talking about taking his fledgling real estate concern to a "whole 'nother level, like millions at a time" by moving into commercial properties. The car lot is still in the planning stages -- "I've been on the road so much tryin' to promote this rap album I haven't really had a chance to sit down and plan that." As is the strip club. "I don't have time to focus on those things right now. I'm just tryin' to focus on the real estate thing and the rap thing right now."

Now, about that "rap thing"…Already Platinum was supposed to have been the first of the major-label releases from Houston in this, the year in which we finally seized the reins as the Dirty South's hottest rap city. Much of the same type of hype that landed on Mike Jones's shoulders seemed to be looming over Slim Thug. Slim lined up the Neptunes, commercial rap's cleverest and most successful producers (not to mention Jazze Pha and Dre), and an all-star lineup of guest MCs, including Bun B, T.I., Ludacris and Killa Kyleon. He was signed to Jimmy Iovine's Interscope label, and the album was slated to come out on the Neptunes' Star Trak imprint. Lead singles "Like a Boss" and "I Ain't Heard of That" started getting spins on the Box at the end of last December. Vibe ran a favorable review of the record back in April.

But it didn't come out then. Or on a few other dates. The trouble was that a bunch of the tracks had leaked. Thousands of Slim's fans ripped and burned the album before it ever came out. So it was back to the woodshed for Slim and the Neptunes and a bunch of the others involved, for a bout of remixing and even replacing tracks. The new edition of Already Platinum contains only a handful of the original tunes and even features new cover art.

Good thing it was worth the wait. The tuba-thumping single "Like a Boss" is slamming and now features a hilarious female voice cheerleading Slim on over the hook. Well, it could be a female or it could be Mike Tyson -- it's hard to tell. At any rate, everybody I've played it for, kids and adults alike, loves it. (Be warned before you break it out for the tykes -- the language is raw.) The remix of "I Ain't Heard of That" has a lot of the same spare and spindly charm that the Neptunes brought to Snoop Dogg's smash "Drop It Like It's Hot." Jazze Pha's wa-wa guitar production on "Incredible Feelin'" recalls OutKast at their funkiest, and throughout the album Slim delivers his lines -- most of which are traditional Dirty South playa fare -- with gruff-voiced authority. (Sample lyrics from "Like a Boss": "You fools just went to school and learned to use ProTools / and copy your G-moves off the ten o'clock news / you can't survive in my shoes or afford to pay my dues / with your cartoon crews y'all niggas destined to lose.")

Slim smiles remembering the virtuosity of the Neptunes, especially Pharrell. "It's just simple things, like me and Pharrell will be ridin' in the car or whatever and I'll be tellin' him a story about somebody, and he'll just pick somethin' up. He's not from Houston, so when I talk at him he can pick up what we say down here that everybody else don't say. The slang or whatever. Like I'll say, 'Put ya up,' and that's slang out here for takin' care of a woman or whatever…It was that easy. He just went in the studio with the words 'Put ya up' and came up with a beat. It was that simple, with them bein' geniuses, to show their character."

It also used to be that easy for Slim to release his mixtapes. As he's midway through what has been the agonizing process of getting his album out, one wonders if he misses the days when he had more control over his music. If, figuratively speaking, he still wishes he was behind the wheel of the Rolls-Royce Phantom that is his new record deal, if he didn't have to deal with the traffic cops that are label bosses.

He laughs, a little ruefully, and there's a long pause. "The major label definitely have a better way of pushin' you," he says, finally. "The majors don't actually reach the bottom of the streets -- which the mixtapes do. The mixtapes is more about promotin' yourself in the local 'hoods, and the majors is more about the on-top, worldwide audience. It's good to work on both."

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