Definition: To frighten into submission or compliance.
Application: Sitting on Slim Thug's couch.
It's a nice couch, really — one of those L-shaped sectionals with plush cushions that you sort of sink into. It's clearly expensive, but tastefully so. It's neither draped up nor dripped out, just classy. Understated, even. It's a nice couch.
Stayve Jerome Thomas, better known as Slim Thug, is sitting on it. His hair, as expected, is tightly cornrowed. He's in a black T-shirt and crisp blue jeans. The tattoos that cover his arms are his only accessories. No Boss Hogg chain, no sunglasses, not even an entourage.
Actually, that seems natural. He doesn't need one. Even sitting down, Slim, 28, is every bit as dominant as his 6'6", 270-lb. frame would suggest. As it is now, only half of his stage name is true. (It ain't the "Slim" part.)
His house is nice too, and that's odd. Seemingly every rap song from the past 15 years is filled with grandiose tales of excess, so driving over there, you're not really sure what to expect. Something like a castle on the moon surrounded by a syrup-filled moat, maybe, with solid gold sharks swimming in it.
Or even more absurd, maybe he's requested that the interview be held in some run-down shack in a hard-luck community that he'll claim as his own for posterity's sake — "Keeping it real," or some nonsense like that.
But Slim Thug's house isn't a shack, nor is it a moon castle. It's an impressive brick and stone-faced two-story home with an open living area that is exceptionally clean and elegantly decorated. There are six cars visible in front.
The book on Slim is that he was, at first, a reticent celebrity. He was obviously talented, but he didn't intend on becoming a rap superstar simply because of his musical ability any more than he intended on becoming an NBA superstar simply because of his physical prowess.
Biggie Smalls famously proclaimed that nobody gets in the game to be mediocre. Being a rapper is like propositioning someone to participate in a threesome, wearing sunglasses at night or being Bono: You need a massive ego, otherwise you're going to look like a moron. Something doesn't add up.
"I was saying it wasn't, like, in my dreams to be this big famous rapper," Slim explains. "Everything with that type of shit was just, in my mind, not reality. It was something we did for fun, the freestyle shit. I was just in the club doing a freestyle. It wasn't like I went up there with my demo or was like, 'Oh, give me a shot.'"
Slim talks exactly like he raps. Long vowels and proper enunciation have no place in his speech; it's all a gooey mess. Words that shouldn't rhyme mesh together naturally. They crawl out of the back of his mouth from deep in his chest. In addition to sounding cool as shit, it makes him immediately likable.
This is a fairly common trait among Southern artists — that slick-talking, Cadillac-salesman's ease. Slim, though, exemplifies it. To hear him is to know him.
It's the reason his loyal listenership was taken aback by his 2005 debut, Already Platinum. Those outside the South, though, gave the album strong reviews.
For about seven years, Slim cultivated a fan base on a steady stream of Houston-centric, bass-heavy mix tapes. By 2004, everybody knew exactly what a Slim Thug album entailed.
But with production credits for half of Already Platinum's 16 tracks going to an away team — spacey-synth enthusiasts the Neptunes — the LP sounded more like an impersonation of a Slim Thug album than an actual one. His flow, the perpetually engorged grumble that excels when allowed to roam free, seemed caged in by overproduction.
Boss of All Bosses, however, is an application of basics, an open-hearted ode to the Southern bump and drag. It's more poignant than anything he's ever done. Slim makes it all of 5:30 into the album before making his State of the Union address:
"They say the truth will hit so fuck it / I'm a go ahead and keep it 100 for the public / I dropped Already Platinum but it only sold gold / And niggas looking at me like I sold my soul / 'Cuz I'm rapping with P and not Mr. Lee / But when you on your grind, sometimes you can't see."
"That's exactly what it was," Slim says. "I felt like the first album, I enjoyed that. I love that album like a muh-fucka. But at the end of the day, [Boss] is a record that's influenced by me and me only. I always tell people, this is me kind of going back to my roots. If you loved Slim Thug before the deal, you'll love this album."
Slim Thug is a father. Actually, Slim Thug is a rapper. Stayve Thomas is a father. He has two young boys, ages three and five. An 8x10 framed picture of the three of them sits proudly in the living room. They're handsome, strong-looking little guys — young bosses in training, no doubt.
Slim smiles when he talks about them, but only talks about them briefly. It's one of the few places where the artist-as-human being distinction can be easily drawn. Oddly enough, his iPhone is another. And he's a little more open with that.
In addition to holding typed-out and voice-recorded lyrics to current or upcoming songs — many artists do this now, apparently — there are a bunch of pictures on there. (Slim Thug uploads?!) He thumbs through and pulls up one of himself at 15, sitting driver's-side in the old drop-top with the steer-horns grill that spawned the Boss Hogg title.
"That's me right there in the front seat like a muh-fucka," he says. "That was way back then. I was real skinny, Afro'd out. I ain't give a fuck."
Tell him he looks about 150 pounds, and he laughs.
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Right then you're certain you can put all the pieces together. The stereotypical troubled North Houston youth selling crack, the chance encounter with DJ Michael "5000" Watts, then the unexpected co-sign from legendary Southsider DJ Screw — which, at the time, was monumental, considering it came in the thick of Houston's Northside/Southside hostilities.
Then came peddling mixtapes out of the trunk of his car day after day, the slowly earned respect, the album deal, the questioning and finally — finally — the return signified by Boss of All Bosses.
Slim Thug is back. His fans will love this album. He'll be on tour soon, and they will welcome him back. In hindsight, they'll appreciate the journey, and he will too.
But currently, he's simply sitting on a nice couch.