“I keep motivating the youngsters to keep chasing the check,” Slim Thug remarked before an early screening of the second part of his autobiographical documentary, Hogg Life, Wednesday night. He was standing in all black, admittedly high from smoking a weed-laced Swisher beforehand and taking photos with fans and friends outside the theater.
Back in February, Slim dropped the rather intriguing news that he was dropping four albums this year, one in every quarter. The first, Hogg Life: The Beginning, was produced entirely by G Luck and B Don of GNB Productions. Accompanying it was a similarly titled documentary film that showed Slim on his grind, performing at Northside clubs, participating on early Swishahouse tapes, and slowly becoming part of Houston lore.
Wednesday night, it was time to debut the second part of the film, wherein Slim plants himself firmly in the odd bubble of creating arguably the best Houston rap disc of 2005 but without the traditional “Houston sound” in his words. The screening of Hogg Life: Still Survivin’ gave rise to a moment inside the River Oaks Theatre where Slim could sit back and re-watch his life the same way you and I would watch Jurassic World.
Hogg Life: Still Survivin’ focuses largely on the ripple effects that followed “Still Tippin,” the paramount trio-rap track from Slim, Mike Jones by Paul Wall. It follows the rapper through a VIBE photo shoot where all three men are prominently involved; performances at the BET Awards in Los Angeles; a tattoo session by the legendary Mr. Cartoon, who gives him some sage advice (“the road to creativity is always under construction”); hanging in Miami, going to Japan and falling in love with a Phantom to the point of paying cash money for it; his famous MTV Cribs episode and more.
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The real jewel of the film can be found in the creation of Already Platinum, Slim’s major-label debut that turns ten years old next month. Then and now, the album still sounds like an outlier to everything else created in Houston at the time, with harder drums and more spaced-out beats compared to what Mr. Lee was giving Paul Wall and Mike Jones for their respective albums. Thugga readily admits that some of the looks and opportunities granted to him, such as doing tracks with Jay Z, Beyonce (“thank Beyonce and whoever called me to get on this record”) and Gwen Stefani were the direct result of working with Pharrell and signing to Interscope.
“I got my deal with Interscope via Letoya Luckett, whom I was dating at the time,” Slim says at the onset of the film. “The thing is, they still let me do my independent thing so they had to sign one of my artists [Killa Kyleon & Boss Hogg Outlawz]. The formula at Interscope is, put the new artist with the hot producer.”
Some of the footage contains genuine "where were you?" moments: Pharrell literally making the chorus to “Already Platinum” over the phone; the reaction of friends and others to “The Boss"; Jazze Pha being talked out of putting "Incredible Feeling" on his personal solo album in favor of Already Platinum; Slim nodding and kicking around rhymes after Jay Z gives him one of his first new verses while in “retirement” for “I Ain’t Heard of That"; and the rather hilarious creation of these screechy, talk-shit background vocals. All of this is beautiful in hindsight, but the worry to Slim and to Houston was whether or not Pharrell’s pop/Top 40 vibe would match with Slim’s rugged all-out Houston sound.
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“When I got signed, the Houston sound wasn’t going nowhere outside of Houston,” the lanky, tattooed rapper says in the documentary. “By the time “Still Tippin” blew up, I was six months into Already Platinum.”
To this day, Slim still considers the work he did with Pharrell one of his finer moments as an artist. “Already Platinum is either my first or second favorite album,” he says in a moment of reflection, beyond meet-and-greets, signing autographs and more. “But, I think to capitalize on the Houston momentum I should have dropped Boss of All Bosses first and then came back with Already Platinum.”
Hogg Life: Still Survivin’ , boils down to one whole montage of how busy Slim’s life was from 2005 to 2007. It’s a time warp for Houston rap fans — and hell, rap fans in general — who can remember tall Ts, packed clubs and supporters strolling through venues to show love. The faces between then and now have gotten slimmer, wider, rounder and, in the case of H.A.W.K., are sorely missed. If there ever was a single, isolated glimpse into the Houston rap boom of the mid-aughts, this is it.