Lil Slim was one of the first artists to be signed to Cash Money Records. After a series of underground classics, he parted ways with the label. A couple of years later, CMR signed a multi-million dollar deal with Universal and the label’s star, Juvenile, carried the new roster to success whilst Lil Slim receded into the shadows.
Lil Slim lived way out in the 17th Ward on New Orleans‘s western edge in Hollygrove, a small, lower middle class neighborhood that also was home to Big Boy (and later, No Limit) artist, Fiend. Representing the Apple and Eagle intersection, he brought his raps to audiences at Club 49, where he performed alongside UNLV and Soulja Slim. One day, Ziggler the Wiggler introduced them to Mannie Fresh, a young DJ from the 7th Ward who’d gained a measurable degree of local fame with rapper Gregory D. Shortly after, Lil Slim was introduced to Baby and Slim, brothers and co-owners of the fledgling Cash Money Records label. They signed Lil Slim and recorded his first album in Baby’s kitchen.
The album was The Game is Cold (1993). One highlight is “Hoes I U’s 2 Sweat.” Another is “Bounce Slide Ride,” a Bounce classic in the vein of DJ Jimi and Juvenile’s “Bounce for the Juvenile” which name-checked Juvie and echoed his taste for Reeboks and Girbaud. Lil Slim’s style was sing-songy, reggae-informed, repetitive and heavy on chants — somewhat similar to Pimp Daddy, UNLV and early Juvenile. One thing that set him apart was his exaggerated Yat accent, in which the familiar interjection “Ya heard me?” sounded like “Ya hoidz me?” Cash Money was then primarily a Bounce label and a good deal of the lyrics amounted to little more than calling out wards and projects. Expecting lyrical complexity out of Bounce is missing the point, however, and the album is emphatically danceable. Its Intro and Outro tracks allowed Mannie Fresh to cut snippets of Slim’s already sparse prose and make them almost completely abstract.
His sophomore release, Powder Shop (1994) moved a bit more into a more narrative, Gangsta territory, creating a Gangsta/Bounce hybrid made popular by his labelmates, UNLV. Some of the highlights include “Eagle St. Bounce,” “True to the Game” and “Powder Shop,” the latter about a heroin operation. Like a lot of early-’90s New Orleans rap, heroin is the drug most often referenced — which is a bit unsettling, especially when the rest of the rap world was mellowing with Indo, Chronic and gin ‘n’ juice. I guess all that dope in the Grunge scene had to come from somewhere. Listening to it now, it’s shocking how much Lil Wayne and, even more so, (Young) Turk owe to his sound.
Lil Slim’s final album for Cash Money was Thug’n & Pluggin (1995) which saw him (and especially Mannie Fresh’s production) making more concessions to West Coast styles on G-Funk flavored tracks like “Bitches Ain’t Shit,” “Gangsta Day,” “Shakem Up Shakem,” “Time to Murder” and the excellent “Hands on My Gun.” “Live in Club Rolex (Real High)” with its heavy use of the triggerman beat from the Showboys’ “Drag Rap” was a throwback to Lil Slim’s straight Bounce beginnings. “Neighborhood Terror” is another highlight.
Like all Cash Money productions, other artists from the roster make frequent guest appearances. In the pre-Hot Boys era that means B-32 (Birdman), PxMxWx, Kilo G (Cash Money’s first signing) and Mr. Ivan. Of course, Lil Slim appeared on albums by other Cash Money artists such as Mr. Ivan, PxMxWx, Pimp Daddy and UNLV. He also brought an artist to Cash Money’s attention that today is the CEO of the label. In 1994, Lil Slim heard his eleven-year-old neighbor rapping at a block party. Born D’Wayne Turner, the Eleanor McMain Magnet Secondary School student was calling himself “Shrimp Daddy” and owed a considerable stylistic debt to Lil Slim and Pimp Daddy, whose “You Gotta Be Real” he re-did as “You Gotta Be Lil.” Lil Slim was suitably impressed and promised to introduce the child to Baby and Slim. Then, at one of his autograph signings in a record store, the little kid performed a rap where he spelled out Hollygrove. Paired with the twelve-year-old rapper Doogie (aka Gangsta D) and rechristend “Baby D” in a duo called The B.G.z, they ultimately went on to find more fame under their subsequent handles, B.G. and Lil Wayne, respectively.
In 1995, Lil Slim parted ways with CMR. According to Lil Slim, it was over contractual problems, including unfair payment of royalties; Baby being a student of the Suge Knight school of label-running makes that charge pretty likely. In addition, almost everyone that’s left the label since has made the same allegation, sometimes suing and winning. On the other hand, Slim and Baby maintain that they dropped the original line-up of artists for not being disciplined or hungry enough, spending any money they got on dope… which, given their brown-centric lyrics, may have a grain of truth to it too. Whatever the reasons, the members of CMR’s original line-up fared poorly after their departure. Kilo-G, Pimp Daddy and UNLV’s Yella Boy were all murdered. Mr. Ivan died recently. I suppose PxMxWx, Miss Tee, Magnolia Shorty and Lil Slim can at least count their blessings that they’re still alive, gone from the spotlight but not forgotten. Cash Money, on the other hand, went on to sign a multi-million dollar deal with its new signings, all (save Lil Wayne) of which left echoing Lil Slim’s claims of unfair payment.
Lil Slim’s final release was Lil Slim’s Back (1998-Franchise Player), a six-track mini-album that I’ve never heard. About five years later, Lil Slim relocated to Northern California, where he currently lives. His current obscurity is shocking given his importance as a rapper both artistically and historically. For better or worse, without him we probably never would’ve heard from Lil Wayne or Turk. I contacted him with the hopes of an interview and he never got back to me.
(Update: Slim did attempt to get back to me and I to him but it didn’t happen. Now he’s got a proper website on which he tells his story in his own words so check that out here).