Slim burst onto the scene last year following the release of anthems such as “Different”, “Again and Again”, and “Touring”; where in a little over 12 months, he has built a strong legion of fans.
Now it’s his time to give back, and to give fans an even deeper insight into his story through the release of his debut mixtape Still Working, which drops tomorrow.
What a lot of people are unaware of is Slim is not new to music. In his teens, he was part of The Hillz, a collective coming out of Lewisham, where he honed his writing and rapping ability. Coinciding with the authenticity in his music, it is no surprise that he has firmly positioned himself as a potential mainstay in the UK rap scene.
We sat down with Slim, in one of his first ever discussions to learn about the transition of becoming a musician, his early life and much, much more. He is very calculated, methodical and expressive in his thoughts, where the maturity he exhibited throughout the interview only serves to increase the authenticity of his music and the experiences he shares with us.
First of all Slim, congratulations on the mixtape and the progression you’ve made the past 12 months; how are you feeling about the release of your debut project?
“I feel like one of the fans to be honest with you bro. I’m really looking forward to the reception it is going to get as I’m interested in seeing not only how people take to the tracks, but how they take to getting to know a bit more about me.
The fans currently base their opinions on me off the back of four or five songs, but now they have an entire tape on me and can come back with new, fresh perspectives and opinions on me.
As this is my first project, I’m going to remain grounded as this is just the start for me; and I’m still working (excuse the pun). I’m approaching this with my all as I don’t want to take anything for granted”.
What’s the thought process behind the name, Still Working?
“One thing people say is, and this is even before music, they would be like ‘yo Slim where you been bro?’, and I’m like yeah man, I’ve just been working. The tape is obviously done, but I’m already working on my next project. A hundred people can try and knock my door down, but I’m focused; me and my team will still be here, still working!”
Can you give an insight into how you make a track? For example, are you someone who tends to write first and then select a beat?
“I like to keep things as simple as possible. The main thing for me is having the right people and right producers around you. It’s important to have people who are critical; for example, I could have delivered a bar 0.03 seconds off. I might sit there and think, f*ck it, but I will have someone there who’ll be the one to say let’s make it perfect. Let’s do it again.
I am blessed to have a great connection with my producer, 1st Born, who for me, is the coldest producer in the game right now. “Again and Again” was the first track we worked on. He’s on nine or so tracks on the tape but we’ve made loads more. Continuity is important on any body of work.
When it comes to making a track, I like to be there with the producer and make the beat from scratch with them.
I’ve checked a lot of producers. I’m not dissing their thing, many of them are the most widely recognised in the scene and are cold. But we’ve been in the studio together for hours and hours, and not made one song. Not a word. And that’s not because they’re sh*t or because I can’t write or have a writer’s block, it’s because we just don’t match and don’t fit each other and its cool.
That’s why it’s important to work with people that are in line with how you work and not whoever is just the most poppin”
With all the tracks you’ve made for the mixtape, how do you go about deciding what songs to put on a project?
“Considering this is my first tape, I am more open with the tracks to give the people because the people haven’t really had it before. It doesn’t really matter what I am talking about on here because this is the first time listening to my story. However, if I rap about the same things on the next tape, people are going to get bored and there will be no longevity in my music.
The main thing for me is to give any listeners something that I would listen to myself, so it’s kind of like consumers rights. It’s like when you’re a chef in a restaurant, you’ve got to like to food as well!”
What artists do you have the best chemistry with?
“Trappo (K Trap) and Headie One. Those two are my guys man. They’re on the tape, as well as Despa (Desperado) and M Huncho. I was also on tour with Headie. He had like twenty of his bredrin’s, I had like twenty of my bredrin’s and it was calm. Proper chemistry inside and outside the studio.”
Let’s take it back to the start. What was life like for you as a kid growing up in Lewisham?
“For me, it was just about coming home from school and playing outside. I just always wanted to be outside. We all just wanted to be outside. We’d see what the olders were doing, from age nine or ten, and do what the olders were doing like spitting. They might have been speaking about how they want to do this move and that move but we weren’t interested; we were just trying to spit.”
Music is obviously something you have been passionate about from a very young age. Who were your musical influences growing up?
“My dad would listen to everything, from Michael Jackson to 50 Cent. He was listening to 50 before me. Sunday mornings would be the day my dad blasted Michael Jackson.
I’ve got an older brother so I would follow whatever he listened to as well. The first rap album I listened to would be the obvious ones like 50 cent and Eminem. This was way before you even had an insight into who they were.
But from when I was like in year four, I was listening to a lot of grime; so Hazardous Sessions, Lord of the Mics, Heartless crew, Roadside Gs, watching bare DVDs as well as listening to radio.”
A lot of people may not be aware, you’ve been recording music from a young age. In fact, there are still videos of you circulating on YouTube from The Hillz days! How did it all start for you?
“I must have started when I was like eleven. In every ends, there are people who make music, its just what you do, whether you’re alright, you’re good or you’re sh*t. It’s just what me and my friends did and everyone would have bars ready.
Most of my bredrin’s were older than me; I was in year six when I started to make tracks with the olders. These times it was grime, doing eight bar riddims!”
What was your flow like back then over grime instrumentals?
“I had flow! People have said for years that I need to focus on music because I have always had flow. I’ve always believed making music is deeper than just being able to rap. You need people to say, ‘yo who is this guy rapping?’
After all, music is all about relating emotions. You might not know how to make music or whatever, but you listen to it because you relate to what an artist is expressing. With rap music, if you don’t have the proof in the pudding, the music won’t resonate with the people listening.”
What I think resonates most with fans and your music is you’re very reflective. You talk about the good and the bad, and this adds to your authenticity. Are you naturally reflective or has music aided this?
“You know what it is, I feel like I’m blessed. My mum used to always say that. People still tell me, I still feel blessed. But bad things happening comes with territory, and is part of the fabric of life. For example, you could be the number one selling artist in the world and then suddenly it all goes and you’re like why has this happened to me?
I’m just reflecting on things I have experienced in life through my music. Not everyone can relate to what I have experienced but there will be people who can at least relate to the emotion. My Dad when he was in his forties used to listen to Giggs. He’s not who you’d expect to be listening to Giggs but like I said, he related to the emotions on the track.
The main thing for me is to appreciate that we are reaching people out there and it’s a good feeling. If just one person says, fuck I felt that, then I’m happy.”
In fact, my favourite track on the tape is “Free S”, which is a very raw, emotional song. With that in mind, how important is it for you to make music that resonates with people?
“It’s also one of my favourites, as well as my mates from all over the country, from London to Nottingham and Manchester. It touches them differently to other songs on the tape, from the beat, the flow and of course what I am rapping about.
It’s Real. That track is placed where it is on the mixtape for a reason. I had that snippet at the start of the track, so people just know and feel where the emotion is coming from.
I want to make music where, no matter what you do, say you’re a bus driver or work in The City, I want people to relate to my music, whether it’s my emotions or I inspire them to get through the grind.”
One person who I think does that well is Blade Brown…
“For real! Whenever you listen to Blade, you think, ‘yo I gotta pattern myself up’. He’s been rapping about the same lifestyle for around ten years. Of course, there has been progress, but what I’m getting at is if you can rap like that for ten years, it’s a very good skill. When you have credibility and people relate to your music, you can do it like him.
Stormzy is another good example of longevity in music. He used to make music way, way back with one of my bredrin’s in something called Ghetto Superstars. He’s been doing music videos in the snow, in Rap City, Streets Selected. People might not know all of that but he’s put his graft in.
Nines is another one. People always saying, ‘yo he’s gone quiet’, but he’s dropped bare tapes, a tape every year for the past five or six years. But it’s never enough!”
How do your family feel about you being a rapper?
“They’re all so positive. Two and a half years ago I was sitting in jail. All my bredrin’s have been in jail. Its hard out here, its real life. My Mum is so happy and proud of me now though. She sees me going on tour, has pictures of me on stage, sees the plaques and shares my videos. Doesn’t matter what I’m talking about, but it’s all positive and good things I’m doing now. That’s the main thing, to make your people proud.”
You just touched upon having to spend some time away. Did you use that as an opportunity to write bars or perhaps think of a plan on how you’ll embark on a music career?
“Before, and even in jail, music was just something we done for fun on the blocks. So when I was away, I wasn’t even interested in it as a career choice. You’ve got to remember, music wasn’t even paying people back then like it is today.
There were a hundred other things you could do, legitimately, that would make you more money. That’s not to say that it’s easy now; because you still need to be talented and work hard, it’s just there are more opportunities now for us.”
It was only February 2018 when you dropped “Magic”, shortly followed by “Different” and then the Kenny Allstar freestyle. How do you handle the speed of which you’ve generated a genuine, massive buzz?
“It’s so important to have people around you from your manager to the wider team. Despa (Desperado) is my manager. He’s like big bro to me. I’ve known him since I was fifteen. Listened to him since Hazardous Sessions, Lord of the Mics. It was only natural we would link up.
I have another manager as well. So long as you have the right team around, you should be alright. I think it is important to keep your loved ones informed of what’s going on as well, because they’ll give you the best advice.”
“Trust! Mums might not be right all the time, but they sense certain energies in people and situations. Like my mum, whenever I brought certain friends around the house, she would say there is something about him. Now, ten years later, something happens, where we’ve gone into something together and my mum was right all along. You just got to live and learn.”
What other music do you listen to on a day to day?
“US wise, I listen to Kodak. Depends on my moods though really. He’s in a next zone that I’ve only just got into and I like the way he expresses his emotions. Obviously, I listen to Lil Baby because he’s relatable. The things he talks about are relatable to what we experience in the UK. I’m not saying we’re on the same level career wise, but we rap about the same things.”
Lastly, I am sure this project is going to be very well received and is just the beginning for you. How open would you be experimenting with different sounds in the future?
“I would be open to whatever feels right at the time. If someone gives me a beat, I might go studio on my own and see what I can do. It might be shit but at least I can say I tried.
I suppose as you progress your music is naturally going to change. You shouldn’t change as a person, but your circumstances will change and that will impact the music you make. So long as you remain real and relatable that’s the main thing.”