Today marks the 10th anniversary of Soulja Slim's tragic death at the age of 26 on November 26, 2003. The rapper was gunned down in his mother's front yard in his hometown of New Orleans, just before his latest song with Juvenile, "Slow Motion," was to become the biggest hit of his career. A year after his death, XXL spoke to his mother, Mrs. Linda, about the day her son died, and the fallout from the shooting that left her struggling to understand why.

Written By: Vanessa Satten
Images By: Allen Clark

"I ain’t gonna be no rapper that get killed,” Soulja Slim said in August of 2001. “I’ma hit this nigga up with something. I ain’t gonna get caught slipping. I done got shot two times before—not at the same time—I got war wounds. Every soldier got a story to tell.”

If any rapper had a tale it was Soulja Slim. But most rap fans outside of the South had never heard of him until this past summer, when Juvenile’s “Slow Motion” featuring Slim bubbled up off the streets of New Orleans all the way to the No. 1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart. Recorded by Slim solo the year before, gift-wrapped special for Juve’s comeback album, Juve The Great, the song was a sleeping giant of a hit. With it’s bluesy guitar loop, laid-back Southern beat and super-syrupy hook—“Oooh, I like it like that...”—it had rap fans from East to West grooving along to Slim’s sound and style. Sadly, Slim never got to see it happen. On November 26, 2003, he was shot to death in front of the house he’d bought for his mother in New Orleans’ Gentilly section.

Born James Tapp on September 9, 1977, Soulja Slim (a.k.a. Magnolia Slim) was raised by his mother, Linda Tapp (a.k.a. Ms. Linda) in New Orleans’ infamous Magnolia projects. He loved to draw and cut hair as a child, but from early on, hip-hop called. “We used to bang on the desks in elementary school, rapping,” says longtime friend B.G. “We wanted to get serious with it.” In 1993, an adolescent Slim hooked up with a local DJ named KLC, and over the next couple of years, cut two albums on the budding producer’s independent label, Parkway Pumpin’. (Much of this material would be rereleased on Hype Enough Records’ 1999 compilation, Limited Edition.) After dropping out of high school, and having developed an addiction to the narcotics that run rampant in the N.O. hood, the lanky teenager was arrested for armed robbery in 1995 and sent to a juvenile detention center. The following year, he was arrested on four separate occasions, eventually landing in full-fledged state prison.

Released in 1998, Slim signed to No Limit Records, where Master P had made KLC’s four-man production team, Beats By The Pound, the in-house musicmakers. “I could do more for Slim there than I could do on my own,” says KLC. “I believed in his sound. His realness. No one could ever say Slim wasn’t real. He lived it more than he did anything.”

Sure enough, as much as his rapping, Slim’s continuous tangling with the law brought him local fame. Over an eight-year period, he racked up more than a dozen arrests—for drug possession, auto theft, attempted murder, multiple charges of battery of an officer. Jail time doubtlessly stunted his music career. He was behind bars when his No Limit debut, Give It 2 ’Em Raw, hit stores in May ’98, and again after the follow-up, The Streets Made Me, dropped in July 2001. With Slim unavailable for promotional work, the two albums sold 420,000 copies combined. By 2002, Slim had left No Limit and launched his own label, Cut Throat Comitty Records. That December, he put out Years Later, which moved 25,000 units in New Orleans alone—numbers that caught the eye of New York indie warehouse, Koch Records. In August 2003, Slim and Koch dropped a revamped version of the album, Years Later... A Few Months After.

Come fall, Slim was doing promotional shows and working on a joint project with B.G. eerily titled Never Seen It Comin’. He had just completed a video for the song, “Lov Me Lov Me Not,” and was preparing for an evening show in Monroe, LA when he was shot—leaving behind his mother, his 14- year-old sister Peaches, numerous unreleased recordings and a legacy of unfulfilled promise. A month later, police arrested 22-year-old New Orleans resident Garelle Smith, saying they believed he had been paid $10,000 to kill the rapper. Due to insufficient evidence, however, the charges were eventually dropped, and Slim’s murder remains in the unsolved file with those of ’Pac, Biggie and Jam Master Jay. In October, XXL spoke with Ms. Linda about the day her son was gunned down, and the emotional price of losing a loved one way before his time.