Ever since Slim Thug came onto the scene in the late 1990s, he's always stayed true to himself. He started with the legendary Swishahouse label, but when he began making money on his own selling CDs hand to hand, he left and started his own Boss Hogg Outlawz imprint. By 2005, he'd signed a deal with Star Trak and released his debut album, Already Platinum (after an infamous leak that housed unreleased Neptunes beats), but he soon parted ways with Pharrell and company to go independent. He's stayed that way ever since.

Over 10 years after Mike Jones reworked Thug's original "Still Tippin" for his own hit single, Thug is still kicking raps and maintaining his status as a neighborhood hero. Led by "King," his new single sampling the late, great Pimp C, Slim is back with Hogg Life, Vol. 4: American King

XXL sat down with Thug to talk about how he ended up with a coalition of legendary Houston rappers, his long-discussed collab album with Z-Ro and much more.

XXL: So let’s talk about the new album, American King. Why’d you call it that?

Slim Thug: I feel like I’m a king in America, I don’t feel like I’m the king of America, but I do feel like I’m a king in America. So that’s where the title comes from at this point, royalty.

What does it mean to be a king in America right now?

A motherfucker just like a king in another country, you run shit, you live life to the fullest, you call shots, you draped in jewels like a king. All of that plays a part.

How do you feel about the rap scene in Houston right now?

It’s cool right now, you got a lot of youngsters doing their thing. It’s more diverse than ever right now. Back in the day, Houston artists were on the same type of style, there were a lot of Houston artists on Houston rap, all about that chopped and screwed shit and everybody kind of had the same type of style. Now,  you got the Texas rappers of Houston, the hip-hop heads of Houston that rap more like a MC like out of NY or some shit, you got the other artists who are young that are into what’s going on right now with the turn up music with that auto-tune. It’s very diverse right now.

How do you feel about Houston’s influence on other regions?

I think we heavily influence the hip-hop game, whether it's niggas talking about sipping syrup, to "too much sauce," whatever it may be. I don’t know, that’s what it seems like to us. In Houston, maybe we just think it’s us starting all this shit.

You were pictured on Instagram with a coalition of Houston rappers. You got Z-Ro and Trae in the same room?

It wasn’t me though, I won’t take all the credit for it. It was Derric Muhammad, he was the one that set the meeting up with the Mayor. I just showed up and really Paul Wall called me up and was like yo man... I mean that’s crazy the white dude called me up, and he was like be here.

What did you guys talk about that day?

We were just being proactive. We don’t have a lot of shit going on in Houston as far as cops killing people. We had one incident and the Mayor assured us that the dude had a weapon and was pointing and shit. He assured us that he was going to send the whole video out, I mean I haven’t seen the video honestly, but he assured us that was not going to be one of the cases like out of town where it was an innocent black man being shot down. I still feel like we could have avoided the situation if it was more urban cops in that community maybe, or guys who weren’t as paranoid in that atmosphere and that’s what we spoke on.

[Muhammad] was like, what’s some different ideas you think can stop that from happening in Houston? Some of our ideas were, hey maybe if we send cops who go to police academies to police the communities where they came from, where they’re more familiar with the area, familiar with the territory, familiar with the people, they can say, oh he look crazy, he got that tattoo on his face but really we know he's harmless, he just Gemini’s son or whatever, that type of shit where people be more familiar with who’s around – he look crazy but he’s still harmless so we know it ain’t going to do nothing. But to a person who never been in that environment or don’t know anyone around there, they immediately reaching for their weapon like what the fuck is going on, who is that? They’re quick to pull their gun and shoot it. That was one of my ideas.

Also we talked about black on black crime because that’s what we’re dealing with more than the police thing. We were trying to figure out different things we can do to fix or help that. We were saying we feel like a lot of people in Houston feel hopeless, a lot of dudes in the hood feel hopeless – like they living for nothing, like nobody give a fuck about them, they don’t have nothing to look forward to, they don’t have nothing to live for, so we were trying to figure out ways to give them hope. Everybody ain’t going to make it to college and you can know in high school if you making 70s you ain’t really made for college. If you’re that person, how about we put you in trade school at that point and you can start working towards your trade and you’ll have a job with a good 401K and you can take care of your family and be able to live a good life? I came up with the idea, what about if we had an entrepreneurial course that we did with the city where if they complete the course, maybe the city can give them a grant to where they can start their own business? We were just throwing out ideas of what we can do to give motherfuckers some hope and keep them busy.

Did you guys transfer money to black-owned banks?

We did that as well. After we left the City Hall, we went to Unity Bank, the black-owned bank in Houston, and we all opened up accounts over there. We were being proactive about that also, and just letting people know we’re standing together and we really just want to make a change. We want people to respect us and if it’s our money that’s going to make them respect us, then that’s what we’re going to do. We want to deal with Unity Bank and tell them hey, we’re building houses in the community – affordable homes. So let’s help the black people who can get loans, get loans through y’all. So we have to sit down and have a meeting for that. We just really trying to cut the gaps and close everything up, and make it where everybody hand and hand helping each other and networking, and there’s some type of opportunity and hope in the community.

Have you ever had any run-ins with the police where you felt like your life was in danger or you felt like you weren’t being treated like a normal citizen?  

Years ago I felt like that. A lot of times I had those type of run-ins, but honestly I would be lying if I said it happened to me recently. I can’t remember it happening to me recently. A lot of the reason is because the police out there kind of know me, they know me by now as being a community leader, they know that I ain’t on no dumb shit, they worked in clubs, I met them, shook their hands. I got a lot of police that’s cool with me in the city of Houston, I don’t actually deal with it but you know I don't turn my back and not remember where I came from and when it was like that. I want to help the people that’s still there.

You sampled Pimp C on the latest single, one of the last interviews he ever did. Why’d you sample that interview?  

Really I’ll have to give credit to Gavin from G&B Productions, they actually found that and put that sample on there. I told them I wanted to find something from Pimp C that’s real, him saying some shit about being a king. We sampled Big Meech, that was from Gavin, G&B, we also did Joel Olsteen before. We known for doing, that me and Gavin. He know I love doing that type of stuff, so we always try to find dope shit to put together.

How do you see yourself fitting in with today’s landscape of hip-hop artists?  

Honestly, I don’t even try to fit in, I don’t try to sound like nobody right now or do anything that these new guys is doing. I just want to be me, I just want do my own thing and I want to stand in my own lane. I want to keep the Texas sound going. When we came up, it was all about keeping that Texas sound going and nowadays it’s drifting off to a lot of other places, and it’s cool because that’s what youngsters do. But me personally, I just want to stick to what I grew up on, that Pimp C, UGK, Bun B, that trill sound. I’m going to stick to that and stay in my own lane and hopefully everybody leave and I can get all the money for myself.

Speaking of UGK, Ridin’ Dirty turned 20 on July 30. What do you remember about hearing that album for the first time?

Ridin’ Dirty is one of the most influential albums to the culture itself. A lot of guys listened to Ridin’ Dirty and that’s how they got put onto drank and everything else they talking about now in other cities. But it’s crazy that the youngsters, just because they’re young, they don’t even understand that’s where it came from, and they don’t even know it because they wasn’t around in that era. We try to make sure that we remind them and let them know through our music.

I was a teenager living out of homestead. I remember I used to be riding around with my cousin hitting licks all day, and that album, it just woke me up a lot. I don’t even know how much of a rapper I was back then, but it definitely gave me direction. It made me feel like yeah we ain’t trying to sound like nobody else, we got our own sound. This is Texas sound, this is our sound. Let’s stick with this, let’s go in this direction with it and not try to get caught up with what’s on the radio right now, or what’s popping everywhere else. I think Ridin’ Dirty is definitely the blueprint of Texas.

So for the new album, do you have a vision for the body of work? What this new album represents?

American King represents where I’m at right now. Where I’m at with it right now, I’m off the dumb shit, I’m not going back to jail for no dumb shit, I don’t believe in dumb shit, I don’t condone dumb shit. I feel like I’m 35 years old and I shouldn’t be doing no dumb shit. I got 3 sons and I’m all about motivating on this album, giving game on this album and saying real shit and telling people what they really need to hear, whether they want to hear it or not. Through the album, I think I did a really good job of saying shit whether it was my song to my sons, or "I Don’t Know Why" talking about police brutality and how I feel about these cops killing people and there’s no consequences for it, to my homeboy on "Family," he’s locked up in the feds, having a real conversation with him. One of my homeboys is doing 10 years in the feds, free King Dre, and you know just seeing my situations. No amount of money is worth losing 10 years of your life and people don’t think like that. They don’t think consequences and then they think that they can do whatever they do forever. They not thinking smart at all because if you do dirt eventually you’re going to get caught up. Regardless how good your life was before you got caught up, it’s never going to be worth that 10 years that they would give you.

It’s a different game today. I don’t believe in the dope game no more, so I don’t be preaching, rapping about being no dope slinger no more. It’s too many snitches in these streets now. It’s not even the police, you got to deal with the police and you got to deal with the people who telling who you dealing with. It’s bad business in Vegas. I try to tell people that because it’s not enough people telling them that. I just try to keep it 1,000 with my listeners and motivate them to get better everyday. Tell them game and let them know about shit I’ve been through and hopefully they can learn from my mistakes or people around me mistakes and do something positive with their lives. It’s always better to be home with your family.

Who are some of your favorite rappers coming up in Houston right now?

The Sauce Factory, Doughbeezy, Propain, De-Lo, XO, Trill Sammy, DiCE Soho. It’s a lot of different groups out of Houston making noise. I don’t count Travis Scott as an up and coming artist because he’s killing the game right now, he’s definitely one of the top artists out of Houston. It’s a lot of people out of Houston making major moves. And then you have guys like me and Z-Ro, who keeping it trill on our shit and staying in our lane and also eating good. Houston is very diverse as a city with all of the different races, but it’s also very diverse when it comes to music. You got the hip-hoppers, Texas trill rappers, the new wave rappers. I’m happy and I think it’s real good.

Speaking of Ro, you two got a collab album somewhere?

Yeah, actually one of the songs that we did for that album was on this album, "Hustle." That was one off of The King and the Boss. Actually, you can hear a few more songs off there. We have a bunch of songs already done, but if we do release the album we will go in there and do some new ones too. He just dropped his solo project, I’m dropping mine. It ain’t shit for us to go in there and do 10 records, effortlessly. Whether it be me do a verse first or Ro come up with a hook, we like peanut butter and jelly, it’s just easy.

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