Soulja Slim, “Life Goes On” (Originally Published January/February 2005)
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.
Ed. Note: The following is Mrs. Linda's account of her son's shooting, and the aftermath that followed.
It was the day before Thanksgiving. Slim had called me on the phone asking me to bring my VCR upstairs to him. He lived upstairs. He had just gotten his video back from Koch. He’d been shooting the “Lov Me Lov Me Not” video. Slim wanted to do “I’ll Pay Fa It,” but I felt that “I’ll Pay Fa It” had been in New Orleans for a long time. So I told him to do “Lov Me Lov Me Not.”
But Slim and them gangstas were thugs, so they wanted to do the other song. He wanted to do the one with him and Juve on it [“Slow Motion”]. He wanted to do that. But he listened to me more than I thought he did, ’cause then I found out that he did “Lov Me Lov Me Not.” He shot the video. The day he got the video back is the day he got killed. He called me to bring him the VCR. He said, “Mom I got my video back. They don’t believe in DVDs over there...” We stood up there, me and his little group, and watched it, and I was just so amazed. ’Cause he was so beautiful, and I just said, “Look at my son.” He was free and it was beautiful.
He got the video back that day. He was so happy. He was getting ready to go out of town to do a concert. I’d left Slim out on the driveway. I’d left to go see my sister. She stays around the corner. I was in there talking to her about a half hour, 45 minutes before they called and told me that he had gotten shot. I was like, “He just was inside.” They told me he’d got shot in front of my house and he was just coming from the gas station. That’s where they all go to get clothes and tennises [sneakers] and stuff and he’d went around there to get a T-shirt and a cap and when he came back...
I don’t know what the situation was, but they probably had to scope everything out, ’cause I’m always here. But evidently I wasn’t there that day. My car was in the driveway. He was parked out front. He got out of his truck to go inside. I figure it happened on the steps before he came into the house. The way it is, I saw a bullet hole in the wall, so they must have came to him shooting because I know they never know what he had. I’m figuring when they shot the first shot, they missed him, which made him turn around to see, and when he turned he was shot three times in the face and once in the chest.
Anthony Murray, his manager, [called to tell me Slim had been shot]. I watched a guy shoot my son before. I done been through this. I’m nervous. But he said, “It’s not good, Ms. Linda. I think he’s gone.” That was it for me. I just ran from my sister’s house. I just wanted to see my son and hold his hand and just look in his eyes. But they wouldn’t let me get close to him. They said I wouldn’t want to see him. He was still there, lying out there when I came. They had to put something over him so I wouldn’t see. A partition.
[His boys] were still here upstairs when I came. They don’t know how to face me. Slim had this Rolex from No Limit and when he landed on the ground, one of them took it off his arm—left with it. I didn’t get it back until a couple of days later. Anthony or someone went looking for it. They took it off his body when he died. And while he’s lying on the ground, they up there taking his clothes—anything that they could get. You can imagine how I felt? People he trusted. If he had went to jail— “Leave them up there, mama. They okay.” And the hurtful thing about that is that the mama is already grieving—and then to find out you done did this. I stayed with one of my sisters after it happened before I could come around here. But [early on] I came around and I lay on his bed and I saw this suit lying on the bed that he must’ve took out for the concert [that night]. When I went back up there, the suit was gone. That’s how I know that they went back up there after. They took advantage. Right now Slim’s computer’s missing also. His laptop.
The funeral was a traditional New Orleans jazz funeral. What I did was, I waited to do the funeral. It could’ve been earlier. A lot of people were saying that I didn’t have insurance. They must didn’t know who I was. I’m Slim’s mama. If I want it, I’ma pay for it. What I did was, I let that weekend pass and let the other weekend come in, and the reason for that is ’cause we had people flying in.
I’m in Lady Buck Jumpers [a local marching group]. Rebirth Brass Band played behind us and we second-lined. We dance in the street for hours and the band plays. It’s like a parade and we go everywhere in the city. I’ve been doing it for 20 years. The weekend that Slim got killed, the weekend coming was my parade. We always parade the Sunday after Thanksgiving. I was just telling him, “You know you got to get your outfit. Don’t miss my parade.” He’d never miss my parade unless he was in jail. He always had this one spot in the Magnolia and he’d stand by there to make me see him, and he’d go, “Ma, over here!” I knew where to look for him. And even though he got killed and it was hard, I knew he would want me out there. I did it. It was hard. I cried the whole time. We got in that area and we cut up, but it was hard.
[We buried him in] this leather army suit that he liked to wear. He got that with P and them, so we put that on him. He used to get a new pair of Reeboks every time he turned around, so you can’t put no old ones on him. So we went and got him some new soldiers. I got the watch back, so we put it on him. We took it off him when it was over, but we wanted to make him look like he looked. Open casket. They fixed him up. Slim was tall and the man there didn’t know if we could do an open casket. But I knew he wanted it open, ’cause I know he liked his soldiers. To me, he wouldn’t have relaxed without his soldiers on. They had to open it up all the way so they could see the feet. I’d never forget it. He wore the [No Limit chain] and I took it off, to keep it in a safe deposit box. Every now and then, I put it on.
I don’t know what happened with the shooting. I feel in my heart that he wouldn’t mess with nobody. I don’t think it was retaliation unless it came from the past or jealousy. But in my life, it’s like [to the killers]: What’s the big deal? Slim dying’s not gonna bring your life up. You must don’t have a life anyway. If one man’s life matter to you more than your own life... From what we heard, somebody was paid off. I really think the guy who shot him—he’s not in [jail now], ’cause they dropped the charges—I think he shot him, but I’m not faulting him. He on drugs and he killed him for money. Somebody took advantage of him for money. If he would’ve knew Slim he wouldn’t be able to did what he did. The per- son who hired him, that’s the person that’s got the problem.
A lot of people say I should move. I’d never move unless I have no other choice. I think my son’s spirit is here and this is where I should be... I can’t go upstairs. People want to go see the studio—’cause he was doing it and wasn’t finished—but nobody can go up there. I keep the alarm on. The day I go up there, I guess that’s me saying I’m dealing with it better.
I just miss him. I don’t run to the door as much. Some days it gets so bad—I don’t like to break down because of my daughter—but some days it gets so bad I got to take me a ride. I’m better because I got a grieving counselor— it helps. When I realized I was about to lose my mind, I knew it was time. I didn’t want to lose my mind. I know him and he couldn’t stand me to be like that. I was sitting on my porch crying every day, looking at the yard. I was here by myself a lot. It got to the point that people were scared to come around me ’cause they didn’t know how to handle me. It was hard thinking like that. But one day sitting out there, God told me that I don’t need nobody but God. That’s the only one that’s gonna help me get through this here. So I got off that porch and I went to the church. I joined. That was my comfort zone.
I’m real stronger than I’ve been. It’s hard. There’s nothing in this world... My whole inside was gone. I wanted to run through brick walls and I went to the grave so much the people wanted to put me outta there. I just wanted my son, that’s all. All day, I just want my son. Take all this away from me but just give me my son. That’s the way you feel. I used to tell God, "Take it all, just leave my children here." I don’t care about none of this. You can put me back in the ghetto. I was content there, just taking care of my children. I worked at a hotel for 25 years to take care of my son. I went through all kinds of stuff. Anything, just give me my son back and you can take everything. When I realized that that ain’t ever gonna happen, I got strong enough to move on. And people be saying this person did this and that person did this. I don’t care if they did do it or did not do it. In their eyes, I want to be strong. They will never see me weep. They know that when they took my son, they crushed my life too. You just didn’t do it to him, you did it to me too.