11 Mar Lewisham rapper Slim explains how ‘Again & Again’ opened doors, record label interest and debut mixtape ‘Still Working’
Slim Interview – One of the UK rap game’s freshest exports with a growing buzz is none other than Slim, a rapper from Lewisham who has made waves as of late.
The release of ‘Magic’ in February 2018 was a pivotal moment for Slim, as it was both the track that launched his career and gave him reason to continue pursuing music, which he had done previously across the years, but never seriously enough to see tangible results. “If it don’t do well and get a good reception, I’m just gonna forget it,” is what Slim said to Desperado (OGz), his manager. Fast forward a year and the blue borough rapper has seen that decision to stick with music pay off.
Slim’s music catalog, until the release of Still Working (which you can pre-order here), has been somewhat limited, but still very impactful. He has racked up over 15 million views across just six releases, with his latest release, ‘Pablo’, en route to clocking a million views at a quicker pace than any of the other five.
With Still Working, which contains guest verses from Headie One, M Huncho and K Trap, right around the corner, Slim looks set to add his first body of work to a growing army of popular singles. You often hear him talk about having a plan in his music and that level of assertiveness is evident throughout our discussion. Slim is a man with a plan whose hard-hitting brand of UK rap only looks set to expand as he releases more music.
Plugsville spoke with him ahead of the release of Still Working in one of his first-ever discussions about his music career. Read our Slim interview below. All photography by Qavi Reyez.
How long have you been doing music?
I’ll be real, since I was probably about 10. These times grime was in, Roadside G’z, OG’z. You know like eight bar riddims, that kinda style. When we were young, we were just trying follow them man. When I was like ten, the olders on the block had me on an eight bar riddim with them, they were like 16 at the time. I was in year six, they had me on one song. Even then, people from my area used to make music, but I never took it serious, they used to be like ‘yo come studio, put a verse down, you’re hard’, but I never took it too serious.
I’ll be honest, I went jail in 2014. Before I went jail in 014, my manager Despa, he was doing this music thing as well. I’ve known Despa since I was about 15. He was like ‘come studio, I want you on my tape’, so he put me on a tune (‘Blowing Smoke’) on his tape (Phase One). Then I happened to go jail two months later and when I was in jail, a few people were saying ‘yo that’s the hardest tune on the tape, you lot are doing your thing, you need to rap, you need to rap’.
Come out of jail two years later now, when I came out, I went to the studio, done a ‘fresh home’ song. I didn’t plan on doing a video, because it was a hobby. I found it fun to go in the booth, rap and hear myself back and see how I sound. So I done that then for like a year, people kept telling me I needed to do videos. I kept going studio in between, making songs, but it was for fun. Then something happened in life, end of 017, begin of last year basically, I was like to Desp, ‘fuck it, let’s do music man, let’s see how it goes’.
Coming from South East London. Is there anyone whose music you look up to? Lewisham has always had its fair share of MCs, going way back to the days of ‘Hands In Da Air’…
‘Hands In Da Air’, that’s what was popping when I was growing up. That’s what I’m saying, when we was young, them times, Channel U days, but I know what you’re saying, in terms of South, it was Giggs. Giggs pulled up on my estate when I was like 10 or something with CDs, I can’t remember which tape it was. He pulled up on my older bredrins then gave them the CD, then we heard it. My dad was even listening to Giggs, driving around n that. In terms of Lewisham, where I’m from, it was more of a grime thing, like P Money, OGz, Desperado, all of them, it was more of a grime thing.
So you began to take things seriously at the start of 2018. When did your music begin to take off?
I did one video and said ‘if it don’t do well and get a good reception, I’m just gonna forget it’. I even said I was gonna delete the video, I’m deleting that and forgetting about that life! Then I put it [‘Magic’] out and said, it sounds a bit big-headed, but I said I needed 100k views in a week. Dropped that video, it got to the 100k, so I said I need to do another one now, then I thought, I need to get give them a new video every month. Then the next month, we put out ‘Different’, then a few people hit me up from there, from ‘Different’. That’s when M Huncho linked, after ‘Different’. Then I said we need to come harder, then that’s when we did ‘Again & Again’, now it’s on something like 7 and a half million views, then I thought, na we need a tape for them. So from like a year ago, it’s been a serious ting.
‘Again & Again’ was a big moment. Video did big numbers and continually grew and accumulated more views. How did that track help open doors for you in music?
You know what it is, in hindsight, music is just a graft. If you sweep the roads, you gotta get up everyday at six to sweep. If you gotta drive a bus today, you gotta drive, you just gotta there. So in terms of music, when I came into it, I wasn’t like ‘let’s just see where it goes’. That’s why I always talk about having a plan. With ‘Again & Again’, the growth was gradual. It got to one million views in around 12 days, but then it kept growing. A good video would get 100k today and next week it might get 200k, not 200k, then 100k next week, then 50 and it just keeps dipping. Like my tape, Still Working, no matter what, if it didn’t go off, man will just keep going, because I’m already committed now.
On one of the tracks on Still Working, you were talking about labels showing interest. When labels start showing interest in your music?
A good A&R will spot talent at an early stage and sign up for the cheapest price they can, so they can make the most money they can. We might think they’re taking the piss out of us, but that’s their job, it wouldn’t work if they gave you one million pound only to make one million pound in return. When I dropped ‘Again & Again’, there’s A&R’s that you meet who won’t aint even probably listened to your song, they don’t even care who you are. The reason they’re meeting you is because everybody on Instagram is commenting on your stuff, and they think the next thing you drop might be going off, so fuck it, we just wanna be involved because that’s what’s going to get us paid. That’s just the honest truth. There’s always gonna email, like ‘yo, let’s meet’.
With ‘Again & Again’, I showed the video to a few people and they weren’t feeling it. The labels, they’ll come, if you drop a good song and it’s going off, they’ll shout you. Like football scouts, I used to kick ball init, they will come to a lot of games to spot talent, they might ask you a few questions after, it don’t mean they’re gonna sign you. If they give you trials, it don’t mean you’re gonna make it. It’s to see if you’re actually good enough.
You mentioned Desperado is your manager, how helpful is it having an OG (excuse the pun) in the music scene helping you to navigate in the industry?
Des has been doing music himself, so someone that’s experienced it themselves, and taken L’s themselves, you can’t get no better advice than from someone that’s actually lived it. When I started dropping music, people were messaging me asking to manage me, I was thinking, ‘you haven’t even met me yet’. A lot of these A&R’s are just at work. Let’s not act like they’re taking loads of time to meet us, they’re just sitting in their office saying ‘come in when I’ve got a spare 20 minutes to chat’.
Des came down and met us, sat down and took time and effort. If you got people that are willing to take their own time when there’s nothing much going on. I’m not saying people won’t help unless it benefits them, but it’s like that in business sometimes, but there are in the real world, and with Despa, it’s a real world thing. I can ring him and say ‘yo bro, my mum’s car’s broke down, can you go and help her?’ and he’ll help her. It’s not just ‘yo bro, we’ve got a show bro, come. We’ve got a meeting with a label, we might get a deal’. It’s just real life, so when it’s like that, he just goes harder. He’s like a big bro, without music, he would still be with me today. That’s just the main thing.
What’s it like working with someone that is close to you?
As long as you got someone that’s genuinely going hard for you, that’s the main thing. Friends might wanna come to your studio session, but then after an hour, they sit there and think ‘this is fucking boring! The beat’s been playing for like an hour and you aint even spit a bar yet. I’m buzzing out my head, I already smoked three spliffs, I might as well go’. But when you got a bredrin sit and just say ‘fuck it, let me just firm it’. Someone could pattern up a studio session in a place you don’t usually go, and then your bredrin says ‘I aint got time today but man’s coming because man needs to go’.
When you got people that will genuinely do things and there’s nothing beneficial for them at the time, that’s the best thing. Des used to sit me down when I was younger and I’d say he’d burn off my ear, like three hours in the car, talking about the same thing. But I’m happy I had someone to sit and tell me these things. At one point in life, it’s better to hear it now before it’s too late.
Still Working is signed to GRM Records. As you said, different labels were showing interest, so what drew you to signing with this deal?
The reason I let them fuck with the tape, when I dropped ‘Magic’, we went to Posty, Des knows him and he said ‘yo I got a video, my little brother, trying to do this music ting’. Posty saw the video and said he liked it and can fuck with it. He actually felt the song and said ‘hopefully it does alright, let’s try and do 100k in a week’. They’ve been with me from time. I just go with whatever makes sense.
Do you feel the pressure of having to keep up always having a fresh look as a rapper?
So far, music has definitely changed my life, but in terms of the way I live. Day-to-day, I’m in meetings and I’m doing interviews. But before music, I was wearing the same sort of clothes. Like I said, if that’s your thing, some people clothes are their thing, they need to wear new clothes everyday. With some people it’s jewellery. You know Potter Payper, I used to listen to Potter Payper when I was younger. Them lot weren’t talking about Givenchy and drip, it was more about what they was doing, gritty n that. Potter’s been rapping from when before video’s were popping. That’s what it’s about, man, creating your own little lane. If you find yourself chasing what everyone is chasing, you’re just going to end up like everyone else. Half the people have stylists who come to the shoot, they give them their clothes then take them away after, no one didn’t spend no money on clothes.
Some people might say ‘you know what, I can’t do that because you got American’s making songs called ‘No Stylist’.’ But then it’s like ‘I’m trying to buy a yard next week, bro. that’s why I’m not doing that this week’. So it depends what you’re chasing, init. That’s just how I look at things. In terms of feeling pressure, you’re gonna feel pressure because people just wanna see what they think they’re going to see, like an image of you. But it’s real life. You can’t afford to go Westend everyday and spend five grand. You might see it on someone’s Snap all the time, but that might be on the days they go, don’t mean they’re doing it everyday.
1st Born produces a lot of your work. I feel like there’s some good chemistry there between you to. How did that collaboration come about?
The people that manage him, Despa knows them, so when Despa put up my first vid, they’ve hit up Despa like ‘yo, we’re working with a producer right now, let’s get Slim and 1st in the booth and see what happens’. Obviously, when it comes to producers, it about having a natural bond. The producer has to be a fan of the artist, otherwise it’s a myth. I think ‘Again & Again’ was one of the first one, literally, that was from scratch. We went in the studio, and within three hours, we started with nothing, not even a key on the computer, made the beat there from scratch, made the bars, everything, then three hours later, we left with ‘Again & Again’.
Every session I’ve hit with 1st Born, I’ve left with at least a song. I’ve linked loads of producers. I’ve been in sessions, day after day, with like three producers for five hours and I aint even got a bar out. They even put a beat down that I liked. But it’s not a personal thing or me saying they’re shit, because they might have a record-breaking song or chart selling song with someone else from three weeks ago. So it’s just about having a natural bond and 1st Born, that’s my guy, man. I can actually chill with 1st Born without making a song, that’s the main thing, I actually like the guy who is making the beat.
There was a few different flows and atmospheres on Still Working…
I feel like there was a few different flows on there, but I didn’t sit down and say ‘I need to make more bouncy tunes’ or anything like that. If I heard a beat, I’d be like ‘yo that was hard’. I’d give it to 1st and be like ‘yo 1st, man needs a song with this sound on the beat. This sound or melody is hard, we need to cook up something like this’. Then we’ll go to the booth, have a little 16 bars, then change a few things. So when it came to changing my flow n that, like with the M Huncho song, he already sent that beat o M Huncho, time ago, but he didn’t put nothing down on it. Then when we got to the booth, I’m saying to 1st, ‘play me the beats’ because I need something that I can put my ting down on and something that he can put his ting on as well. I think I chose two beats and one of them was a bit more bouncier. In terms of the slower beats, when it comes to rapping, I like to talk to people and let them feel the energies I’m giving off.
I never really focus too much on a particular tempo, but obviously towards the end, I’m saying, we can’t have too many songs that sound the same, so I made sure that I evened it out a bit. I’d already done the Huncho song, Headie One song and ‘Driving In My Car’, they were already done. At the end, I didn’t say I needed another bouncy tune, because to be honest, they’re not my most comfortable songs. Like the M Huncho song is one of my favourite songs on the tape, but it’s not my most comfortable. We had 15 songs, we had more than 15, but then we broke it down to 15 and said we need 12. So it was kind of a process of cancelling out what we’ve got too much of and what we aint got enough of, but in the end, we just hit them with 13.
In a lot of your music you talk about overcoming adversity. In ‘In My Bag’ you said ‘had it all on the line, lost all hope’, that kinda message is in a few more of your tunes. What goes into that mind-set of overcoming adversity?
By working, that’s what I’m tryna say. No matter what you’re doing, you can’t give up. In terms of ‘putting it all on the line’, I’m not even saying I had nothing. It could be like, you’re down to your last… whatever you’re down to, and you need to put that on the line now. Some people have to re-mortgage their houses to set up businesses, you get me, it’s putting it on the line. Sometimes it won’t work, but it’s about putting it on the line and just making sure ‘this is gonna work’. If you do badness in the world, badness will hit you back, so just keep working.
I feel like one of the key themes in your music ‘I’m feeling the change’, like you said in ‘Balance’. What’s that ‘change’ been like? How have things changed for the better?
Again, the change, it hasn’t got to be a good change, it could be any change, down to going out. Every day, someone wants a picture. It’s a good thing, I’ll never say ‘na you can’t get a pic’. Before, no one didn’t know me. The only people that knew my face who I didn’t know was probably the fucking police! They were the only people that knew me that I don’t know. Like my mum now, she can show me off. You know like at work, she can say ‘my son was in prison two years ago’, get me two years ago she was leaving work to go and visit me in prison, now she’s saying ‘look, he’s got videos’. Her friends are going home and there little 12 or 13 year old songs are listening to me.
Even down to GRM plaques, I stop at my mum’s bit I see she’s putting it on the wall and that. they’re the little things that count. The change is good, man. Don’t get it twisted, it can always get better. But right now, it’s good. The change aint just about money either, it’s when people are able to look at you for good reasons. When you go shopping in West and people from Bradford, big 40 year old men, they’re like ‘yo bro I heard your tune’. They don’t even really know my name, but they’re the things that matter.
You supported Headie One during his recent ‘The One Two’ tour. How was that?
That was good, still. It was proper. Headie’s my bredrin so it was natural. It was like going out with the mandem. It weren’t really like ‘oh shit, I’m supporting Headie’. Headie’s popping right now, but when you link Headie, he’s not like a lot of people. He’s not up himself. That’s the main thing, you can’t forget yourself.
Also made a few guest appearances at K Trap and M Huncho’s show. Got another show coming up soon with GRM. Seeing as performing is quite new to you, how have you gone about learning how to be a performer?
I’m still not a top performer, but you just have to know and accept that you’re going to get better. If you can just say to yourself ‘I’m not the best right now but I’m just going to go out there and go my hardest’, as long as you try your hardest, then it’s calm. But in terms of getting over it, my first one was M Huncho’s. I don’t even know how big the crowd was. I remember saying ‘but where do I look at? What do I even look at? Do I look to the crowd, what do I look at?’ Then someone was like ‘just look towards the back’. I learnt, no one can’t really tell you how to perform. The main thing is that you feel it. Some people they just do whatever, some people jump in the crowd, but as long as it’s your ting, that’s the main thing.
You got your own headline show coming up soon?
End of April I’ve got my headline show.
What’s coming up next from yourself?
I’ll be real, I’ll be back to working on the next project ASAP. I got the headline show coming up end of April, I’m going to do a UK tour in September/October. You might see a few more features, but I’ll defo be working, I’m not gonna be going quiet.