Slim: 112 Percent

posted December 06, 2008 12:00:00 AM CST | 0 comments

While Hip Hop is a genre that notoriously disrespects its veterans, R&B is a little more considerate. But its not like Slim needs the help: the lead singer for veteran quartet 112 has always been about staying ahead of the curve. The group teamed up with the late Notorious B.I.G. and Mase to put together the Only You remix, which was a club-ready single that managed to keep people moving without coming across as contrived.

More than a decade later, So Flythe first single for his new album, Loves Crazyutilized Yung Joc and did the same thing, catapulting near the top of the Billboard charts. Slims rolling solo now (yes, the group is still intact), and hes pushing his own M3 label under Asylum Records instead of rocking with Bad Boy Entertainment or Def Jam, but otherwise, aint nothin' changed: hes still making timeless R&B music that everyone can relate to. In a candid interview with HipHopDX, Slim talks about balancing integrity with keeping up with current sounds, and how he lives his music.

HipHopDX: This is your first solo venture. Ive seen songs from other members of the group, but this is the first actual album. Whats that like for you?
Being out on stage without my brothers with me...really, I never intentionally wanted to do a solo project. But I look at it just like the rest of my investments; its easier for me to put out a solo project and get the balls turning a little faster, because I already have the sound, the brand, and Im in the system with Asylum. All I have to [do is] make sure is the song is incredible, and make sure that everyones feeling it, so I can build equity in my label that much faster. So I can already have a foundation set for my label and for my artists.

DX: What is it like in the booth, though? Youre going from working with three other cats to being by yourself
Some songs, we write together; other songs, we do them by ourselves. There are songs I did all by myself, but theyre still 112, because Im in the 112 movement. In the booth, Im very comfortable, because I dominate tracks anyway. I think its more of the actual performance, because the group 112, with the steps and stuff like that, its a different type of system and a different formula in presenting a project. With my situation, how I would probably treat that situation as if it were 112, were if I was about to go on tour or something like that. If I had three dancers in the back, its probably going to feel the same way.

DX: Your last two 112 albums havent really popped off as much as the previous ones have. Plus, its the first solo. What kind of pressure do you feel as the first solo artist from the group, and having to continueor revivethe 112 legacy?
First of all, Im very proud of our accomplishments. Were one of the only groups in this situation where every album came out, we have a plaque for. Were proud of it, especially when you have people thats coming out today who sell 20-25,000 in the first week. Im very proud of that, and being a proud of that. I feel that weve been consistent, no matter what.

But as far as this album is concerned? Naw. If I sold 5,000, I did it my way. The good thing about having this whole thing right now is that Im trying to show people. Hip Hop artists do independent stuff all the time. There are artists that yall dont know that stay inside of their state, and are millionaires. They dont care nothing about their billboards, or their flashes, or what yall might think. Ive been to their cribs, and I see how they live: mansions, Phantoms, all kinds of wild stuff. My grind is a little different. Ive been under major [label] systems for a whileand I thought, why cant an R&B artist do the same thing [as independent artists]? So I said, Lets flip the script. Lets do it, lets try it.

Im trying to show people, motivate them. Own yourself, be the boss of yourself, CEO of yourself. Dont put your life and your future in someone elses hand. Id rather take failure very easy if I did it myself, and if I try hard myself. And if I didnt get to where I wanted to, Ive got one hell of a story to tell. These are my boys right here, and I created ways and avenues for them to eat and do it positively. This bus right here costs over $1 million, and its my bus. Ive never done that in 112, but my whole grind approach is different, transitioning from an artist to a CEO and seeing how you can elevate your life and elevate your situation.

DX: What did it take for you to that point?
Bored. The thing with 112 is that every time we get together, we put out the album, it sells great numbers, but everything becomes stagnant. If everythings stagnant, it starts getting boring. I want to do something that I havent done. Weve been in the game for 12 years, and when you look at the artists that have propelled their careers to a whole nother levelDr. Dre, Eminem, 50 Cent [click to read], P Diddy, Jay-Z [click to read]they start out one way, but they didnt stay there. They put themselves in a situation where they could reach back and help other people, and thats what I want to do. And I wanted to do it a different way; take a chance! Thats why most of the people who left legacies have done stuff, when they first started doing it, people looked at them crazy. Can you imagine the creator of Coca-Cola? But it worked, so now its not so funny anymore.

I truly believe in myself. If I stop right now, Ill say I have a label, I did it independent, and So Fly is Top 20 in the United States. It was a lot of people doubting me from the rip, but the talkings a little quiet now. But Im making it into a fact.

DX: As 112, you guys have made timeless music. What do you think it is about your music thats made it so timeless, and how do you look at being timeless now against the likes of Ne-Yo, Chris Brown, and others?
The artists you named, who are really good friends of ours, think the same way. Thats why Ne-Yo [click to read] is having the success hes having right now: hes an incredible writer and an incredible artist. As far as me being solo, its the same mindset. As 112, our legacy has always been to create timeless and classic music.

When we first came out, we were 15, 16 years old. Thats cool, but our competition was Boyz II Men, Jodeci and Mint Condition. So bump that age, we gotta do what we gotta do. Were best known for our up-tempos, but were best loved for our ballads. But truth be told, if we wouldve come out with a ballad with Jodeci, Mint Condition and Boyz II Men, we had to put our egos aside. I dont think we wouldve made that type of an impact. So what we did was capture our own lane and go straight to the clubs. And we chose to say, Were going to talk about things that everybody could relate to, and write songs that way. So when you heard [emulates percussion at the beginning of Cupid], you know who you were with, what you were doing, and what you werent supposed to be doing. Those songs, regardless of whats going on in the atmosphere, people take that song and put it with their everyday life.

So going to this album right here, the title of it is Loves Crazy. Lovell make you do some crazy stuff, to where two or three years ago, you wouldve been like, I wouldnt do that! Yes you will. Im coming the same way, and thats what it is. So Fly was a leak that went very, very good. I promise you if it wasnt coming in the summertime, you probably never wouldve heard the song. The songs youre going to be hearing, Im still going to go in that same way, so all the fans are used to and accustomed to those types of songs thatll stand the test of time, thats what youre going to get with a Slim project. I had to run the fine line between what sound current with whats going on, but at the same time, dont conform to something that youre not. I love the vocoder, I liked it with Zapp & Roger. But would I run it through my own project? No. it takes the character of your voice out, so how is someone going to know who you are? One of my greatest aspects is my voice, the fact that I dont sound like anybody else.

DX: That was actually my next question: how difficult is it to walk that line? I saw that the single had Yung Joc and Shawty Lo, and I was thinking that some people are going to think that youre just trying to keep up. But your first song was with Biggie and Mase.
Exactly. You have people that are our agethats not our fault whats coming out in Hip Hop. Youre going to hear a whole bunch of remixes. Youve got the [Yung] Jocs [click to read] and the [Shawty] Los, but youve got the Jadakiss [click to read], the Freeways [click to read], the Busta Rhymes [click to read]. P Diddy and Cassie [click to read] are jumping on joints. Youre going to hear all kinds of wild stuff. But as far as remixes, pick which one you like. But the meat of my album is what it is, and Im probably going to fix that with my second single. The second single is probably going to be an incredible ballad. Dont get it twisted, Slim is Slim.

DX: Im not sure if everyone knows the situation that happened with 112 and Bad Boy, but apparently, youre on good enough terms to work with Diddy and Faith Evans on the album.
Yeah, thats my homeboy. It was a situation where we were stuck in a production agreement that wasnt cool with 112 financially. We were never signed directly to Bad Boy; we were signed to a production company to Bad Boy. So when we filled the obligations to the production agreement, we were off Bad Boy. The people who owned the production agreement tried to buck, and we tried to get Puff to erase the production agreement, because we didnt want to leave Bad Boy. But think of a team: when you have a star player on the team, and he falls out of the contract, youre a free agent. So labels started coming after us. We couldnt reach an agreement with Bad Boy because of the production agreement and what they felt they were deserved, so we ended up on Def Jam/Def Soul.

DX: What is it like working with Diddy and Faith, thinking back to working with them in the '90s?
It was like a great reunion, to tell you the truth. The great feeling with the Diddy situation is that it wasnt something like, I just hear him working in the studio. He heard me on the radio, hes still in my movement. He knows Ive got a label, and a movement Im pushing. And he knows, I learn from one of the best. I know what mistakes not to make, because we watched him, we were one-on-one with him. Bad Boy is a boutique label, so its real easy to see what he did and what he didnt do. Being with him for so many years, you learn from it. So now when I do what Ive gotta docheck this out. Hes really helping me. So Ill call him, and Ill say, Ive really got to make this pop. I have a situation like this, how do I handle this? And he really helps. And this is how you can tell that its real family: no money involved. Its just love.

DX: Whats the status of 112?
Were still together. Were still doing shows worldwide, and youll probably be hearing another 112 project next year. Were free agents right now, because weve fulfilled our contract with Def Jam. It was a great contract with a lot of money, and short years. Great look, we did what were supposed to do, and were here. And its great, because 112 is a group where were called touring artists. Its a group thats known for great stage performances and a long catalog. And thats where artists want to be at. We can travel forever. We were groomed with the likes of Isley Brothers, Janet Jackson, Whitney Houston, and New Edition. We were on tour with them when we first came out, so we watched them, and now we sort of emulated ourselves to be just like them. Thats what were in the middle of doing.

DX: I've heard that your music is really you, that you walk it like you talk it. What would you say are songs that you think have really captured relationships that you were in, and how you handled it?
When you listen to Cupid, Im singing it all sweet. But if you could turn the sweetness off of it and look at the words? If I ask you to trust me, that doesnt mean I dont care. That situation right there really happened. Im a nice dude, Im a gentleman, and the person I was dealing with at the time, that person thought you know when you do something nice, sometimes you want to do something just because! But this particular person was on some, If youre being nice, you mustve done something, and youre going to tell me what you did. That song was a straight up letterthat really, really explained the situation I was going through. Im glad people could relate to that.

DX: How did that woman react to it?
Wellwhen she heard the record, she was just laughing. When you try to talk it out, [shes like], Youre trying to come down on me or whatever, even though I dont raise my voice or anything like that. But when you hear it another way, like through a song, its like she got it. I guess were not together now, so I guess it really didnt pop off the way it was supposed to. She shouldve listened to it some more. [laughs] But she knew what it was about. Basically, she knows how I am too. Anyone who gets with Slim knows who I am. What you see is what you get. I come all the way out, Im 112% man. Thats how I come out.

DX: Word. Any other songs that really capture it?
I have a record on my album called Sweet Baby. Im just really telling a person exactly how I feel. Im single, and what I did was, I put myself in a situation where if youre feeling a certain way about a girl, and you had a pencil and paper, how would you say it to this particular person? Just be straight up and real with her, off the rip. So shell know, at the end of the conversation, shell get who you are from the first time around.

I have another song called Dont Say It, which really describes how I am. Im a very non-confrontational dude. A dude like me, Im always about finding a solution to the problem. Lets say that your girl got up on the wrong side of the bed. Sometimes when youre in a relationship, one thing leads to other things. Sometimes if you bring your problem home from work, it affects your personal life inside of the home. So when I see something like that, I would say things to just totally squash the whole situation. If I see an argument about to pop off, Ill stop it before it starts. So I have a song like that, called Dont Say It.

Its hard, because every song, whether its 112 or this Loves Crazy album, I took pieces and parts of my life. Even the records like What If, where you know you messed up, but we were still cool enough to talk. Not as lovers anymore, but as friends. Im a real cool cat, so when you reflect on your relationships, it shows growth. Even though you let go, but youre cool enough to let that girl know, If I wouldve did this instead of doing that, or went here instead of going there, wed probably still be together. Records like that, where I feel like if Im as real as possible on a song, I feel like a lot of people can relate to the songs that Im writing.

DX: Talk about the classic Only You Remix. How was that put together?
That was a straight conversation. Oh I need to know where we stand. Do we share this special thing called love? I know I do, what about you? Its a straight-up conversation with a girl. Im feeling you, and Im ready to take it to a whole nother level with you. We couldve been just cool or friends or whatever, but Ive been around you, Ive made up my decision, and thats what it is. Thats another song that was about what was going on in my life. When the group sat together and wrote that song, we thought, Were going to make this as real as possible. I love writing those types of songs, because as those songs go on, the fans feel like theyre growing with the artist. I can help them in their relationships, but its therapeutic for myself too, to know that they can relate to it, that helps me as an artist and a person.

DX: What was it like making that song with Biggie and Mase?
That was incredible. People didnt know that Biggie was actually in the room. We wrote the song four or five different ways, and the way youre hearing it now was the best way. We wrote it right the first time, but Puff, being the perfectionist, wanted to hear other ways the song would go. Now even though the other song sounded right, the Only You that everyone knows and loves, it felt right. In the soul, it felt right.

The funny part is, I remember Mase. That was the first time I had met Mase. He was in the corner writing his joint. He was like, Check me out, check me out. You can hum all you want to, come all you want to. I remember Puff came in the room, like, 'You can hum all you want to, cum all you want to?' What is this? And everybody put Puff out, like, Leave him alone! Biggie was like, Leave him alone. Hes got this, I like it. Let him finish his rap, and well be the judge of it then. Mase did his thing on that, it was our first time being able to really see him put it down. It was magic.

Biggie smoked us out , he and his Junior M.A.F.I.A. clique. [Laughs] We had to walk in and out of the room, because were not smokers, especially me. Toward the end of the night, probably 12 or one oclock in the morning, he looked up and said, Im ready. And he just walked in there, no paper no nothing, and did the whole rap. Just ballish, like. That was amazing to see him sit there. He pretty much created the swag of 112. Room 112, where the players dwell, stash more cash than Bert Fidel, inhale/make you feel good like Tony Toni Tone, get up in ya middle like Monie. What? For the rest of our life, as 112, B.I.G. gave us our swag. What B.I.G. did right there, he really launched us off right there. Everyone has their own line and their own swag, and he really put us into a situation of our own.

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