Five years ago an emerging collective of Swishahouse-approved rappers were poised to convert Houston from an honorable area of Hip Hop talent into a southern mainstream powerhouse like Atlanta. Yet, while all the most notable artists (Mike Jones, Paul Wall and Chamillionaire) found moderate success in proceeding years, none of them has arguably stayed more relevant to the scene than “The Boss Hog” himself, Slim Thug. Paving his own way from major label promise (Already Platinum) to independent success (Boss Of All Bosses), Thugga’s latest effort Tha Thug Show capitalizes on the rapper’s drive to be the voice of Houston from 2010 on.
Whether he’s cockily showing off his paper stacks on “100’s” alongside Big Chief and Lil Keke or cataloging his recent purchases on “How We Do It” with Rick Ross, Slim Thug stunts on the competition like none other. Backed by 808 drums and a chopped and screwed hook on “Neighborhood Supa Stars,” Thug appropriately chronicles his toast to the good life; “Bitch you might not know me, but in my hood I’m famous / I fuck the baddest bitches, and hang with all the gangstas / My slabs is the meanest, my jewelry is the best / You think I get clothes free ‘cause everyday I’m fresh.” Of course, Thugga didn’t get to where he is now without handling his business in the streets, and if “Murda” is any indication of the violent streak that can ensue if you cross him, its better that you don’t.
From Gwen Stefani (“Luxurious”) to Beyonce (“Check On It”), Slim Thug has had his fair share of crossover success. However, when left on his own accord, the Houston-native can’t seem to obtain this same prosperity. As such, “Free” and “So High” turn out to be dismal low points for Tha Thug Show. On the former track, Slim describes the benefits of single life and his ‘free spirited’ approach to the opposite sex. Built around elementary rhymes and a sing-song melody, “Free” ends up sounding like a record meant for Disney’s next teen sensation rather than for a 30-year-old rap veteran. With the addition of B.o.B, “So High” is a bit easier to digest. His dependence on the obligatory “thug-turned-lover” record, though, has become a stale concept ever since LL Cool J’s “I Need Love.”
In effect, Tha Thug Show is better when he sticks to his shtick; providing us with tales from the third coast. Sure, he might not be able to contextualize them in the way Lupe Fiasco did for “Hip Hop Saved My Life” (which, if you didn’t know by now, was partially based on Slim Thug’s career). However, the honesty from his booming voice makes up for any lyrical shortcomings he may suffer from. Such is the case on “Coming From,” a melancholic record that visits the city of Houston through the eyes of Thugga. Revealing neighbors are “so tired of starving, they’d rather be in jail,” Slim Thug pulls down the veil and gives it to us straight up, no chaser.
For dedicated fans of the Swishahouse sound, Tha Thug Show is generally right in that wheelhouse; bass-heavy tunes, boastful ambitions, and a strong dose of Thugga’s southern state of mind. However, there’s not much else provided that would make the casual listener anticipate his next move. But does Slim Thug even need the new audience? According to his words on “Sky,” that’s a no: “Independent so my paper come faster / While all ya’ll still working hard for the master / I could sell half of what you sell and still pass ya / You do the math ‘hot’ rappers, ha!”
Looks like Slim Thug may indeed get the last laugh.