When economic times get tight artists with a lot on the line
commercially sometimes choose to forget about taking any kind of risks.
Instead they stick to a formula, something proven and accepted. Slim

[click to read] doesn’t pull any 808s and Heartbreak-level
[click to read] moves on his sophomore
album, Boss of All Bosses, but he deserves a lot of respect for his
willingness to do the unexpected while also working within his own
familiar boundaries. It is also worth noting that the songs that work
best on the record are the songs that show facets of Slim Thug we have
never seen before.

The album opens with the ominous title
track. Producer Terry “T.A.” Allen combines looped stings, synths that
sound like a church chorus buried in the mix, and ringing bells to
announce Thug. The rapper uses his booming voice well but this is all
stuff we have heard before. Following that is “I’m Back,” a song
produced by longtime collaborator Mr. Lee and featuring Devin the Dude
[click to watch]
on the hook. Both these tracks work really well, if in conventional
ways. But just when “I’m Back” looks like it’s going to be another
(very good) Thug track about how he doesn’t need rap, he closes the
song with a verse that shows an impressive amount of candor with lines
like “I dropped already platinum but it only sold gold/And niggas
lookin’ at me like I sold my soul / ‘Cause I’m rappin’ with P. and not
Mr. Lee/But when ya on your grind sometimes you can’t see
.” It’s
amazing to hear a guy, who rarely showed emotion before, be so honest
about things other rappers might be embarrassed to admit. Fittingly, he
ends the last verse with an ecstatic announcement that “This is a Lee

The next three tracks are three of the best on the
album and the three least expected. First up is the Flock of Seagulls
sampling “I Run,” produced by Jim Jonsin
[click to read]. With an updated Wyclef

[click to read] /Diddy
approach to sampling hits, few would have ever seen this song coming
let alone it turning out to be a great Slim Thug single. This song has
no business working but it does, in a messy, fun way. And even with its
goofy ’80s sample, Thugga slips in lines about the recession and pleas
to President Obama for help. After that there is the Mannie
-helmed track “Show Me Love”, which sounds like vintage Cash Money
from a decade ago – a summertime potential hit. And that goes double
for “Smile,” a song that will probably end up being divisive. It opens
with music box like melody that continues throughout, it’s the aural
equivalent of Houston’s beloved candy-paint. The track is light and
playful, a song for the ladies that isn’t slow and full of boring
lover-man talk.

Following that unexpected triptych the things
get a little hit and miss. “Thug”, “My Bitch,” and “She Like That,” all
produced by Mr. Lee, fall into the love song traps that “Smile” so
deftly avoids. They are monotonous and patronizing. They are an example
of Thug working within a proven formula without doing anything to do
raise it up into something special. “Leaning'”, featuring UGK
[click to read],
is a decent song but is covers familiar territory. To some, this song
may be discomforting, with verses by Pimp C celebrating Promethazine, a cause of death to the Texas pioneer. Two other collaborations
fare better. “Hard,” is a great track which samples contemporary
blue-eyed-soul singer Marc Broussard‘s “Hard Knocks.” Scarface
[click to read]
spits a verse which further proves that this man cannot be allowed to
retire, ever. J-Dawg‘s guest verse contrasts well with ‘Face and
Thugga‘s, his breathless, manic delivery being the absolute opposite of
the other two. On “Associates” Thug gets to Scarface-levels of paranoia
and the results are wholly unexpected, a song so bleak and desperate,
filled with angry confessions of isolation, that it could be the most
surprising track on an album with its fair share. Thug opens with “All
my niggas is gone, my down bitch done cut / I got some shit on my dome.
Now, did they love me or what? / I’m one deep with my chrome like I
ain’t givin’ a fuck / If I gotta do this alone, fuck it, that’s what’s
,” and he completely gets the mistrust and hurt across.

a few songs after “Associates” the album closes with the longest, most
guest filled, non-mixtape posse cut in recent memory. “Welcome 2
Houston” features from the well known (Chamillionaire
[click to read]
and Mike Jones) to the legendary (UGK and Lil Keke) to the slept on
(Z-Ro and Trae) the track features 14 Houston emcees and should be an
epic. But unfortunately, while it is admirable to try and represent
your whole city on one track, the song just doesn’t work. Any flow the
song could have hoped to have is ruined by an overlong chorus which is
repeated every two verses. It makes a long song longer, and much less

That’s the lone problem with Boss of All Bosses,
there are some great tracks where Thug explores new themes and sounds
but they are broken up by tracks that aren’t just formulaic but also
tired and occasionally boring. This is a shame because it was shaping
up to be a Houston Rap classic through its first handful of tracks. What it turns out to be is a good record where a mainstream
artist challenges himself and comes up with enough good songs (and some
great songs) to make it worth your money. And that is
something that can’t be said for more than 90% of what is released in
any given year.