Slim Thug is a Goliath on the Houston rap scene, and it has nothing to do with his 6-foot-6, 265-pound frame.
The skyscraping rapper, who's sold enough records independently to earn regional renown, a huge suburban home and a fleet of luxury cars, now has his eye on conquering the rest of the country with his major-label debut, "Already Platinum," which comes out Tuesday.
The album combines his boastful rhymes and smooth baritone with slick production from The Neptunes and a cadre of big-name guest stars, including Lil Jon and Ludacris.
"I think I covered the whole thing with satisfying the Texas people and other people," he said during an interview in his 6,000-square-foot house. "If a person ain't really into the straight up Texas slowed-down type of music, I got other type of music on there too that I'm sure can reach them."
Slim, whose real name is Stayve Thomas, said he gained the first part of his rap moniker because he was beanpole skinny as a teenager. He added "thug" to it, he said, because of his braids and gold teeth.
A testament to successThe title of his album might seem arrogant, but Slim insists that it's simply a testament to his independent success. Major labels have been wooing him since 2001, but selling records through his own Boss Hogg Outlawz label was so lucrative that he had no use for a deal, Slim said.
"The money they was offering us, it wasn't adding up to what we was making independent," he said, adding that he has sold more than 300,000 copies of his three album releases and numerous mixtapes — and makes $8 per album sold.
"It's like we got a big state right here and we got Louisiana too," Slim said. "That's a lot of people. That's a lot of different retail stores and you can make a lot of money off of that alone."
The fruits of that labor are evident throughout his spacious home, which overlooks a man-made lake and includes an outdoor kitchen, a theater room and a recording studio.
The garage houses his Rolls-Royce Phantom, BMW 760Li and personalized Chopper motorcycle. Seven other cars dot the driveway, but he can't drive any of them.
"I have too many speeding tickets, man, too many," he said. "They suspended me (his license) indefinitely. So I'm in trouble."
For now, one of his brothers acts as his chauffeur.
Slim and his six siblings moved from apartment to apartment while being raised by a single mother, Mary Thomas. She struggled to support the family as a cashier at gas stations and grocery stores.
Slim developed his love of music in those years. At age 10 he memorized and often recited a rap about bicycles and toys that his brother wrote for him, and later spent countless hours freestyling on a small karaoke machine.
"He used to try and rap when he was little and I used to tease him about that all the time," said his older brother, Raymond "Ray-Face" Thomas.
Slim got his professional start by rapping on Swishahouse Records mixtapes, but outgrew the label after a couple of years and decided to start his own company.
He called his label Boss Hogg Outlawz after a second nickname he picked up when he drove a convertible Cadillac similar to that of Boss Hogg on the old "Dukes of Hazzard" television show.
When he realized that many top producers wouldn't work with him because he wasn't with a major label, he signed with Geffen Records last year. Pharrell Williams, half of hip hop's super-producer duo The Neptunes, chose to work with Slim through Geffen's Star Trak label.
Slim said he tries to refrain from negativity in his raps and that fans often say they like him because "I don't let my imagination run wild when I rap."
"I'm about getting money," he said. "I'm a hustler rapper, like a motivational rapper who talks about getting money and doing things."
Rap and real estate
Rap is not his only means of income. The 24-year-old owns two record stores and buys and sells real estate.
His mother said she doesn't like rap (even her son's) and she listens strictly to country music because "that's the only thing I can understand."
But she's clearly proud of her youngest child's accomplishments — beaming when he enters the room and fawning over him.
"He acts like he's bad," his mother said. "But he's really just a pussycat."
Slim is laid-back as he sits at his glass kitchen table and slowly thumbs through a magazine featuring wheel rims that cost more than most small cars. He's rarely excited, save for a brief rise in his voice when he stops in midsentence to point to himself being interviewed on MTV to his mother.
"There I go right there," he said, pointing a heavily tattooed arm toward a flat-screen television, and breaking into a huge smile that reveals his sparkling platinum teeth while "You see me on TV?"
Slim feels lucky to be part of the Houston rap movement at a time when people around the country are finally starting to take notice.
"It's a good look," he said. "They really opening their ears to what we doing down here in Houston. We got a good opportunity down here right now. And I'm gonna take it."