It seems Rockets GM Daryl Morey has given Houston legend Slim Thug some time off from recruiting after he brought star center Dwight Howard to the city. Boss Life (Hogg Life), put out on his own Hog Life label, is his third album in five years, and his best since 2005’s breakout Already Platinum. Despite some underrated jams on his previous two albums and a fairly steady stream of mixtapes since he left Houston rap label Swishahouse in the late ’90s, he’s relaxed into a comfortable lane here.
Between Swishahouse, collaborative records with E.S.G. and Lil’ Keke, forming the Boss Hog Outlawz, and his unforgettable appearance on the Mike Jones smash “Still Tippin’,” Thugga has been crucial to the post-DJ Screw Houston sound that has come back around to the radio due to New York kids with internet access. With the help of local production duo G.Luck ‘n B-Don, Thug embraces his experience and sound to refurbish his shit without reinventing himself, like the 2 Chainz-like “Long Time,” where he raps, “You know I stay on mine/I stay on time so hit me up I stay online.”
His Twitter presence notwithstanding, it’s obvious Slim Thug has a reliable wi-fi connection. For proof, look no further than the Aaliyah sample on the Paul Wall and Chamillionaire-featuring “Love It.” But even with multiple appearances from autotune hook man Kirko Bangz and nostalgia revivalist Big K.R.I.T., the album never strays from Thug’s wheelhouse. On “One Night,” with Kirko and some glossy spaced-out synths, he doesn’t even need to take off his house shoes. And on “84S,” Thug intelligently relegates K.R.I.T. to just beat duties so he can go in over his smooth-as-a-baby’s-bottom baseline: “I show out when I show up got my dough up/Blowed up before I growed up know what/Purp po’ed up dro rolled up as I go up/In the sky I’m so high so what?”
In addition to the Aaliyah sample, Chicago producer Mr. Lee also provides the DeBarge keys by way of Biggie on “Puttin in Work” and the strings on “U Mad.” If that wasn’t enough of an assortment, there’s the pretty obvious EDM banger “Boss Life.” Thug’s pretty much willing to crib from any rap region he likes. On “1st and 15th,” Thug is rapping over N.W.A’s “Dopeman,” and the song “Bomb Ass Pussy” is built around a Snoop Dogg sample. But the former is screwed up and includes a Yo Gotti verse and the latter sounds like Snoop at Treasures rather than Slim Thug at a Hollywood burlesque show.
The diverse influences are more marriage than mash-up, like a man aging gracefully and not kicking the kids off his lawn. When Bun B raps “draped up and dripped out” just a few songs before an actual Lil’ Keke verse, it’s not about marking territory from biting Canadians, it’s about accepting and appreciating the influence. Slim Thug mentions he has a house in California on the last song “Go Long.” It features Z-Ro and relative fresh face Angelino Nipsey Hussle. It was featured on Hussle’s $100 mixtape Crenshaw and it succeeds not because it conforms to some West Coast style, but because of the sheer force of personality from two of H-Town’s finest. Maybe Dwight Howard will learn to use his strengths and work this well with others.