Review Summary: Slim and his subjects are neither exciting nor interesting enough to maintain a long-term interest, and the production, while competent, is nothing revolutionary to bolster such standard fare.
Houston rapper Slim Thug is a Texan through-and-through; from his Dirty South lyrics, huge, driving beats that pound subwoofers relentlessly, husky basso threats, and even the nearly nine-minute long opus that closes his new record, everything about Slim is big – and, him being from Texas, that should really come as no surprise. Boss of all Bosses is a stereotypical Southern rap record that is just what you’d expect from him, for better or worse, drawing all the best and worst from Slim’s heritage and influences into a sometimes vibrant, sometimes stale collection of modern drug-and-G hip-hop.
Slim Thug comes from what I’ve come to call as the “Rick Ross School of Rap,” although Ross is certainly not the originator of it: bass-heavy, thumping rap that concerns itself wholeheartedly with such pertinent social issues as cocaine, women, and fellow thugs. Slim calls himself the “Big Boss of the South,” (as well as “Big Boss of the North,” a somewhat paradoxical reference to his Houston neighborhood), a moniker I’m sure Ross himself would take issue with, but on Boss of all Bosses Slim is certainly in control.
Surging through the title track’s grand opening timpani, his distinctive voice takes control immediately amidst a back-and-forth synth line and harsh strings. His style is not particularly fluid or technically accomplished, but it is clear and persistent, the force of his rather large personality imposing itself on song after song, from “I’m Back”’s typical “I-do-it-for-the-hood” bravado to the blunt lifestyle description of “Thug.”
However, for all of Slim’s listenable verses and who’s-who of Houston guest list (UGK, Paul Wall, and Chamillionaire all make appearances), the album comes off as unnaturally flat, and the running time of nearly an hour ends up seeming much longer than it actually is. And while the record starts off strong, with first single “I Run,” which benefits from an excellently cheesy Flock of Seagulls sample, and the twinkling electronics of “Smile” proving to be enduring highlights, Slim proceeds to dip into a monotony of money and bitches that turns the middle into a tedious morass of tired rap clichés.
If Boss of all Bosses has a real problem, it’s Slim’s inability to truly distinguish himself. For a rapper whose been around as long as he has, it’s surprising to think that this is only his second album, but one listen confirms that Slim is indeed best suited for what he’s built his name on: mix-tapes and guest spots, where he can come in and provide a contrary, easily identifiable presence. The faux slow jam “My Bitch,” the obligatory street-hustle soul of “Associates,” the minimalist rapid-fire verses of “Leanin’” – Slim and his subjects are neither exciting nor interesting enough to maintain a long-term interest, and the production, while competent, is nothing revolutionary to bolster such standard fare.
Slim Thug is a talented rapper to be sure, but with Boss of all Bosses he does little to rise above his peers in the Houston scene, much less the Dirty South. Nowhere is this more easily seen than in closer “Welcome 2 Houston,” an idea that seems good on paper (a collection of about a dozen rappers from Slim’s ‘hood trading verses back and forth) but ends up a horrible exercise (it’s an eternally long nine minutes long), where Slim is lost in a number of voices more conspicuous than his. Slim can more than hold his own for a few choice minutes (“I Run,” the title track), but it’s become clear that the album road is not for this single specialist.