Slim the Mobster and I are scheduled to do an interview at a Northridge gun range, set up by his publicist. But as the rapper pulls up and peers out from under his black Dodgers baseball hat, he looks hesitant.
"I don't want my picture taken with a gun, you feel me?" he says. "I mean, you can get me sweepin' up the shells, how 'bout that?"
There's clearly a disconnect here; for one thing, his most popular song to date is "Gunplay," and in its video Slim wears a bulletproof vest and totes an automatic rifle. But no matter; we quickly move on to Plan B -- a tour of the South Central native's new pad, which is seriously a pad, a luxury house tucked away in a hilly, security-guarded private neighborhood in Northridge, with an infinity pool and views to spare.
The house's grand entrance recalls Tony Montana's. Slim proudly points out where his six kids will stay when they visit, and how his Sex and the City-sized walk-in closet will house his 300 pairs of shoes.
His books include Think and Grow Rich, The Secret, The Richest Man in Babylon, but above the flatscreen TV in his living room is his favorite: The 50th Law by 50 Cent and Robert Greene. The moral of the story? Fear nothing.
Slim, who is 28, was born Anthony Johnson to a mother who was only 14. His father was in the military, so Slim was raised by his grandmother. One of his uncles is "Freeway" Ricky Ross. Another is Mario "Chocolate" Johnson, an associate of Suge Knight's who reportedly helped write Vanilla Ice's single "Ice Ice Baby."
Though Slim has yet to make money off of his recorded output -- his first mixtape, War Music, came out last month -- music and hustling are, obviously, in his blood. He started gangbanging around 12 or 13 years old. "There was this guy I looked up to, a real heavy drug dealer," he recalls, sitting now on a leather sectional. "I got kicked out of school in 7th grade for a gun. Dude's at my house, and he told my grandma she should let him take me. And that's when it started. I seen a lot of things I probably wasn't supposed to see at that age."
By the time he was 14, his grandmother could no longer control him. A friend's mother happened to own a housing complex, so he and his buddy got there own place there, dropped out of high school, and started hustling.
"I just cared about the gang requirements. I did everything under the guidelines of gangbanging, and I did it right," he says. That is, until his best friend was murdered; Slim suspects the culprit to be another of their friends.
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But as he matured he realized he didn't want his kids to grow up involved in the gang lifestyle. By 2007 it was clear he couldn't both bang and rap -- especially after he caught a couple of cases. So when a friend swore he knew where Dr. Dre's studio was, Slim told him to put his money where his mouth was. And that's how Slim stumbled onto the opportunity that changed his life.
Slim was trying to talk the security guard into giving Dre his CD when the producer himself suddenly pulled up in his car. Slim asked Dre if he would listen to his CD, and Dre said he had five minutes. They left, and five minutes later an assistant called Slim.
That was four years ago, in which time he says he's been writing heavily for Detox. Meanwhile, in between doing his time he's been performing shows and crafting War Music. (Both his voice on the work and the beats are a throwback to millennium-era Aftermath.) He says he'll do another mixtape before getting started on an official album.
Tonight he's got a pair of shows in Oakland, and a small posse prepares to accompany him. He pauses in his kitchen, contemplating which diamond-encrusted watch to wear. A
bulletproof motorcycle vest lies in the middle of the island. "Fear nothing" might be Slim's motto, but "be smart" might be another.