African. Muslim. Slim. Rapper. Fly.
These are things that describe who she is, but are only mere attributes in comparison to her humility when it comes to her talent and hustle. Slims’ visit to VIBE is in light of her September EP, Ghetto Girl Dream, which has catapulted her into a position she’s immensely grateful for. The 20-something artist came to terms with her grind at the age of six when she realized she wanted to enter the all-too-merciless realm of the entertainment industry. From throwing benjamins down on scoutings and auditions, Salma has always been about fulfilling her fantasy of being on stage, and now she’s finally in a place where she’s always wanted to be.
Slims describes this EP as her “second project, but first look,” with her first project, The Diary of Salma Slims, containing a variety of flirtatious, bossy and personal lyrics laced over trap-infused beats.
The “100 Racks” rapper speaks to us about her thoughts on women in a male-dominant music industry, what getting signed to Royce Rizzy’s-guided Private Club Records meant to her, the grind, and of course her bringing her Ghetto Girl Dream into fruition.
VIBE: When did you start working on Ghetto Girl Dream?
Salma Slims: Right before I went on tour. I had to go back to Atlanta to get that sound and producers in there, since I’m out in LA now. I’m living in a house with everybody else from PCR (Private Club Records) and we’re actually getting our studio re-customized by someone from G.O.O.D. music. They’re going to deck the whole thing out for us so we can just record in-house instead of having to go so far.
Can you just tell us about how you got started with Private Club Records? How did they find you and how did you get signed?
Public Club has been around for a long time, but it took for one person to get recognition and to get looked at for us to finally be like “Ok, it’s our time,” and become that collective and bring to life the culture that we always had in mind. MadeinTYO actually started PCR when I was in a girl group. They just had their eye on me so, when I left, it presented the ideal situation. They were kind of like ‘Okay, you’re going to be the First Lady. You’ve already been going hard in ATL, you been had bars. So let’s just do it.’ Flash forward two years, and I feel like my brand is where I want it to be now. I’m killing it, I’m working hard. I’m branching out into modeling and getting into the fashion scene, for real this time.
Yeah, your style is really dope! But piggybacking off of how hard you’ve been working on your music, can you expand on the comments you made in your interview with Revolt.TV about your dislike of being labeled as a female rapper?
Thank you and yeah. It’s crazy that you know that I said that. But, I think it shouldn’t be like, ‘Oh, she’s a female rapper,’ because when you think of female hip-hop history, you think of how there was only ever one certain female rapper hot at one specific time. This is a male-dominated industry where there can be like 5-6 guys out at one time. So why can’t there be more than one girl out at a specific time? It’s kind of like when Trina was out and she was really, really hot. When these collectives have that “It Girl,”, they don’t really want to focus their time and energy anywhere else. If another artist comes out similar to me, it’s like, ‘Why focus on her? They’re the same thing.’ But, if you approach it differently and look at it like it can be successful, it will be. So, that’s where I think the male dominance comes from: where female MCs were in collectives and they took the role of First Lady. It comes from that era of the old school.
I love what’s going on now, though. You have Dreezy that puts out an album, and then you have Kamaiyah who’s doing her thing and it’s being noticed. You got Young M.A. and then you have Nicki Minaj, who’s rocking with her too. It’s starting to slowly progress and come together.
Definitely. But what is it that you want to do to add to change this dynamic?
I just want to have my hands in different things. I have a niche. I’m young and I’m focused and I have a collective also. But just recently, I went to Japan, I did something for a cosmetic line, RMK. So, I feel like I have different things to offer to the game. You know, I’m not just rapping.
That’s dope. How do you think traveling adds to your growth towards trying to be one of the greatest–if you think it contributes at all?
It provides a new narrative. I grew up in a household that was Islamic so there are millions of girls out there who are Muslim and know the struggle it is to try to venture off into something that isn’t really present in your culture. Even if they’re not Muslim or they’re not African, or they’re not Lebanese, they’re from a different culture and in their culture, music may not be accepted. So, people will look at what I’m doing and be like ‘Wow; different cultures are doing different things.’
Living the ghetto girl’s dream, I guess. Can you tell us more your influences?
Yeah, [it started] when I went to a [TLC] concert. From there, I wanted to do school talent shows. I was performing with two friends in elementary school and we did Destiny’s Child “Survivor” in our little army outfits. [Laughs]
I was even on Craigslist looking for modeling jobs and things like that with my mom. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I wanted to do something. As I watched Tyra Banks on TV, and I was confused about how to even get started. So, I was on Craigslist just looking at stuff and I came across an Universal Music Group casting call with blase-blah, and me and my mom go. I sign fugazi paperwork, pay like $600, just to watch Tyra Banks on TV tell me I don’t have to pay for this type of stuff.
But, other than TLC, some influences are T.I.–he was one of my favorites, Big K.R.I.T., and Da Brat. I actually got the chance to meet her. That was like, “Ooop, another thing I can check off my checklist.”
So would Da Brat be considered a dream collab for you?
Man, yes. She put out a verse when she first got out of jail, and that went like [raps] “’I been off the scene for a minute/But I’m back in the back and the fact is I’m GREAT/Couldn’t wait for the parole board/to go on give me a release date, February 28th/Now I’m home on the phone, twenty-fo’/Tryin to capitalize and get mo’ dough, So So”
That’s my favorite verse of all time. I spit that for her at the studio and she’s like ‘Ooouuu, you’re a fan.’ I was like, ‘Yes, I’m a fan! I rock with you. You’re lit.’ [Laughs] If I can meet her, I can meet anybody, I can do anything. So that’s how I looked at that.
That’s honestly the best perspective. But, besides Da Brat, what other collaborations would you like to get into (artists, producers, etc)?
Nicki Minaj, I want to work with her. I want to work with Kanye and M.I.A.
A photo posted by SALMA SLIMS (@salmaslims) on
Just to trail back and acknowledge a possible connection, I realized that in The Diary, with the first song, “Chanel Baby,” you were talking about a ghetto girl’s dream and that’s the name of your next project and the intro track. Did you do that purposely?
I’ll tell you the truth. We were all sitting around and you know how in the song (“Chanel Baby”) it’s like “it’s a ghetto girl’s dream, Chanel bags and things.” So, every day this dude, Noah Wood$ would come up to me and be like ‘It’s a ghetto girl’s dream.’ Because I brought him on tour with me and he would hear that line every day, he would just be making fun of me like ‘it’s a ghetto girl’s dream.’ And he’s a white dude, so it’s funnier when he says it [Laughs]. And Dave (photographer), just randomly one day in the studio was like, ‘It’s a ghetto girl’s dream.. you need to stop playing and make that your next project name.’ And it was just actually the perfect transition idea.
So in your music, you give off a vibe of how you were always alone and had to make it on your own. How do you feel that has played a part in who you are today?
It just makes me appreciate the people that are working for me because there was a point that I was just in a dark place trying to figure out what I needed to do next and how I needed to do it. I didn’t understand how to get to that next level on my own, but when I became a part of Private Club, I wasn’t alone anymore–I had people.
Just imagine, someone tells you that you can perform at a show and you ask the DJ, ‘If I end up not being able to perform, can you just play my record, anyway?’ And he’s like, ‘Well, we got blah-blah and they squad about to come perform so you need to like fall back.’ So, it always felt like I was finessing my way through everything. And I was just waiting for the point where I wouldn’t have to finesse–and it’s hard.
Where you’re in your own space? Because I know you said you were by yourself for awhile and you were your own manager.
Right! People are paying attention and they’re respecting me now because I have dudes behind me. And I’m not saying it takes for everyone to be in a squad to get respect. Everybody got a different story but, it did take for me being signed to Private Club Records in order for people to actually respect me. So, now I just got to keep going and not fail the people and work hard and get noticed.
Yeah, that’s really cool. I guess to refer back to what you brought up about being Islamic and African, you talked a lot about how your parents weren’t that accepting of you transitioning into the music industry. And at the same time, you were going to school, working two jobs, and then coming back and recording at like 4 am.
The thing is like I said [raps] “There ain’t no music in my family/there ain’t no brothers around to tell me who to be with/so who I’m gonna curve?” So at the time, I was going from work to going to a show, to work to going home and then trying to do my homework. Then still trying to fit in studio time. A lot of times, I left work to go to a show and there would only be maybe 10-15 people there but I was so excited, I was so ready to perform in front of people and get the music heard. I was actually performing my song, “Journal” for like a whole year before I put it in The Diary of Salma Slims. So, that project is a lot of recycled music that I had, but just never had the chance to put out. That’s where this project comes from because I feel like I’ve been living the ghetto girl’s dream. I went from nothing to something–performing in front of a few thousand people instead of just like 15, and it’s made a really, really, really big difference. It’s helped me to stay grounded and realize that things can happen. Now, I’m focusing on my music more than anything. Without having to worry about juggling so many things (school, two jobs, shows, recording time), I can give one hundred percent to my music.