Soulja Slim - Biography
By Eric Brightwell
Although he may not often be championed for having the best flow or for being the most talented lyricist ever, when debates about who the realest rapper is, no name is invoked more often than that of Soulja Slim. Although some who were close to him suggested that his violent and often comic lyrics were primarily based on observation, to his fans there was no question that if he rapped it he did it and his violent death at a young age only confirmed their assertion.
James A’Darryl Tapp Jr. was born September 9th, 1977 to James and Linda Tapp. He was raised in the Magnolia Projects where his neighbors included fellow future rappers Juvenile, Turk , 6-Shot, Magnolia Shorty, Mr. Marcello and others. He dropped out of school in eighth grade and began selling drugs, as well as forming an addiction to heroin and cocaine. By 1993, he was rapping as Magnolia Slim in venues like Club Rumors and Club 49, often alongside another “slim,” Hollygrove’s Lil Slim, a rapper on the then fledgling Cash Money Records. Although Magnolia Slim would never record an album for Cash Money, he remained close to many of their roster, occasionally guesting on their releases. His first recordings, however, would be on Parkway Pumpin’, an independent label run by legendary producer KLC and also featuring 39 Posse, Fiend, Lil Mac, Mystikal Mike (later Mystikal), Mr. Serv-On and Da Hound. The same year, a rivalry began with Calliope-born St. Bernard resident Daddy Yo sang “I’m Daddy Yo (real name Joseph Howard III) and fuck that Nigga the Magnolia Slim” on his bounce track, “I’m Not Yo Trick Daddy.”
Soulja Slim’s solo debut was Soulja Fa Lyfe (1994-Parkway Pumpin’). For the most part KLC’s production was more organic than the heavily synthesized production he’s widely known for. Soulja Slim, although rapping with a slightly higher voice, sounds much as he would throughout his career with his easygoing but simultaneously comic and disturbing persona already on display in songs like heroin ode, “Powda Bag.” Most of the tracks were straight gangsta rap with “Kickin it for them Hoes” the only bounce track. “Bitch Nigga” responded to Daddy Yo, suggesting that if Slim didn’t kill him, one of his associates would. A few months later, on April 7th, 1995, Daddy Yo was shot and killed.
Parkway Pumpin’ was always strapped for cash and there were no contracts, allowing artists to record with other labels when they desired. Magnolia Slim’s next effort The Dark Side (1995), was for Hype Enough records although it was again produced by KLC. Parkway Pumpin’ closed shop. Mystikal Mike went to Big Boy Records but most of the roster would move to No Limit after Master P moved to New Orleans from Richmond, California with an established label and inheritance from his grandfather. An early version of Slim’s “You Got It” appeared on No Limit’s seminal, southern rap compilation, Down South Hustlers: Bouncin' And Swingin' Tha Value Pack Compilation (1995-No Limit). Not that everything was looking up for Slim; that year he struggled with his addictions which he robbed to support. He was also shot in a dispute and jailed on robbery charges. Incarceration meant that his only recorded appearances where a guest spot on U.N.L.V.’s Mac Melph Calio and Lokee’s Voodoo Gangsta Funk.
After his release, Slim released Give It 2 'Em Raw (1998-No Limit) rechristened Soulja Slim on Master P’s label. As the leader of No Limit’s in-house production team, Beats By the Pound, KLC again provided most of the beats for this demiurgic release that established Slim as a rap legend. However, instead of enjoying his success, Soulja Slim was once again incarcerated for illegal possession of a weapon.
After he served his time, according to his stepfather, Slim endeavored successfully to keep his nose clean and bought a duplex on Lafeyette in Gentilly for his stepfather and mother. Slim returned with The Streets Made Me (2001-No Limit). His lyrics were solid but unfortunately, back in 1998, KLC and nearly everyone but Master P’s immediate family left the tank and the production was much weaker than on its predecessor. The following year, Slim left No Limit as well, officially closing the door on their brief golden age.
Slim and fellow rappers Tre-Nitty and 12 O‘Klock started their own label, Cut Throat Committee, who released Soulja Slim’s follow-up, Years Later (2002-Cut Throat Committy). He was then signed to Koch, who re-released a revamped version, Years Later… A Few Months After (2003-Koch Records). Songs like “I’ll Pay For It,” “Lov Me Lov Me Not” and “M.A.G.N.O.L.I.A” proved that there was life after No Limit, and whereas “U Bootin’ Up,” a collaboration with Juvenile, made clear that his relationship with No Limit could be characterized as rancorous. The same year, Juvenile and Soulja Slim collaborated on another song, “Slow Motion,” which became his first number one hit. He was also said to have completed a double album with another former Cash Money rapper, B.G., tentatively titled Never Seen it Coming, some of which was later included on the unofficial mixtape Thug Brothers. Soulja Slim’s career seemed to finally be taking off when tragedy struck. At a performance in a west bank club, someone in the audience reportedly hurled insults at Slim’s beloved Magnolia and was jumped by members in the audience. The same person was rumored to have been seen around New Orleans in the days following, wearing a bullet-proof vest and seeking an audience with the rapper.
On November 26th, 2003, Slim was en route to another performance when he stopped by his mother’s duplex, shortly before 6:00 pm, to pick up a just-filmed video for “Lov Me Lov Me Not” to show a friend. He left the truck running, hopped out and was shot three times in the face and once in the chest. He was just 26 and left behind, in addition to his mother and stepfather, a son, A’Darryl. He was buried in the leather camouflage outfit he sported on his No Limit debut. After his death, the police named Tapp as a suspect in a September murder of 30-year-old rapper Robert Lee Paige Jr., whose body was discovered in a City Park Lagoon.
A month after Slim’s murder, a 22-year-old St. Bernard resident Garelle Smith was arrested and charged with both Slim’s murder and that of another for which he’d allegedly been paid $10,000. The .40 calibur Glock in his possession was ruled to have been the murder weapon, although it was registered to an NOPD officer. The police dropped charges, as they had with Smith and four previous murder charges (including one of another local rapper, Spencer “Funk” Smith). Smith did, however, end up in prison on a subsequent murder charge. Shortly afterward, on December 28, another suspect in Soulja Slim’s murder, 20-year-old Steven Kennedy, was murdered by Ivory “B-Stupid” Harris and Jerome “Man Man” Hampton, to members of the notorious Magnolia click, The Dooney Boys. The two killers sported tattoos of green crosses between their eyebrows, a symbol reportedly reserved for those who’ve murdered more than five people; a tattoo that had also been worn by their beloved, deceased rapper.