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Slim Thug, ‘Already Platinum’ (Star Trak/Geffen)

Slim Thug already had his name in the credits of two mix-tape heatseekers (his own “3 Kings” and Mike Jones’ “Still Tippin'”) by the time he signed with Geffen. And for his major-label debut, the hulking Texas MC could have kept pouring the same old syrup — painkilling fonk, flossing lyrics — that started his buzz in the first place. But that wouldn’t really be the Houston way. One of the reasons H-town has become the most talked-about locale in hip-hop is that its artists confound expectations. Far from the glare of industry scrutiny, they’ve developed a thriving mix-tape culture that frees artists from boardroom tinkering. With Jones’ repetitive flow, Devin the Dude’s alien R&B, and tracks that prefer getting screwed and chopped to getting up in da club, this scene marches to a different drum machine.

So it’s fitting that Slim Thug has partnered with the Neptunes. The genre-rattling production team of Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo has always sounded best when paired with artists who are willing to experiment (Kelis, N.O.R.E., Ol’ Dirty Bastard), and on Already Platinum, they contribute some of their most adventurous work yet. In Slim Thug, the duo has found a perfect foil. Thugga’s hustle and flow is almost pre-Rakim in its simplicity. He’s got a chubby checking account, big guns, and a nice ride, and he’s going to tell you about it in a near nursery-rhyme delivery.

And with Slim holding down this basic foundation, the Neptunes can go play in the upper atmosphere. On the title track, Slim’s voice is slightly slowed down, and the beat apes the style of Tricky’s Pre-Millennium Tension — all paranoid, rigid electro-funk, with Pharrell mumbling, “My wrist been dipped in diamond fondue.” “Do It for You” begins with chicken-scratch guitars and builds into a deeply layered studio-funk jam jacked from Steely Dan. “Click Clack” finds Pharrell throwing his trucker hat into the crunk ring, randomly punching in massive kick drums while Slim threatens to knock cats out of their shoes and socks. The whole thing reaches a dizzying peak on “Problematic,” with jungle snares and frenetic bass scales. Thugga’s deep voice anchors the track as it teeters thrillingly between club-banger and avant-garde. Slim intones, “Aw hell, y’all done let Pharrell bring out the beast in me.” But really, it’s the other way around.

EXCLUSIVE SLIM THUG LISTENING SESSION Get a taste of Slim Thug’s Already Platinum by clicking here.