Salma Slims took a break but now she’s back. The 26-year-old rapper knows exactly who she is and what she brings to the table; one that she shares with the MadeinTYO-led rap collective Private Club. Her journey to eminence hasn’t been an easy one. But she’s persevered over the years, through gender discrimination and mental breaks, to become one of the most exciting female rappers on the rise.
We spoke to Salma about her new music, navigating the industry’s sexist pathways as a woman, and her relationship with 24hrs.
I feel like I’ve heard so much about you, yet I know so little. For both new fans and old alike, who is Salma Slims?
Salma Slims is the shit. I’m the best – like I go hard. But I’m from Atlanta I was born in Norfolk, VA. My mom and dad are both from a small West African country called Gambia .I wasn’t allowed to listen to hip-hop that often at home growing up because Muslim parents are strict, so hip hop became a fetish to learn and I fell in love with it. I started off in a girl group called KRUSH.
Being in the industry since i was 15, I’ve learned a lot about being a strong black woman and always standing up for myself no matter what. I was picked on in school for being skinny, so rapping kind of became my alter ego. It made me feel confident and strong. I started battle rapping after school with a bunch of guys and then later me and KRUSH started a cypher that went viral on Twitter in 2010. That’s where it all began. Honestly, I’m just blunt and I’m very in your face. My music use to be very serious, but along the years it became a lot more fun and care free.
You told Vibe in 2017 that you took a year-long break to rebrand. How important is finding yourself as an artist and knowing when to go back to the drawing board?
So important. I had to figure out a way to separate myself from my collective because my squad is full of guys and I’m a girl and it’s important to also express being a girl and the emotions in my music and not go so hard all the time because as a woman in the industry i also go through things outside of the industry like relationship problems.
What’s your experience been like working with Private Club?
I do my own thing most of the time but Private Club is cool. They come to all my shows when it’s time to mob and they definitely are supportive with what I have going on. I think I work harder than them but no shade lol.
How do you and 24hrs refrain from mixing business and pleasure?
We don’t lol. It always somehow seems to get mixed in. It’s hard to really separate the 2 because we are both aspiring to get to the top and we both have a common goal. We do have times where we cancel out everything we have going on and cut our phones off just to spend quality time without our phones off.
It’s funny because once our phones are turned off we are disconnected from the world and it feels good to spend time together without any interruptions or talks about music.
As a woman in the industry, do you feel as if you deal with more obstacles than your male counterparts? If so how?
Sometimes men overlook me when I’m in important rooms. Sometimes even being in the studio can get discouraging because certain niggas don’t know how to be polite and give a simple hello. I’m always around guys because I’m the only girl in my squad but I’ve learned over the years that there are not a lot of women in the music industry and that’s finally starting to change and the gap is filling in slowly so i hope that men treat us with more respect.
What about in the upcoming scene? Does the same discrepancy in gender treatment exist?
Absolutely, especially towards girls. Man these niggas ain’t shit. It’s like we can’t even dress sexy without some of these guys thinking we are hoes and loose that sucks.
How has it been in regard to getting coverage from blogs as an upcoming woman without the major label bells and whistles?
Blogs use to cover me all the time but when i took my break to rebrand and then i started dropping music again it kind of seemed to fade.
I do everything without a publicist. I try to reach out to build awareness as much as possible but I know my time is coming soon and blogs will pick me up every time i drop in due time. But much love to the blogs that do show me love. I love them
Do you ever deal with doubt? If so, how do you get over it?
Doubt, worry, fear. Those are all normal for a creative like myself (laughs). I like to think of doubt as the gap between our current faith and perfect faith. If this is the case, we all doubt. I get over it by praying to God more and more each day. I also had to stop worrying about what others think and set immediate goals and remind myself that I came along way from sleeping in my Mitsubishi Gallant 4 years ago.
What’s your creative process like when recording music in 2018? How has it evolved? Do you feel the most comfortable in this method?
I’m working on my project called Runway Rapper and it’s set to drop 2019 and it is going to be my best body of work thus far. Recording the project has been so fun. I like to pick out all my beats prior to my studio sessions. I can’t really explain my creative process making it because it changes depending on my mood. It gets very weird sometimes (laughs).
This entire road (for music) is like a series of waves – sometimes you catch them, other times you miss them. What keeps you going in the pursuit of the next? Many artists, no matter their success, give up. Not enough artists get asked about their sanity.
I feel like I am a wave that needs to be caught.
I’m underrated for a FACT. But everything is about timing and the perfect timing. Some people tell me that I should of rode the wave that Tokyo had for the longest, but I have my own vision and plan for myself. If I stay consistent, in due time, people will understand and see my vision.
What did you think of Nicki Minaj’s reveal of being blackballed as a female artist? How similar/different are her musings about different treatments from yours?
I mean, I feel her she probably goes through a lot of shit and deals with so much hate because she has been on top for a long time. In her opinion she never had a female artist or another female rapper who was good enough to stand in her way. I’m sure there are hella people ready to get rid of her and get their female artist poppin. It happens everyday.
How instrumental was growing up Muslim to crafting your personal identity? Outside of music.
My religion molded me to have tough skin and stay grounded. I was raised by the book but I also went through a lot at a young age so I had to get it out the mud.
How did you manage to transition from working two jobs to making music full-time? What kind of confidence do you need to make the leap?
I was just determined to get money and follow my dreams at the same time. I just had that drive in me to keep going and i was looking at the bigger picture. I was also in college so it was hard but hard work always wins.
How did you learn to step out of the shadows? What’s the best way to conquer those negative feelings that we all get.
I took a break to rebrand myself. I was kinda tired of being labeled and boxed in. I’m not like anybody in my collective so I had to branch out and find my lane.
What’s on your list of goals for the rest of 2018?
More campaigns, tours, and videos.
Follow Salma Slims on Twitter at @Salma_Slims and on Instagram at salmaslims.