Earlier this year, Los Angeles-based rapper Pittsburgh Slim exploded online, armed with a playfully raunchy music video and just one thing on his mind: "I Like When Girls Kiss Girls." Plenty of people agreed with those lusty sentiments, and soon radio stations were playing the track, sparking a label bidding war. When the dust settled, Slim had met with Jay-Z and signed with Def Jam; his debut album, Tastemaker, hits stores Tue., Dec. 4. But before all that, Slim was Sied Chahrour, a kid who grew up in Greenfield and cut his teeth playing in rock bands (he cites Nirvana, The Jesus Lizard and Sonic Youth as influences) and the successful local underground hip-hop group Strict Flow. This weekend, Slim is visiting his namesake for a series of performances and listening parties.
What did you learn from Strict Flow and the indie hip-hop experience?
The best thing that I learned from my grind was just the amount of effort it takes to make people actually care about you. Because everybody and their mom raps, honestly. Like if you went to Allderdice when I was there, there was probably like 15 kids who rapped. If you go back to Allderdice now, there's probably 115 kids who rap. You just gotta really set yourself apart, and I think I've kinda done a good job of that, so that's one of the positive things I've taken away from my time in the indie circuit. But at the same time, in the indie circuit, it's almost expected that you won't succeed. It's "cool" to not succeed, for some reason. And I don't buy into that at all.
What caused you to move to Los Angeles in 2005?
There's no entertainment industry in Pittsburgh -- I don't think anybody can argue with that. There are a couple of success stories, but those are generally people that have been grinding for 10-plus years. It's simple: If you're trying to grow oranges in Minnesota, you're probably not going to be successful. You might, but wouldn't it make more sense to go to Florida, or Arizona, or California to grow oranges? And honestly, L.A.'s dope -- I won't even front, I like it here.
Is that the advice you'd give to emcees in Pittsburgh, then -- move?
I would have to tell people in Pittsburgh that, "Yo, just 'cause you're from Pittsburgh and there's no entertainment industry doesn't mean that you can't be the next star of the country." You just gotta be hot, period. And that's what I think that people in Pittsburgh should focus on most: building their fanbase in Pittsburgh, and then reaching outside of Pittsburgh. Wiz Khalifa is a prime example of that.
So, get your good stuff in here, then do your business elsewhere?
Right, right, it's simple -- but don't forget [where you came from]. I put Pittsburgh in my name on purpose. I could be "Sied." I could be "Slim." I could be "Slimmie." I don't have to be "Pittsburgh Slim," I don't have to be nothing. But I want every time people talk about me, they've got to say my city's name. So even if you think I'm the number-one douchebag of the world, I'm still making it easier for you to come out, being from Pittsburgh.
What can listeners expect with Tastemaker -- mostly club songs and singles?
Honestly, it's fun; it'll make girls dance. It's different-sounding in the sense that it's rock 'n' roll-influenced hip-hop beats or it's more techno-influenced hip-hop beats. So it's not the same watered-down recycled stuff that you hear all over the place and that we've all heard for the last five years.
How has having Jay-Z onboard changed the musical focus?
It hasn't changed my musical direction, but what it has changed is just the way that people perceive you. I'm not a one-hit-wonder, I'm not the "Girls Kiss Girls" guy -- I'm gonna be here for awhile, trust me. But it definitely helps people kinda take you serious, for sure.
I meant, did you find yourself using different kinds of samples or grooves or ...
No, not at all, man. He sees what I'm doing, and he's completely cool with it and wants me to just do what I do. That's the reason why there's only one cameo on the album. When I look at some of my favorite rappers, they didn't have cameos on their first album -- maybe a couple, but not famous ones. Eminem, Ludacris, Nas -- these are all people who had very limited cameos on their first album. To me, it's like, "I'm Pittsburgh Slim -- I don't need other people to do records with me to prove that I'm hot."
Pittsburgh Slim 8 p.m. Fri., Nov. 30. (Club Zoo, 1630 Smallman St., Strip District, $10, all ages, 412-201-1100 or www.clubzoo.net). CD Release Show: 10 p.m. Fri., Nov. 30 (Privilege Ultralounge, 1650 Smallman St., Strip District, $10, 21 and over, 412-253-7330). Listening Party: 5 p.m. Sat., Dec. 1. (Ava, 5972 Baum Blvd., East Liberty, free, 18 and over, 412-363-8277 or www.avapgh.net).