Read the full interview on LAWeekly.com!
Atlanta native Salma Slims is a rapper, wife, daughter and turn-up queen all in one. As the first lady of Private Club Records (Madeintyo, 24Hrs), the “Don’t Act” rapper has been carving her own path when it comes to music, fashion, personality and female empowerment. With her upcoming debut, Runway Rapper, fans will finally be able to get to know real name Salma Conteh on a personal level, from her upbringing with Muslim parents to her love for fashion to her journey from rap group member to solo artist.
Creating music since she was 16, Salma is all about the fundamentals of hip-hop.
“I studied so many female rappers from Eve to Foxy to Da Brat … I fit into that,” she says. “Growing up being in a female rap group, doing cyphers and coming from that boom-bap, backpack hip-hop lane, hip-hop now needs to shift. Apart from social media, because there’s so many female rappers that have gone viral off of one thing (Worldstar or whatever the case is). Real lyrics, bars and content is where I fit in, coming into that.”
The name Salma Slims comes from her cheerleading days in high school, when peers couldn’t pronounce her real name. Because of her tiny frame, they went with “Slims.” This was back in Atlanta.
“Aye, ATL ho! Atlanta raised me,” she says. “That’s where I’m from, that’s the city that molded me. Atlanta is the hub for music. Since a young age, I’ve always been inspired by every artist that has come out of Atlanta, period. Not even artists but producers: Metro Boomin, Jazze Pha, etc. Cyhi the Prynce is a dope lyricist. T.I.”
At the mention of Tip and his Hustle Gang imprint, she describes her “a-ha” moment during a stint with rap group Krush.
“We put out a cypher online,” she says. “Before shit was going viral, it went viral. On Twitter, YouTube was a thing, it was just getting poppin’. So many people were doing covers. Tiny was like, ‘Yo, I got this thing called Pretty Hustle. It’s under Grand Hustle. We want to sign y’all, the female group together.’ That was my first ‘oh shit.’ Then she put out OMG Girlz and I saw the success of that. Grand Hustle, Pretty Hustle, that whole thing is just tight as fuck.”
At 17, Salma and the other two members had met with L.A. Reid and almost signed a deal with Epic Records. Being in a group at such a young age, obviously, sometimes things don’t work out as planned. Moving to Los Angeles three years ago with husband 24Hrs, Salma is fully reaping the benefits of residing in the mecca of both fashion and entertainment.
“Touching bases in L.A. is definitely very important — especially for female artists, if they want to step into the fashion lane and don’t have a chance to go overseas,” she says. “A lot of up-and-coming artists, we don’t really have a lot of money to do a lot. It’s underground, independent, funding everything yourself. L.A. is a big fashion market for everyone to get their feet wet. Brands they sell in Europe are super accessible out here, so it’s a real easy market to tap into both lanes.”
“Even if there’s not something to do, you have something to do. There’s always something. Atlanta is a lot slower.”
With the release of her most recent single, “Nobody,” Salma details the two sides in a relationship song, reminding folks that she is happily married. As she starts singing the line, “You gotta real one, keep her on your side/A lot of fake ones only want what you provide,” she also reveals her love for Twenty.
“That’s bae, I love him so much,” she says. “We met through music. Music is something we’re constantly doing. We’ve been together for a long time, since I was 18. We’re always on the go, on the run, but when we come together, we’re just super chill. I cook breakfast for him, we watch Netflix together. It’s major wifey-hubby vibes at the crib.”
In addition to being Madeintyo’s blood brother, 24Hrs has worked with the likes of Ty Dolla $ign, Wiz Khalifa, PnB Rock, Roy Woods, Post Malone and more. But the O.G. fans know him as Royce Rizzy.
“Sometimes he’s like, ‘If they don’t know, don’t talk about it,’” Salma says. “Because it’s his tunnel vision character, he focuses on it so much. Not everyone even knows. Some people are like, ‘Who? What?’ It’s a whole story you have to retell over and over again.”
Earlier this year, 24Hrs was featured in his wife’s “Money Bag” video.
“I’ve always wanted to do a video based around me waking up out of a dream,” she says. “I say, ‘I can’t be your girl, boy you tell too many lies,’ that’s what’s in my head. Then the verse comes in like, what nigga? ‘Salma S550, Salma do the Gucci.’ The vibrant colors is my personality, ’cause I’m always hella energetic. When I’m in the studio, I be talking to everybody, bouncing all over the walls and shit. The pink and blue hair really comes from that.”
This led to a trip down memory lane, reminiscing about the days she used to bring out Madeintyo at her own shows in the A, before “Uber Everywhere” took off.
“TYO, that’s the bro,” she says. “I used to do shows at Edgewood in Atlanta, the Department Store, and I would bring him out. A lot of hip-hop heads know exactly what I’m talking about. That’s where a lot of people break their first record in Atlanta, on Edgewood. Either Aisle 5, Department Store or the Union. When we used to do that shit, it was lit, too.”
As “Uber Everywhere” took over clubs and airwaves, and TYO’s signature SKRT SKRT ad lib gained notoriety, it’s both humbling and rare to see an individual rise organically thanks to pure talent.
“A lot of artists try to go viral nowadays. Everything is a marketing plan,” she points out. “Everything is molded and strategically put together. To actually see an artist just go accidentally, off of faith and everything, it’s like, ‘Oh wow. No, it actually happens like that.’ It’s not no marketing plan, no scheme.”
The crazy part is TYO first asked to upload a song on his brother’s (Royce’s) SoundCloud. It turned out to be his hit record “I Want,” which Fader picked up saying it sounded like it could be Rae Sremmurd’s next single. It was a wrap after that.
“He was Jamaal Davis. He was a hip-hop artist but never thought the MadeinTYO alter ego would come. He was doing hip-hop music: backpack, going in bars, etc. He still got bars, but you know. He was TYO as he was recording the song. Then boom, now he’s doing crazy shit. Lit, Platinum artist. He shows me so much love.”
That includes the moment TYO asked Slims to be the first lady of Private Club Records.
“That’s the fam, Private Club Records is the label. We’re like the next A$AP Mob. As far as collective, there hasn’t been a collective that everyone’s on since A$AP Mob. We have that type of unity and family-oriented relationship.”
While the success of TYO has brought Slims onto stages across the world, the best memory on the road came on Halloween day in Portland, Oregon.
“I’m on his tour bus getting my makeup done for Halloween,” Slims says. “I’m like, ‘Dude, I’m finna get some blood, get this half-face done,’ some crazy shit. He’s like, “Bruh, you really trippin’. It’s just Portland.’ I’m like, ‘No, it’s Halloween!’ Then he comes out with this crazy mask, I’m like, ‘What the hell?’ He’s like, ‘Oh yeah, I didn’t tell you I was going to do that.’ So we got glowsticks and we’re moshing in the crowd. DJ’s going up. Next thing you know, he fucking crowd-surfs. It was crazy. I wanted to crowd-surf so bad but I had on a skirt. The crowd was just flying him left and right, it was lit.”
As for Slims, all her hard work and endless hours in the studio is leading up to her forthcoming debut titled Runway Rapper.
“So Naomi Campbell … Runway Rapper. The Rapper part is my lyricism and all that extra shit, but the Runway part is kind of my model-esque side. ’Cause I photograph very well. I’ve landed campaigns this year with Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger. It’s like an alter ego. It’s feminine, then boom! Hard bars. I appreciate all the brands rocking with me right now. I appreciate the artsy side of things that I’m doing. For me, making hip-hop is my art but also the story within it.”
With features from 24Hrs, MadeinTYO, Slim Jxmmi, Problem, Kap G and Ty Dolla $ign, Runway Rapper will lay it all down for the people who didn’t know Slims from her mixtape days.
“I have so much,” she says. “I built my own world and have my own aesthetic I stick to. Apart from the fashion and the weirdness that goes on around me visually, I’ve been through so many different situations that a lot of girls can be like, ‘Damn, I went through that, too.’ Even having my parents — I’m Muslim. Growing up, hip-hop wasn’t a thing. It was a binge to go and listen to these artists. Being a girl from the ghetto, whose parents are immigrants and having to deal with so many things in the ’hood, it’s a story within a story, within a story.
“Even if I don’t showcase that online — because of the world I’m in — it’s all in the music. I want people to take from the story. I have so many messages and positive energy I want to give off to women,” Slims adds. “Especially right now, a lot of women are very insecure about things. They want to do certain things, everybody is for somebody, this person might not like this artist because they haven’t been through that. I want people to take in the message and positivity that comes from my music and bring it into their lives.”
Another thing very dear to Slims is her stance on female empowerment, which is driven and fueled by her father’s journey being locked up under a dictatorship in Gambia.
“My dad just came home from prison,” Slims says. “We had a president who was a super dictator, my dad was working with him on a business. He had a nightclub and recording studio in a mall in Gambia. He was such a dictator, he didn’t even want to see anyone else’s success come out of it. ‘You stole money, you did this and that.’ My dad came out of that whole thing recently, it’s been four or five years.
“We finally got the dictator gone for good. They’ve been having military coups planned for him for two to 14 years, trying to figure it out. My dad’s finally home. He got his properties back and everything. He keeps me going and motivated. To see his success and everything he did for Gambia motivates me to keep going as an artist. I could’ve been born in Gambia and not have as many opportunities, but being born here in America, that keeps me going. Just follow the dream at the end of the day.”
This ties right into her artistry, proud and confident to represent for all females in the rap game. She says, “I love women in hip-hop right now. Women in hip-hop are killing shit. Even if it’s not on a big platform, it’s definitely being shown. My girl Megan Thee Stallion is killing it. Maliibu Miitch, Dreezy, Tink, Kamaiyah, to name a few. Women are really killing it. Cardi B. LightSkinKeisha, can’t forget her. I used to feel like, ‘Oh there could only be one,’ but now, so many women are telling their stories in different ways and showcasing bars. I love it. The dudes stick together, we need to stick together too. Do songs with each other and just blow shit up.”
With Runway Rapper dropping any day now, Salma leaves us with some words of wisdom for anyone aspiring to follow in her footsteps.
“Just stay true to yourself,” she says. “Remember you have to put your foot on their necks at all times. You have to kill it. If it’s really what you want to do, always stay passionate. Stick to your art, your creative vision. Always have your eye on the prize. Don’t doubt yourself. Self-doubt destroys you. You gotta have confidence and be able to just keep going. Don’t worry what other people have to say or the anxieties in your head. Everyone holds themselves back because they feel they can’t, or they want to get further but don’t know how. You got to be vocal, that’s the main thing.”