In a crew full of exuberant personalities hellbent on standing out, Archibald Slim stood out by not trying to stand out. Awful Records burst into the national spotlight in the mid-2010s with over a dozen members all over the artistic spectrum— from Father’s horny Casiocore to Abra’s goth pop to Zack Fox’s gonzo comedy to Playboi Carti’s embryonic Soundcloud rap. But the connecting thread was a wild, oddball spirit. Slim had none of that. While other members hogged the spotlight in the collective’s crowded music videos, he was always off to the side avoiding eye contact until it was time to actually rap.
Slim’s early music reflected this workmanlike attitude. Neither a motormouth nor a minimalist, a showboat nor a soft-spoken poet, he rapped with a clear understanding of the classics, the crew’s resident old soul. He was methodical, introspective, and painfully realistic, just as capable of conveying drama as he was the mundanity of the everyday struggle. He’d pair himself with Awful producers like KeithCharles Spacebar or Dexter Dukarus whose differing musical backgrounds would put his traditionalist sensibilities in conversation with the crew’s modernism, or else he’d produce for himself and showcase a keen ear for samples and grooves. Not as zeitgeist-y as Awful’s most visible output, Slim’s music was more unique for the personality behind it, a grounding, often crotchety presence in the group.
Between 2014 and 2016, Slim released an insane amount of material — 14 albums, tapes, EPs, and/or collaborative projects by my current count on his Soundcloud. In the last five years though, only two relatively short works, his three-song Veritas EP and the 6-track All About a Dollar collaboration with producer DMV Willie, have trickled out.
This week, he makes his long-awaited return with Fell Asleep Praying, which, despite the stellar quality of previous highlights like He’s Drunk! and Don’t Call the Cops, is the first Archibald Slim album that actually feels like an album. Credit the time spent laboring over it, as well as its arc. Slim introduces himself by saying he’s “been snitched on, turnt on, lied on,” and by the time he’s chanting “don’t tell me what I shoulda did, bitch today’s today” on the closer, he’s led us through the ups and downs of the realist philosophy he’s developed over the years. The music follows suit, starting with bleary cloud trap backdrops, ramping things up briefly before a mid-album foray into grim-as-fuck East Coast street rap, and then slowly transitioning from those bloodcurdling sounds into something similar but eerier than the first few tracks.
To find out where the hell Archibald Slim’s been the past five years, I caught up with him over the phone. We discussed his disdain for social media interaction, his change in approach to music, and his unique position within the Awful Records family. – Patrick Lyons
It’s been a long time man— I think the last time we spoke it was the beginning of 2015. So how are things with you?
Archibald Slim: Eh, it’s alright, can’t really say shit. It’s probably about the same for everybody, you can’t really do shit.
Where are you right now?
Archibald Slim: Atlanta. In 2018 I went to L.A. and came back to Atlanta last year. I always said I wouldn’t ever live out there but I ended up there by accident and just stayed. It was straight, but once COVID closed everything down and there wasn’t shit to do out there I had to come back. I probably wouldn’t live out there again for a minute.
How’s it been in Atlanta since you’ve been back during the pandemic?
Archibald Slim: It really don’t seem like the COVID shit happened out here, because they don’t close nothing down here. When that shit happened in L.A. they closed everything except the grocery store. I came back here, I’m scared to go do shit. N****s was just outside with no mask, in the bar. They’re like, “We not gonna close down ’til [Atlanta mayor] Keisha Lance Bottoms say we gotta close!” So that shit been open.
So you first sent me Fell Asleep Praying in February, and I think there are now a few new tracks and a few that aren’t on here anymore. Was that what delayed putting it out?
Archibald Slim: Nah, I already had all these songs. I was just overthinking it, for real. It ain’t no real reason. But I just got tired of hearing the same shit over and over, so I took two of ’em off. but it ain’t nothing that happened between now and then besides me fuckin’ around. I don’t know, the whole internet shit different, and I just was doin’ too much.
In what ways has that internet shit changed since back in 2014, 2015, when you were releasing stuff all the time?
Archibald Slim: Like, I ain’t even have an Instagram for real then. All I had was a Twitter. That was it. All this extra, TikTok and shit, I still don’t really fuck with. But I didn’t even have a fuckin’ iPhone until 2015. I still was barely on Twitter, and it was just ‘cuz it was there for people to see. But it’s too many people doing the same shit now, so you can’t just be like, ‘Oh, I’m dropping music!’ It takes too much— I guess you’d just call it social media interaction as a whole. I ain’t really an internet person. I was trying to figure out how I could do all that and not compromise, but I couldn’t figure it out so I just said fuck it and decided I was gonna put this out without doing all that.
Do you think it’s gotten more crowded with music since then, or is it that the type of online interactions you’re talking about has taken attention away from the music?
Archibald Slim: Both. Just the fact that somebody see somebody else do something and wanna do it. There’s just more ways to get recognized. People doing way more shit, and more people think they’re able to do it.
How long have you been working on the songs that show up on this album?
Archibald Slim: Probably two years, but I’ve been working on music the whole time. Not always specifically for any reason. I ain’t really decide I was gonna put nothing out until like, last year.
What ended up grouping this music together for this project, as opposed to other stuff you’d been working on?
Archibald Slim: So I used to just make all my own shit, so I’d make however many beats, take ten, then rap over it. But I ain’t really been making my own shit, so I’ve been having to get shit from different people. But I don’t know, it’s just the [songs] I really fuck with. Before this point in time, ‘cuz it’s still like five years of shit that I ain’t put out. It’s three projects I made before this one that didn’t make it out. So there’s still music I ain’t dropped that nobody’ll probably ever gon’ hear. I made Don’t Call the Cops II. I made one with Ethereal, he produced the whole shit. I made one that Fat[her] produced. None of these ever came out.
Is that because you didn’t think they were good enough to put out?
Archibald Slim: It’s been years at this point. I don’t even care to listen to them shits no more, so I ain’t even wanna put em out.
I know you’ve got Dexter [Dukarus] on a couple beats, and DMV Willie on at least one. What other producers are on the album?
Archibald Slim: The only other one on there that ain’t produced by them is the one I produced, “Reflection” with Chester Watson.
That song’s got a sound that I haven’t heard you do before. Some real grimy East Coast — have you made anything else in that vein?
Archibald Slim: Yeah, I just wasn’t trying to rap on it. I made a lot of shit like that, but I don’t know what made me rap on that one.
“Reflections” reminds me a bit of Roc Marciano, who I know you’re a fan of.
Archibald Slim: Yeah, it’s more so that type of shit than I guess what folks is listening to, like Young Thug, all that extra shit. I ain’t really been listening to none of that type of shit, I’ve just been on, like you said, Roc Marciano, Alchemist shit, Boldy James, Earl, Freddie Gibbs, Griselda, Stove God, Mach-Hommy. But I still listen to like Future, and Gucci, and Babyface Ray— that’s probably all else I been listening to.
I know you’ve said you were a big Mobb Deep fan, but what was it like growing up listening to that type of shit in the South?
Archibald Slim: Well I grew up in Maryland all through elementary school. The radio up there is different than the radio down south, like you can hear all that New York type shit up there. That’s when [Mobb Deep’s] “Quiet Storm” was out. My dad didn’t listen to nothin’ but Tupac and Biggie, but my whole family’s from the South so I still was listening to shit like Hot Boys, Mystikal, and Pastor Troy, and shit like that. So it was a mix.
Once you were living in Atlanta, starting to make music, did you feel like you were out-of-step with what was going on in the city?
Archibald Slim: I always listened to what I wanted to listen to and made what I wanted to make. I didn’t really pay too much attention to what everybody else was doing. So yeah, I was kind of out-of-step with what everybody else was doing, ‘cuz I wasn’t really trying to relate to nothin’ they were doin’. I used to go buy records and make beats on the MPC, so I’m making shit that sounds like Mobb Deep, Gang Starr, Premo, Common’s Resurrection— so that’s the type of shit I was making when people was coming up in Atlanta here. So I’m way, way different pace. I didn’t even start fucking with what nobody was listening to until like 2015. I was real out the loop.
So that coincided with hanging around the rest of Awful?
Archibald Slim: Yeah, being around more people [changed things]. ‘Cuz if I’m just in the house by myself I’m only gonna listen to what I want to hear. I started going out more and hearing different shit, being around different people. You can’t just say, ‘Ay, turn that shit off!’ in somebody else house.