Artist Spotlight: Slim Papi [Video]

We connect with one of underground UK hip-hop’s most interesting names, Slim Papi, to discuss wine, food, artistic growth and collaborations.

Please introduce yourself, who is Slim Papi? 

I’m Noonian Soon aka Slim Papi, writer, rapper, producer and wine-importer.  

I really appreciate you linking like this; why does now feel like the right time to drop and grow your  music?  

Sometimes you can sit on different ideas for a while and I think the thing I learnt is there’s no point  just having it sat there on your laptop. I’ve got collabs on there that I wish I’d dropped at the time cause now it’d be out there but you know I kinda left it and now it’s too late. So just put it out there  and it will find its audience, I don’t think there’s any point holding anything back, especially in the streaming era.  

We had a taster for your sound in 2020 with Excellent Adventure, what changed between now and then that has led to the release of Chateauneuf-du-Papi and the singles that followed?  

So with the Chateauneuf-du-Papi projects the vinyl manufacturing takes what seems like an eternity  sometimes, they take about four months. I originally made Chateauneuf-du-Papi as an 11-track  album, and I thought if I just release that people will only hear bits of it, not all 11 tracks. So I figured  let me break it up and release them all as singles, with the stronger ones as we go, then to press  them into vinyl for people to buy. So Chateauneuf-du-Papi Vol 1 and Vol 2 were all written largely  around the same time.  

How has where you have grown up affected your music, and what influences do you hold closest? 

When I read that question kinda two things came to mind. You know Steely Dan? They were a yacht  rock group from the 70’s and the guy had a lyric like “I recall when I was small, I spent my days alone.  I will climb the garden wall and find a world my own”. I suppose what I found in rap was somewhere  to make sense of myself and the world around me as a kid that I don’t think I was getting from school  or home life really. I was talking to my friend yesterday Murkage Dave, and I was like when I was back  home I came out the shop and saw a guy that was my homie growing up bothering old ladies for 20p  because he’s a junkie now, and he (Murkage Dave) said “that’s the type of stuff you should talk about  in your music”. So I think Slim Papi as a vessel is kinda escapism, a lot of Chateauneuf-du-Papi was  written and recorded during lockdown and I think that was (me) pining for travel, for catching a fish  on a boat and cooking it on the beach. The way I frame it now Chateauneuf-du-Papi is like the  vineyard and I’m writing from the vineyard, whereas the new stuff I’m working on has been whilst  I’m travelling so it sounds a bit different.  

The artists that I look to that helped me with self-discovery and gave me knowledge of self was A Tribe Called Quest, MF DOOM, Mos Def the likes of Sean P. I made music under different aliases and  that wasn’t me rapping, whereas this is more, going back to the music I loved growing up. I don’t  know how articulate an answer that is, but… 

Would you say this is more you rapping then?  

You know what it is, there’s a lyric I’ve got “Slim Paps, I’m living everything that I’m spitting – cool  chillin’”, but you know like it’s celebratory, almost – I don’t include the lows. I’ve got a track which is  less ‘Slim Papi’, it’s not so luxurious and flamboyant, there’s some more personal truths in it, there’s some stuff that wasn’t so great like potwashing in a kitchen which isn’t very Slim Papi, or losing friends to drugs, and you know I guess so far I have kept that separate from the Slim Papi world. I’ve  got maybe two songs I’d say where I’ve managed to be personal in an un-corny way, but that’s still  something I’ve gotta figure out how to do, whereas with Slim Papi I have licence to be more carte  blanche and have a bit of fun.  

Now the features are initially what drew me to you, the ones in question being Sonnyjim, Forest  DLG and Jam Baxter, can you tell us a bit about how these materialised?  

Totally man. I’ve known Sonny for a long time, but hadn’t really been up to date on the stuff he’d been making. The Purist is a dear friend of mine and we kinda bounce ideas off each other you know on Whatsapp, and for Emidio Pepe he was like “you need Sonny on this” and he plugged me in with Sonny. When I lived in the UK I lived close to him so just drove down there and he patterned me a  verse and hooked me up with some beats at the same time, that’s how ‘Harry Dean Stanton’ came  about, that’s produced by Sonny.  

Baxter is my cousin. So we did that (Cosmo Kramer) around the same time as Excellent Adventure (2020), and what I like about that is that it’s not a beat you’d usually hear Baxter on. But  it was supposed to be for his record, so that’s why it wasn’t on ‘Excellent Adventure’, and then he  was like it doesn’t really fit on whatever project it was so yeah it went on my thing – which is why he  does the hook, so I literally just have the verse.  

Yeah Chemo man (Forest DLG) that’s the homie man. He’s a few years older than me but when we were much younger he gave me a job when I was at college engineering in his studio – so that’s how I  knew all those guys. He has a refined palate too, he loves food and wine in a way most people in rap  music don’t you know, so we get together and yeah work together too, but he blessed me man with  that joint… I’ve got these files, this makes me want to find them now, he used to do these snippet tapes back in like 2007 on MySpace, bangers, like I would rap to that shit now- crazy sample joints and that, yeah he’s crazy.  

You are both emcee and producer, give us an insight into creative process, do the words follow the  beats, and are these bars you have been sitting on for a while?  

So I usually write to the beat. When I’m making the beat like bars or a flow will come to me and I  kinda build it out and if it inspires me to write a whole song then I might. Sometime I’ll end up with  a few couplets that I like and I’ll liberate them from a track that didn’t make the cut to help finish  another. Like ‘Asparagus Tips’ I definitely did that on, and that’s the thing I’m not writing songs really  about anything- just stream of consciousness, fly shit.  

On this same point, which came first? Producing or writing and how/ when did it begin?  

I suppose at school I was rapping, then I got into making beats at college, so technically rapping came  first but I’d say people probably know me as a producer in the industry as I’ve been producing  professionally, for want of a better word, for a lot longer.  

It’s weird I didn’t like wake up like I’m a rapper, or even now I don’t see myself as a rapper, like I’m tryna write shit that Stevie Wonder would… like my voice I use for rapping, but I think if I wasn’t making a beat, I wouldn’t think “let’s me make a rap song.”  

The lexis, if you don’t mind me saying, definitely has gastro, or food/ drink based connotations and  topics, having worked behind a bar for many years I appreciate these. How has your drink and cuisine knowledge come about, did you work in a fine dining restaurant?

I have not worked in a fine dining restaurant, but when I was much younger I worked in a  delicatessen which kinda put me onto cheese and wines. It’s only now when I think back I probably  attribute a lot of my tastes to that experience. I worked in a lot of kitchens, but at the time couldn’t  wait to get out of them, now I kinda miss it – the camaraderie. Then I guess I always felt like there  was a bit of a class boundary with the nouvelle, gourmet cuisine so once I started to get money I  made a point about going to those places and not being ashamed of myself like showing up in a  fitted like “I’m eating here too”. In my track Steve Buscemi there’s a bar, “mistook the eggs roe for  pomegranate” and like that happened but I feel like, with food and wine, there’s no stupid questions.  Like I hope there won’t ever be a point where I like at a menu and am not curious about a word I  don’t recognise, I always want there to be stuff I haven’t eaten you know, or that I don’t know what it  is and have to google.  

I was locked down with a friend who’s Dad has a vineyard so I was learning the process of making  wine there. Now since I’ve been here in Portugal we’re making a new batch with my friend and I’m  learning different techniques, he’s from Georgian descent so they use terracotta and stuff so it’s  different. I’m fortunate that the people I’ve met in wine, like their background and age is irrelevant  cause they wanna get to know you. When you’re young and you’re in creative industries you think  you’ll find your misfit family, unfortunately I found that wasn’t really the case and especially in  London people are ‘too cool for school’ and only care how can you can help them. Whereas in wine  someone will be like you must go meet so and so and then I’ll be in rural France having dinner with  some 70 year old man who’s never met me, who I can do nothing for, but in that kinda food and wine  niche people share knowledge a lot, there’s no like gatekeeping.  

Slightly irrelevant, what goes in your Pisco Sour?  

I like the Peruvian Pisco Sour rather than the Chilean one, you know they beef over whose national  drink it is. You gotta have the lime, egg white, Pisco and simple syrup. What goes in your Pisco Sour?  

We have a nice Peruvian Elderflower one with St Germaine, very nice.  

How does Slim Papi view the hip-hop/ rap scene in London verses the rest of the country?  

I’m not really sure how to answer that. In London I like Wu-Lu, George Riley who’s a singer… I’m  working a lot with a producer called K-Nite 13 and members of the band Lunch Money Life. I like  Murkage Dave too, of course. I kinda look at British music as a whole country and what’s great about  UK rap is we have accepted accents. Look at Lee (Scott) and Blackhaine, that’s sick man.  

On a different note, any artist dead or alive you could perform/ create a track with, who and why?  

On a rap level, Sean P, MF DOOM and Prodigy. Slim P, Sean P and Prodigy over a DOOM beat, just so it’s the three P’s. I’d love to a project with Terrace Martin, Stevie Wonder, Herbie Hancock like cmon  are you crazy? Chick Corea, all them guys in the studio like cmon imagine that, Bootsy Collins… and  Dre on production. Imagine that.  

He flicks through a collection of vinyl he acquired during his time in Brazil, one of which being Chick  Correa.  

This is my whole bag man, just listening to records and flipping samples all the time, but where my  head is at right now is trying to go back to drums and playing synths, like playing my own  instrumentation. I’m trying to bring something new and funky to each project. 

Any live shows in the works?  

I wanna do something super low key in like a winery or food establishment where you can get a bite to eat and a nice glass of wine and you’re not drinking a flat pint, cause that’s not really the Slim Papi  vibe. But yeah I would like to before the year’s out, hopefully put something on in London in October/November time but we’ll see.

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