Friday, May 27, 2011

Sied Chahrour: Strict Flow to Slimmie Hendrix

Sied Chahrour - Pittsburgh Slim

He started out as Sied Chahrour, became Pittsburgh Slim, and now is Slimmie Hendrix. No matter what name you know him by, he was among the first local rappers to sign with a major label, Def Jam (late 2007), a few months after Wiz Khalifa hooked up with Warner Brothers. (Note - that's to best of Old Mon's knowledge; give us a yell if someone preceded them.)

Chahrour (he's half Algerian, half Mexican) was born and raised in the Greenfield, and starting getting into music when he entered Allderdice High in 1993 (he graduated in 1997).

Slim got his start playing guitar in rock bands (he was a fan of Nirvana, Jesus Lizard and Sonic Youth) while on the dual track of rapping. Charour struck gold when he became part of the underground rap crew Strict Flow in 1996, along Masai Turner (Formula 412), Chad Glick (former manager of Wiz Khalifa, ID Labs Management), and Eric Dan (co-owner of ID Labs).

The group signed with indie label Raw Shack in 1999, and released "People On Lock." Their debut album, "Homegrown," sold over 6,000 copies, a big number for a Pittsburgh hip hop group during the City's rap stone ages.

Strict Flow opened local stages for visiting national acts like Nelly, Jurassic 5, Usher, Nas, The Roots, Ludacris, Ja Rule and 50 Cent as they rapped their way to becoming the urban alpha dog of Pittsburgh promoters. They released a second album, "Without Further Ado," in 2003. That would be the final hurrah, though - the band broke up after the album release.

Within a couple of years, Chahrour was ready for greener pastures and he headed west - way west, to LA. He spent a couple of years with a day job of waiting on tables, while working to establish himself in the very competitive West Coast urban music scene. But it was basically good times and good vibes as he took to LA, both personally and professionally, with side trips to NYC.

Sied had a mind worm - "I like girls who kiss girls" (hey, it was LA) - and created a song around that line. He hooked up with old Jay-Z producer David "Ski Beatz" Willis, got Penthouse girl Krista Ayne to slink around an "American Pie" inspired clip, and one of 2007's hottest YouTube viral vids, "Girls Kiss Girls," was born.

DJ Bonics of KISS-FM broke the song; he knew Sied from his Strict Flow days, and gave the well-hooked tune a few spins at night. The request line backed up with calls for Slim, and "Girls Kiss Girls" hit the station's rotation. Eventually the catchy tune spread to the big national broadcasters, and Pittsburgh Slim (the name was inspired by Jay-Z songs "So Ghetto" and "Kingdom Come," where he dropped lines about Iceberg Slim) was on the map.

By his count, he had 11 different record deals offered to him, three from majors. But he wanted more than a one-shot contract, waited the process out, and finally after an interview with Jay-Z, Def Jam Records gave him that deal. He got a five-album agreement, and released his solo, seven-track debut "Tastemaker" in December 2007.

All that work about securing a long-term deal ended up for naught; Pittsburgh Slim and Def Jam parted ways in 2008 without so much as a second release after the guy who brought him aboard, Jay-Z, left the label. Chahrour left, too, of his own volition. He felt that Jay-Z's team had a plan and vision for him, but the label itself didn't. So Slim has been on the indie trail since.

Def Jam held on to him just long enough to quiet his buzz; Slim runs the very real risk that "Girls Kiss Girls" was enough of a novelty song, like "The Rapper" was to the Jaggerz, to throw up a roadblock as he heads down the road.

As an independent, he released the single/vid "My Bitch is Crazy," from "The Bleeding" movie soundtrack and sold it through iTunes. Ditto for his mixtape "Nolita Nights," which was released in August, 2009. Both featured the rock/rap, dirty synth, electro sound associated with clubby house music, a great dance format for Slim's good-time party sound but not so popular on radio stations.

Just this year, Slim joined Snowballers Entertainment, a new record label founded by noted music video director Ray Kay. The two should have a synergy; Slim's work has translated well to vid formats, and Kay knows how to build a successful vid brick by brick. They've just released his first Snowballers single, "Stuntman," and recently finished shooting the vid, which should be out soon.

To mark his new beginning, Chahrour dropped the Pittsburgh Slim nom d' art and became Slimmie Hendrix. We'll see how this marriage works.

"First Date" - Pittsburgh Slim from "Tastemaker"

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