┬áIn 1999 Houston rappers E.S.G. and Slim Thug set out to put the ongoing rivalry between South- and Northside behind their city when they collaborated on “Braids n’ Fades,” the title designating the division by preferred haircuts (braids = North, fades = South). After the song was met with a strong response, the two teamed up a year later for “Grippin’ Grain.” At the time E.S.G., a veteran of the H-Town scene, was signed to Wreckshop Records, while Slim Thug was a freshman at Michael Watts’ up-and-coming Swishahouse. Convinced of their chemistry, they decided to put out a full album on their newly established label in 2002.

S-E-S Entertainment stood for Slim Thug, E.S.G. and SIN, the latter being the album’s main producer. “Boss Hogg Outlaws” was a focused record, featuring both rappers on all tracks with only a few guests. Its inoffensive subject matter and solid production indicated that S-E-S purposely intended to deliver something for the people. Nevertheless, the first couple of tracks also suggest that each rapper followed the urge to be his own master. As Thug declared in his very first verse:

“Got smart, left the House just so I could be boss
I wasn’t hatin’, I just know I can do what Watts do
Probably not when I chop and screw, but I can lead my own crew
Sign a contract with who? For what, and why?
I wanna be CEO and I got enough cash to try
If I fail oh well, I’m still gon’ make mail
cause tapes, CD’s and LP’s ain’t the only thing to sell
When niggas cappin’ don’t shut up – I can add to that
Not Lil’ Troy, but Slim Thug gon’ stay Sittin’ Fat”

Consequently, they literally appoint themselves to an executive position on “I’m the Boss” (“You can see E flow / just pay E the dough / cause he the CEO”), once more explaining what the Boss Hogg Outlaws are about, essentially portraying independent rap as a form of self-empowerment. With that point made, E and Slim are ready to revisit various staples of regional rap. Bun B assists them on a combination of late ’90s verbiage and early ’80s proto-boom bap, “Thug it Up” (sampling Malcolm McLaren’s “Hobo Scratch”), but it’s E.S.G. who delivers the stand-out verse:

“Now what’s up this year? Say the rap game changed
No more rappin’ ’bout cars and iced out chains?
Boys must be insane, real hustlers go and get it
How the hell you gon’ live it, money shorter than a midget
Better get some mo’ digits to talk about this
Know my cousin out in Cali C-walkin’ to this
East Coast to West, Midwest to Tex’
Independent Grammy nominated, now what’s next?
Dirty South gettin’ respect, we started them slangs
Screamin’, ‘Parking lot pimpin’!’, sippin syrup with bangs
Spit flames, candy paints, we ain’t new to this game
RIP to DJ Screw; this for the thug in you, mane”

Various tracks represent the Dirty Third, such as the Ruff Ryders-inspired “Dirty South” or the “Strawberry Letter 23”-sampling “Watch Out!” with the late HAWK. Lil’ Keke stars on the super fresh “Down Here,” and once again it’s not the guest but one of the hosts who drops the quotable, this time Slim Thug, as he takes a cue from Big L’s “Ebonics”:

“I’m from the city of sippers, woodgrain wheel grippers
Kilo shippers, candy-coat car flippers
We ride 4’s and vogues, with a mouth full of golds
Country niggas and hoes, down here is how we roll
When somethin’ tight it’s thoed, when we shine we hold
You got cash, cars and clothes? You ballin’ outta control
Switchin’ lanes on swangin’ thangs? That’s called swang and bang
The club packed from front to back? That club off the chain
You got candy rims and beat, then you got you a SLAB
You cookin’ chickens in the kitchen, boy, you off in the lab
Boys that hustle, they grind, and if your diamonds shine you blind
You makin’ money lookin’ good, then you showin’ your behind
You blow Indo, that’s do-do, screwed up means slow-mo
You ride big body Benz, you ridin’ big body fo’ do’
Fa sho tho, you know how that Texas talk
I’m tryin’ to stack my green – I mean fill up my vault”

A notable feature of “Boss Hogg Outlaws” is the attention paid to flows and hooks. “Mash For Our Cash” features an immensely infectious chorus that gives SIN’s West Coast bounce an additional boost, while on “Getchya Hands Up” the rappers effectively lay emphasis on producer Q-Stone’s organ stabs. Their voices prove to be a good contrast, Slim’s stern and steady flow acting as a counterpart to E’s melodically aggressive approach (with the occasional hint of Hot Boys influence). A special treat are the (rare) shared verses that really magnify the duo’s chemistry. The production provides them with both challenge and comfort. Check “Street Millionaire” with its absolutely sick SIN track and perfectly fitting Lil’ O cameo and tell me how the Houston scene could not raise to national prominence. (In Slim’s case, while already announced in the booklet, it would take three more years for “Already Platinum” to be released.)

As for the content, they’re so occupied with “makin’ money lookin’ good” that there’s little room for much else. Which isn’t bad per se since except for E firing a few shots in Lil’ Flip’s direction “Boss Hogg Outlaws” is a wholly peaceful affair. Still you’d expect tracks such as “Rollin'” or “Work That Thing” to cater more explicitly to the fair sex. “Murder Weapon,” supposed to serve as a warning to potential jackers, is more prone to start a party than spread fear. Other tracks are more congruent, like the summer jam “Ride With You” with Daz Dillinger or the Z-Ro-featuring finale “We Ain’t Trippin’ No Mo.”

The genre of CEO rap has somewhat of a bad rep (think Diddy, Baby, JD). “Boss Hogg Outlaws” partially rectifies that image because these two CEOs mainly want to be masters of their own fate. Ironically, they too see only the benefits and ignore the responsibilities that come with being boss, which has been one of the sources of people’s discontent with Western economy in the last ten plus years. Like all pieces of popular art, “Boss Hogg Outlaws” reflects a certain time, both on a more global scale and on the local level of Houston rap. While it remained a one-off project, the brand itself lived on with the Slim Thug-led Boss Hogg Outlawz, who are arguably more known than the Boss Hogg Outlaws duo consisting of E.S.G. and Slim Thug. Nevertheless this is an album worth going back to any time.

E.S.G. & Slim Thug :: Boss Hogg Outlaws
7.5Overall Score
Music7.5
Lyrics7.5