Today’s eclectic music landscape is brimming with artists keen to figure out where or how they fit in, but singer-rapper Salma Slims is unlike the rest—she was born to stand out. Her laid back demeanor and magnetic charisma lends an elegant strut to her bravado: “I be too much in my bag, that’s why they be all in my lane,” she rhymes on her latest single, “Nobody.” Salma has an admirable grit which has seen her go from broke and unemployed to First Lady of Private Club Records. After taking some time to reflect and hone her craft, the songstress is back with a fresh sound that boasts an air of audacity, authenticity and unapologetic, filter-free femininity.
Premiering exclusively on NYLON, the visuals for “Nobody” have dropped today. We caught up with Salma to talk about her journey to self-awareness, venturing into the fashion realm, and the resilience it took to get her to where she is now.
When did you realize you had a passion for music?
I first got into music when I was in high school where I’d freestyle with all the guys at the lunch table. I grew up listening to Lil' Kim and TLC, they were my main influences, but my family is Muslim so my mother didn’t want me to listen to music at the time. So I’d rap over beats instead, and got so good at it that eventually it became a competition between me and the boys. I’d go to school ready to rap. That’s when I knew this wasn’t a game, that it was something I really wanted to pursue.
How did you get involved with Private Club Records?
I ended up in a girl group during high school but then when I decide to go solo, I was dating Royce Rizzy (who now goes by 24hrs), who’s on the Private Club roster. One day, madeintyo was like, “Yo, you should be the First Lady of our collective.” The whole crew recognized my potential and I was already performing quite a bit in Atlanta at the time, spending a lot of time with the guys, so it just made sense for me to sign to the label.
The music you’ve put out this year so far feels more personal, more introspective, than your previous work. What prompted this change in direction?
The last project I put out was pretty aggressive and arrogant. That side of me definitely exists, but there’s a lot more to me that I wasn’t letting anyone see. As an artist, I want to be as authentic as possible, so I took some time to get in touch with my feelings and process what I was going through. For a while, I felt like I was in the shadows, I felt left out of this male-dominated industry and social media made me think I was falling behind, unable to keep up with these other artists who were killing it. Every day people wake up, check Instagram, and experience those emotions in some way, so I wanted to address that. I’m a lot more in touch with my emotional side on my new project and I feel like it’ll resonate with young women who struggle with self-confidence and feeling left out.
The fast-paced nature of the industry right now doesn’t help; it feels like artists drop new music every Friday.
Exactly, and that adds pressure in a way, because I want to establish myself in the industry and show the world what I can do. But I also want to make sure I’m producing quality work at a consistent pace, I don’t want to rush it. I’m in the studio every day and have a ton of songs that people haven’t heard yet, so when I see artists dropping new tracks every week, I feel an urge to leak my songs on Snapchat so that I can keep up. It takes a lot of discipline to be patient and stay committed to perfecting your craft before sharing it with others.
How did you take care of yourself when those feelings of being left out took over?
I had to take a step back from being in everyone’s face. I focused on myself, on my life, and on how I really wanted my music to sound. Being around all these artists it’s easy to get consumed by what they’re doing, so I had to make myself the priority for once and figure out the kind of person I really was, at the core. Once I did the inner work, it just poured into the music.
What do you turn to when you’re struggling to find motivation to do that inner work or to work on your music?
I turn to my past and to those around me. I reflect on tough moments—usually on one particular point in my life when I had nothing, was working two jobs and sleeping in my car—and remind myself of how far I’ve come. And then I look at my dad, who got out of prison last year after being locked up for five years in Gambia. The political situation in the country wasn’t ideal for a successful businessman like my dad, so they put him away. The fact that he held onto his faith and never gave up on life keeps me going to this day. I’m also constantly motivated by my team at Private Club Records: Both madeintyo and 24hrs are platinum-selling artists so I bust my ass off every day to get to their level.
Your latest single, “Nobody,” is out now along with some stunning visuals. How did the concept for the song and the video come about?
Tish Hyman helped me write the record; she’s a dope songwriter and has written some of my favorite songs ever. The song is for all women who are out here trying to steal your man! In all seriousness, I just looked around and saw so many women chasing after men for their money. On the track I say, “I see a king but she just see a money stipend/She don’t know you she can’t love you like I.” I’m referring to all the groupies who see all the glitz and glam at the club and want to be around us. But they don’t know what it really takes to get to the money!
Growing up in Atlanta, skating was one of my main hobbies—me and my girls used to go to the skating rink after school at least once a week. It had been a while since I got on skates but as soon as I did, I felt this overwhelming sense of joy and I knew I wanted to capture that feeling for this video. The song itself has a fun vibe to it and since summer is almost over, I wanted to hold onto that summer spirit. While we were recording, I was having so much fun skating around the whole of Venice Beach singing the song that my director was struggling to keep up with me!
Earlier this year you were involved with Tommy Hilfiger’s SS18 capsule collection campaign. Is fashion something you want to explore further?
One of my goals is to gain recognition not only as a rapper but also as a model. I’ve always been into fashion, even when I couldn’t afford it! I used to look up my favorite fashion icons—people like A$AP Rocky, Rihanna and Tyra Banks—and try to imitate their looks using stuff I’d find at thrift stores. Last year I made an effort to do photoshoots damn near every day and post shots on Instagram, and I guess it paid off because Tommy’s team ended up scouting me through there! Working with them was amazing, the whole staff was very supportive of me and my music. To be part of something as big as Tommy Hilfiger was a dream come true. I’d love to continue working with reputable brands and one day walk on different fashion runways. I think I’m off to a good start!