There is something unsettling about a beloved celebrity contracting COVID-19. While not as close to our hearts as a family member or friend, the connection we feel to celebrities makes the news of their contracting the virus hit close to home far more than the growing number of infections regularly flashing across our screens.
Such was the case for many Houstonians upon hearing the news that Slim Thug had the dreaded rona. The iconic rapper was the first Hustletown figure to be publicly identified as having contracted the disease, followed closely by fellow rapper and former Geto Boy, Scarface. News of their two cases made the once foreign pandemic a sudden and discomforting reality for thousands in the Houston area.
Luckily for Slim and his fans, he is now doing much better, well into recovery after a relatively mild case and fueled by the success of his newest album, Thug Life.
“Everybody is taking L’s right now,” the Boss Hogg of the Nawf says with a laugh and a hint of sincere concern when asked about the state of hip-hop and art in general. “If it’s a hurricane and it hits Houston, the rest of the world will be okay, and they can help us. But everyone in the world is taking an L right now.”
The former Swishahouse member isn’t sure exactly when or where he contracted the disease, saying his busy travel schedule has already taken him all around the world this year, including to Las Vegas and the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, which both had reported cases of COVID-19.“I don’t know when I first got symptoms,” he says. “I had a fever and a slight headache last weekend, that’s what made me want to go see my doctor.”
According to Slim, his personal doctor was able to provide a 24-hour test, much better than the seven to eight days some patients have waited after visiting drive-thru testing sites. He says he worries that people haven’t been taking the disease seriously but feels that is changing now as economic effects become more widespread. “It had to hit them in the pocketbooks,” he says.
When asked about community effects of a pandemic like this, especially on low income minority communities, Slim expressed concern about the number of uninsured Americans. “I think we need to be like Canada and have free healthcare. Everyone should be able to go to the doctor if they’re sick. If we want to count ourselves as the best country, it should be like that. It shouldn't be about the dollar when your life's on the line.”
Searching for a silver lining, Slim hopes the ongoing pandemic will encourage some to take access to healthcare more seriously in the future. “Maybe that could turn this tragedy into something that makes sense,” he says, “something that was good. I just think that’s necessary.”
Looking past this health scare, Slim recently launched his first multi-track release since last year’s King of the Nawf. An album made and named in honor of Tupac Shakur, Thug Life dropped on all platforms just days after he announced his diagnosis on social media. “I wanted to do a real project. I do a lot of, ‘oh my car this, my jewelry this,’ and I just wanted to balance it out.”
Conscious of the ironic timing, considering his brush with mortality, Slim feels the project’s levity and thematic depth are appropriate given the state of the world. In particular, he points to the album’s first single, “This World,” which explores the sometimes-chaotic state of affairs we’re all living in. “I wanted to do something more serious for the fans to play when they’re going through something.”
For what it’s worth, Slim is certain the overwhelming encouragement he’s received since its release played a critical role in his recovery. “I’m so thankful that the people are giving me so much good feedback off of this album. I've been getting so much love off of this. It really probably helped me heal.”