Hedi Slimane’s Rap Diary

The rap game’s top players are finessing their lyrical power as they level up for the future


This story appears in V135: now available for purchase!



“Being an independent artist has been the most challenging, yet most rewarding, aspect of my career so far. There isn’t a blueprint for how to be a successful, independent artist. It takes a lot of trial and error. It takes a lot of self-confidence, reassurance, and resources. You’re often looking at the music industry from the outside, even though you’re living, creating, and working within it. Ultimately, I know there is nothing more important to me, as a person and creator, than maintaining my independence and freedom to do what I want, when I want. So, no matter how difficult it gets, being independent feels like the right way to move. And this year, I’m looking forward to casting a wider creative net. For a long time, I’ve felt boxed into being a rapper and only that. But now I’m embracing my other sides, like acting, producing, modeling. I’m moving with more intention and trusting where the universe takes me.”

TRACK TO HEAR: “Freeze (feat. Ymtk & Amal Marie)”





“I grew up in the Bronx’s Edenwald projects and it gave me all my sauce. You hear that in my flow, my cadence, and the versatility when I spit. A lot of my music is based on my real-life experiences, which I think resonates with people most. I tend to draw from all the New York greats, like Jay-Z, Biggie, Nas, and Fabolous. But my introduction to hip-hop and early influences were those strong women in rap. Lil’ Kim, Foxy Brown, and Eve. They all embodied that raw New York edge and had killer senses of fashion. They understood how to balance playfulness and sexiness but still rhyme as hard as the guys. Like them, I try to bring all those elements to my music. I feel like the future of hip-hop is bright because of constant evolution, rappers will continue to thrive and push the culture forward. In the past, brands and organizations didn’t want to associate with us. Now hip-hop is the soundtrack for your favorite shows, commercials, and video games.”

TRACK TO HEAR: “You Know My Body” ft. Capella Grey





“I never tried to break into this industry. I tried to break into [the fans’] hearts, and I figured they’ll get me to where I needed to be. St. Louis is embedded into who I am, it definitely plays a role in me keeping things ghetto. Like, even if it’s a beautiful [song], I have to say some ghetto shit. One of my biggest influences is my father, he put me on to everything that I’m into musically. I think because I’m such an old soul, I incorporate the past along with what’s current, which gives me a futuristic sound somehow. My forthcoming album is called Luv 4 Rent, and I’m exploring the love I have for my vices, the love I have for my family, the love I have for the bullshit and toxicity. All those things, any type of love, and all types of love. Beyond the album I’m about to put out, I have a TV show [I’m working on], I want to act, and I’m working on my fashion shit more. Above all, I want to give back to my community by opening up a community arts center for the kids in St. Louis, because they lost a bunch of the art programs and after-school programs.”

TRACK TO HEAR: “I Deserve”





“I cut my first record some time in 2011. I was fresh out of high school and ready to start life. It was the height of the YouTube era and I remember looking up my favorite songs to find the instrumentals and then just writing. This was way before I found my sound, so I would just write to any beat I could find, that’s how it all started. I grew up in Irvington, NJ, which is right next door to Newark, the home of Jersey club music. Both of my parents were DJs, so I always heard house music or club music at home. Jersey club music is still considered an underground genre, which is one of the reasons why I am doing music now, pushing the club narrative mainstream. Missy Elliot definitely inspired me to be different. From her beat selection to her music videos, one thing I learned from her craft is that people may not understand it now, but in time they will. Be yourself and you’ll be a genius ahead of your time. Missy’s videos can still be watched today and feel current…that’s the impact I want to have.”

TRACK TO HEAR: “Violin” ft. Dear Silas





“I broke through because I can truly rap. Everything I write and talk about, I’ve lived. I sadly lost my brother at an early age, and it fueled me, to block out any chatter that wasn’t going to be beneficial to my career. I hope that I’ve inspired the next generation to be bold, to take chances, and not conform to what the industry may want you to be. I’ve been doing this independently from day one, which makes the successes that much more gratifying. Today, artists are bending the genre, whether it be based on your region, or even a sound that is trending. I personally like evolution. I love how artists can break without needing a machine. A gatekeeper could be a 13-year-old kid with a lit Spotify playlist. The playing field has been leveled so more artists can explore unique sounds that aren’t manufactured from old-school A&R tactics.”






“I grew up watching my great-grandparents. My granny sang in church and my granddad managed a gospel group, which also included my grandmother. They were my first teachers [of music]. My first time cutting a record was in my cousin’s makeshift studio in Newport News, Virginia. The restroom was the recording booth and the song was called “G-Town”—we were just some broke little kids with big dreams of making it. Whatever the struggles were [back then], they didn’t stop me. It only contributed to my durability. Hardships and no’s never scared me—they just made me go harder. [For 2022, I want] to grow in mindfulness, get money, and give back. And yes, there will always be new music on the way.”

TRACK TO HEAR: “Chitty Bang”


This story appears in V135: now available for purchase!

Discover More