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SLIM THUG The king of the Northside, Stayve Jerome Thomas, has performed as Slim Thug for more than 20 years. A DIY hustler who rose to fame selling underground mix tapes on the streets of Houston, he's an icon in the city's commercial peak of the early aughts; today, he's a living embodiment of aging gracefully in hip hop, who still releases music to a dedicated group of fans. Slim Thug's legacy is cemented on arguably the best rap song to ever come out of Houston: "Still Tippin'," released alongside fellow Houstonian Mike Jones. This Swisha House alum, as well as official associate to the legendary Screwed Up Click (S.U.C.) — the collective that put Houston rap on the map in the '90s — Thug's prominence has never dimmed even after his commercial peak, due to his shrewd entrepreneurial spirit. These savvy business talents include going independent in order to own his own masters and self-publishing a book in 2012 about personal finance. More recently, his Boss Life Construction company builds low-income houses in neighborhoods including Acres Homes to prevent the slow creep of gentrification. On Pam's portrait sessions. Slim Thug: For the most part, we've been doing photo sessions for 20 years, so it's a constant thing we do. [But] I remember Pam. She was a good photographer, and her being cool with the process, and then seeing the pictures after, was dope. I just fell back and let Pam take the lead. Were you famous yet when Pam photographed you? ST: I was underground. I was doing local music, I started doing that back in 1998. I started on underground mix tapes, rapping on other people's beats. Around that time is when we started rolling up more, getting more nationwide success. Later, around '03/'04 is when I ended up signing with Pharrell and putting out my first real album, Already Platinum, to nationwide success. Same thing, '03/'04 is when "Still Tippin'" dropped, which is like my biggest song. It took Houston to the next level, basically. BUN B Bernard James Freeman — also known as Bun B, one half of legendary Texas rap duo UGK (Underground Kingz) — has a hand in one of the most important legacies in Southern music. Hailing from Port Arthur, UGK found acclaim in the '90s as one of the most successful rap groups of all time, with Houston eventually claiming the duo as an important piece of the city's cultural tapestry. Their seminal album, 1996's Ridin' Dirty, celebrates 25 years as a hip-hop classic. His musical partner, Chad Butler (aka Pimp C), self-produced a bulk of UGK's music using live instrumentation, creating a new sub-genre he lovingly dubbed "country rap tunes." Infusing elements of Nashville country and blues, rock, jazz, and zydeco, their innovation, influence, and legacy cannot be overstated. Aside from being one of hip hop's most skilled lyricists, Bun B has worn many hats after earning immortality with his run in UGK, which officially ended when Pimp C passed away in 2007. Bun has moonlighted as the maestro for one night with the Houston Symphony, taught a class on hip hop and spirituality at Rice University, became an ambassador for racial justice after the 2020 murder of George Floyd, to more recently entering Houston's food scene with Trill Burgers. Thoughts after Christine Starkman shared Pam's images with you. Bun B: You know, it captures an aesthetic, right? It captures, as far as hip hop is concerned, a forgotten era. A lot of these guys were very new to the industry, very new to making music. And now, they're all considered veterans, right? Seasoned veterans, at that. So it's very interesting how the photos kind of capture those moments in time. And that's the beauty of photography: You go back, you look at a photo, and it takes you back to that time. To that moment. You start to remember things that you've forgotten as you've gotten older, as time goes by. On Pam's portrait sessions. BB: She was very easy to work with. She was not an intrusive photographer. She was not overbearing; she was not aggressive. She had an idea of what she wanted to do, but she was definitely open for collaboration. Sometimes Pam Francis' Lil' Flip, 2001 Pam Francis' Destiny's Child, Kelly Rowland, Beyoncé Knowles-Carter, Michelle Williams, 2001 (Continued) 53

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