“If You Know, You Know”: An Interview With Young Slo-Be

Yousef Srour speaks to Young Slo-Be about growing up in Stockton, his relationships with Bris and Drakeo the Ruler, finding his flow and more.
By    August 5, 2022

Image via Young Slo-Be/Instagram

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Yousef Srour will be broke if he goes to one more record store.

Young Slo-Be comes from the empty void that Americans know as Stockton, that is, if they know where Stockton even is. The city of 320,000 in California’s Central Valley was hailed by Forbes as “America’s Most Miserable City” in 2009 and 2011. The rapper born Disean Jaquae Victor, shrugs those descriptions off. He describes a city just like any other, with the caveat that its people refuse to enjoy themselves. He tells me: “When they put the real good shit for the city, we fuck it up.”

Empty politics and meaningless reform with no tangible effect on the streets fog local news with buzzwords like “Universal Basic Income” and “Public Subsidies,” but it’s all a façade. Slo-Be will tell you that, and so will any of his affiliates in EBK (aka EBK Hotboiiz). The city filed for bankruptcy in 2012 after scamming its people, and their solutions now involve a rebranding campaign that features the Stockton Flavor Fest.

Despite typical government dealings, Young Slo-Be cites Nightingale Avenue as the birthplace of a new era for Stockton. Stockton has never had its own rap success story, unlike its California counterparts in the Bay Area and Los Angeles; Slo-Be and the EBK Hotboiiz are the first of their kind.

Surrounded by music on both sides of his family, Young Slo-Be saw his uncle become a local musician legend in San Diego. His father rapped too. Neither made it past their respective cities, but Slo-Be got exposure to the love possible for successful artists, as well as a studio that he could fool around in. As a kid, he listened to Lil Bow Wow and Messy Marv, but he attributes the whisper flow to his mellow demeanor. Bris once told him, “You don’t look like you fuck with a lot of people,” and it’s fitting. As he smokes his blunt, Slo-Be keeps to himself, relaxed and speaking calmly.

In South Central, the late Drakeo the Ruler built his own coded vernacular, whispering accounts of “flu flamming” and “mud walkin” through Neimans, Barneys, and Saks. In Sacramento, the late Bris muttered his own lingo as well, telling tales of hitting the plug because he “needs hammy,” crowning himself the one-and-only “Tricky Dance Moves.” Young Slo-Be meets these two in the middle – both geographically and stylistically, as the soft-spoken Slo-Be Bryant.

From the first EBK Hotboiiz music video, “EBK Anthem” featuring Slo-Be and Skeammy Ru, there was instant camaraderie. If you watch the now-classic posse cut, there are at least fifteen people in the video hyping each rapper up – as well as Bris standing amongst the crowd to support his brothers. They boast about poles and money routes, but the most tantalizing phrase is their reference to “Nightinganistan” — the uniting 2100 block where they’ve faced economic inequality, street politics, and warfare.

The closing verse on the anthem goes to the oldest member of the crew, Young Slo-Be, impactful enough to where he uses the song as the closer for his first Slo-Be Bryant mixtape. Ever so melodious, his rhymes transform from a verse to a refrain, as if he can’t help but remind you of the block that raised him: 2-1-double-0. It’s not simply a motif in his music. He repeats it in the interview. He repeats it throughout his latest, Southeast. It’s reverence for the women that raised him and the ‘hood that paved his way.

Southeast is a testament to Young Slo-Be’s dexterity, working with new producers and challenging himself with sample-based beats. The project carries nostalgia for Nightingale, reminiscing through R&B and Pop flips, from “Trip” by Ella Mai to “Sweater Weather” by The Neighbourhood. Flaunting reverb-heavy bass drum kicks and Slo-Be’s ability to utilize silence, Southeast burns slowly. With more languid delivery and slow-drawn breaths, his whispers slither through the crevices of his beats.

If R&B is about charm and sensuality, his brand of smirk music twists the genre into a state of lust and hedonism. He flips “Circles” by Mariah Carey just to pose the question, “Do you love me, baby? I know you love me, baby. Yeah, I just cheated on you. Can you trust me, baby?” “I Love You” went viral on TikTok for Slo-Be’s toxicity, but that’s Slo-Be Bryant. Southeast is deviant. Here, Young Slo-Be pulls midnight stints at Mariposa Market & Liquor and “rocks that motherfucker” to the beat of “Pony” by Ginuwine.

Accompanied by familiar faces from the Slo-Be Bryant trilogy, the mixtape creeps around death like a grave robber at midnight; there are gusts of post-mortem grief, brought upon by the deaths of Drakeo the Ruler and Bris, but the music remains laden with the loot of the future. On Southeast, you’ll hear anything from two swords unsheathing to pit bulls barking to a synthesizer with the mid-octave cry of a ghoulish spirit: it’s the fanfare for a haunted Young Slo-Be, the villain of his own horror film.

What was it like growing up on the 2100 block of Nightingale Ave?

Young Slo-Be: Shit’s regular. You see all the old thugs out there and you just want to imitate it. Back in the day, they had that motherfucka rockin’. That shit’s been there before us; we just made it look like something.

Growing up in Stockton, how do you think that’s shaped your perception of the world?

Young Slo-Be: We’re so small, it’s easy to get caught up in that shit out there. We’ve got two malls. They’re across the street from each other. We’ve got one movie theatre. It really limits the shit there is to do in Stockton. We have Hammer Skate, we have candy shops, we have all types of things to do, but we fucked that shit up because that’s not what Stockton’s about. We’re on some other bullshit. When they put the real good shit for the city, we fuck it up and we haven’t had no good shit ever since.

What were you like as a kid?

Young Slo-Be: I was cool. I was bad. That’s why [my grandma] called me bebey. I was bad as shit, getting into shit, going outside without asking. For the most part, I had a platinum-ass childhood. We wasn’t rich, but my momma and my momma’s mom made sure that n**s had it.

What was your relationship like with your parents when you were growing up?

Young Slo-Be: I was raised by women. I’d see the thugs, my older cousins, catch ‘em on the block or while I’m outside, they’d kick my ass and be like, “You better get your ass home.” Other than that, when I go home, it’s women. That’s why I got these three women on my neck [points to his neck tattoos], they raised me. With my pops, we didn’t have a cool relationship, to be real. He was always the tough n**a on us. He was a street n**a, so he didn’t really know how to be a father. He taught me the street shit though.

What did your mom do?

Young Slo-Be: She worked a 9-5. She worked; she wasn’t selling no dope or none of that shit. She’s street smart, but she wasn’t a street woman. She always wanted her kids to do good. My pops, on the other hand, was a street n**a and you know what comes with that.

Were they into music at all?

Young Slo-Be: That’s who got me rapping – my pops and my uncle. He’s from San Diego. My momma, her cousin stays in San Diego, so I got family out there; they moved from Stockton and went to San Diego. I’ve got family out there that be rapping and my uncle, who’s a big rapper in his little section, was a big reminder that everyone’s slapping his little song when you go out there. If a n**’s out on Spring Break, I’d go out there and visit them and everyone’s looking up to him, singing his songs and all types of shit. I’d want that. And when I go home, my pops, he fakeway got studios and raps on the side, but he’s not serious though. I didn’t really play with it until one day I walked into that motherfucka while he was gone.

Is that the first time you started rapping?

Young Slo-Be: On my momma. I got in trouble. He didn’t give a fuck about my rap. He said, “N**a, you went in there without asking?” He used to hate that shit. I remember I snuck inside, he was gone, recorded me a little song that I had wrote down, but I’m not gonna lie, I left the computer on so he would hear it though.

So you were trying to get caught?

Young Slo-Be: I left it on so like, “He’s gonna be proud of me.” And then he came back like, “N**a, you were on the computer?” He was mad. It was up from there though. After that, he calmed down, was too lazy after that and went: “Come here. Is that you?”

When did you realize that you could make a career out of it?

Young Slo-Be: I’ve been dreaming of this since I was a little n**a, me and my cuddies, but I didn’t really believe this shit was going to crack off. I didn’t take it serious until 3 or 4 years ago. That’s why we’re here now. I was just out recording and keeping the music in; I never put it out and tried to be like, “I’m a rapper, y’all.” I didn’t really care because I didn’t believe some record label would come down and be like, “Ayo, you’re hard. We’re gonna sign you.”

When did you finally see yourself as a rapper? What made you believe in yourself to have that extra push?

Young Slo-Be: N**s in my city really slappin’ my shit. I’m at the side of the light and they’re slappin’ my shit. I’ll be at the store and they’ll go up to me like, “Oooh.” I’m not a friendly-ass n**a so it threw me off, but they really be listening, so a n**a kept going.

That reminds me of how I heard in an interview that one of the first things that Bris told you was that “You don’t look like you fuck with a lot of people.”

Young Slo-Be: That n** knew. He was reading shit. He was good at picking a n**’s character, reading a n**a. He got that good off me because this rap shit made me friendly. I was always the quiet n**a in the back, chilling; I ain’t gonna get on you because you’re looking at me. I like to keep to myself. My n**a already knew what time it was when we met.

How did you guys first meet?

Young Slo-Be: On the block. Joc and him was already fucking with it, and I heard about bro being around. One day, Joc told me we finna shoot a video and to come on. It was me, Jaaybo, Juvie, Durk, everybody out there, all the thugs. He was out there with us, and that’s really the first song we made with blood.

Do you remember what song that was?

Young Slo-Be: The “EBK Anthem.” If you really look in there, he was in that motherfucka. He had the little neon yellow and green jacket on; if you look in the back, he’s right there. That’s when I first met blood.

What was your relationship like with Bris after you met him? The first song you released with him was “21:42.”

Young Slo-Be: That was my n**a. That was little bro. He used to come over to my spot all the time, we’d howl about this rap shit; if he was here today, we’d be bickering about what the fuck anything is right now. He put in so much work, but when he came home – the streets are the streets. He was a cool-ass n**a. Solid n**a. If you were his boy, you were his boy.

Do you have a favorite memory that you shared with him? Something that you always think back to.

Young Slo-Be: We’re getting tatted and this n**a fell asleep. I think he was off Percs or something. It was his whole idea to come and get tatted up, and he fell asleep and didn’t even get the tattoo. He already came the last day to get a tattoo and we shot a video, and we went again and he fell asleep. I wish he was still here; we would have got more memories. We were just getting started.

Did you get a tattoo that day?

Young Slo-Be: Yeah, I just got my neck re-hit. Meanwhile, this n**a fell asleep in the chair, nodding off. RIP the goat. And we’re still keeping that n**a alive.

He’s on the project.

Young Slo-Be: That was the last one too, man. He was spitting. It was leaked, but this is the real, official release. I don’t know how it got out. I think it was one of those bitch-ass engineers trying to get some clout. I got the real song though; it’s on the tape.

How about Drakeo? What was your relationship like with him before he passed?

Young Slo-Be: The same with that n**a too, but I didn’t really really get to know that n**a, but he was cool. My first time meeting him was at the video shoot [“Unforgivable”]. We FaceTimed, but my first time really seeing bro was at the shoot. He tagged me in one of his Instagram stories, slapping to “Knock It Off.” I reposted it and he was like, “N**a, send me something.” I’m like “Shit, send me your number,” and it was up from there.

How did he influence you as a person?

Young Slo-Be: He was bussy-bussy. He got n**as to step their jewelry game up.

And Bris? How did Bris influence the way you move?

Young Slo-Be: That was my bro, for real. That was the thug. That was one of us. We was all in the studio building that chemistry, making these sounds and trying to create new shit. We influenced each other – all of us, in some kind of way. We were just rapping to each other. Bris had influence on the whole NorCal.

Going back, what was the first album you remember really fucking with?

Young Slo-Be: I was slapping all types of shit. Cash Money, No Limit, 50 Cent, Lil Wayne, Gucci Mane, Wacka Flocka – I’m not gonna lie, even Lil’ Bow Wow, Romeo, all those n**s were brackin’ back in the day. Back when you’d go in the store and buy albums, I had a Bow Wow album. That’s what n**s was on before Chief Keef came out. Chief Keef changed up the whole game; now every kid’s got to talk about guns. Back then, you were swagged out and getting bitches; it’s different now.

Who was your greatest influence as you started developing your sound?

Young Slo-Be: Everybody wants me to say Messy Marv, but it’s everybody I just named rolled into one. I’ve got my own sound. I don’t sound like nobody. I had to figure this shit out. I had to learn how to rap and learn how to do shit, so I wasn’t trying to imitate anybody. That’s why I don’t listen to motherfuckas until this day. I might listen to certain motherfuckas here and there, but I’m not really listening. My n**s have to tell me about other n**s from Detroit or New York that’s hot. Coming up and developing my sound, I wasn’t trying to sound like anybody. I knew how to rap, but I didn’t have rhythm.

So where did that style of whisper rap come from? Did it just come from experimenting?

Young Slo-Be: A n**a be high, and a n**a don’t be yelling. I don’t like yelling on no track.

Someone can just listen to your music and be mellow.

Young Slo-Be: And that’s me. I’m a mellow-ass n**a. That’s what you get on the track, that’s me.

That reminds me of how Curren$y said that he doesn’t like when rappers have a “rapper voice.”

Young Slo-Be: I don’t do the extras. I’m just going to be me. I’m just going to talk.

Is it true that Weezy is the reason why you started sipping lean?

Young Slo-Be: Type-shit, on God. I wasn’t smoking or sipping lean. I didn’t give a fuck about that shit. My cousins and all them used to do that shit, and I’m like, “Y’all slow. Y’all stupid.” But not gonna lie, Wayne was making that shit look good, back in the day. I tried it one time and I thought I was him and I got addicted. I got so addicted to where I passed out and had a seizure, so I had to stop. I be pump-faking now, a line if that.

A lot of people look at Stockton and think it’s a barren city where nothing really happens. Death Grips even have a song where they say, “Feeders suck like stuck in Stockton.” Do you think that’s actually true?

Young Slo-Be: A little bit, but it’s a real city. There’s people out there, trying to make a living, trying to make Stockton into something. You have to give credit where it’s due. That’s what Stockton is – we the Valley, there’s nothing out there. Especially if you come from the Bay Area or So Cal or wherever the fuck you come from. When you come here, it’s gonna be like, “Damn, what the fuck?” But we’re used to this shit. Stockton humbles a lot of motherfuckas. We a humble city; when we’re anywhere else, we don’t know how to act. Stockton motherfuckas get home sick, they come back. I miss the block.

Do you consider the music coming out of Stockton to be Bay Area music?

Young Slo-Be: Hell nah. We fuck with the Bay Area, but we’ve got our own genre. We shit-talk and we make smirkish music.

If you were to explain smirkish music to someone that’s never heard music from Stockton, how would you describe it?

Young Slo-Be: Grimy. Gritty. Smirkish. It’s a smirk; that’s really what it is.

Were you surprised when “I Love You” blew up on TikTok?

Young Slo-Be: Hell yeah, because I don’t be on TikTok. They really on this? My daughter had to show me, “Look,” before it got to two thousand, and I’m like, “What the fuck? I’m on TikTok.” She’s like, “Yeah, you’re going up. They’ve got your song. Then, little do you know, it kept going up – two thousand, four thousand, ten…

Do you feel like it helped you grow as an artist, or was it more of a moment that came and went?

Young Slo-Be: A little bit of both. It showed me anything is possible, just keep working. On the other hand, I wasn’t aiming for no TikTok; it could be a hit-and-miss because they probably won’t go on to the next shit.

It’s cool though because you have such a recognizable voice. People are bound to have listened to that snippet and been like, “Who is this?”

Young Slo-Be: Stay original. Be yourself, that’s the key. It’s cool to have a favorite rapper and be influenced by somebody, but make sure to be yourself. You can go a long way.

Going off that, what’s the biggest piece of advice that’s stuck with you?

Young Slo-Be: Stay on n**s necks. Until they pull this motherfucking cord. We’re going to go hard until we can’t go hard no more. Get used to it. 2-1.

Can you talk about your new project, Southeast? How did it come about?

Young Slo-Be: Me showing y’all how we get down in the ‘hood. It’s nothing major; it’s self-explanatory – Southeast. Where in Stockton? That’s what we on. I got DaBoii on there, the thugs, AO Meally, [Freeway] Donny, Skeamy [Ru], Young Joc, of course Bris, Mac J, EBK Trey B and EBK Wes. That’s all the features. I fuck with this tape. I ain’t the best rapper in the world, but I do me. Hopefully they fuck with me for me. You just want people to know you for you and the art you’re putting out. Put your time and effort in and motherfuckas are going to appreciate the shit. 2-1. RIP Bris. We through the door.

Do you think being from Stockton is a little bit like being from Sac, where it’s not necessarily the Bay Area?

Young Slo-Be: We’re both the Valley. We’re right there next to each other. We’re on the same shit, it’s just different politics, that’s all. They on the same shit we on. They bangin’ and wild.

Jaaybo’s been locked up for a minute, Joc just got out not too long ago, and you just got out last week. What’s the relationship between Stockton PD and the rappers out there?

Young Slo-Be: Stockton’s so small, you’ve got to understand. We come from a real block, so they look at us how they look at us. All we’re trying to do is feed our families and get back home. They’re watching. It’s small and we’re making noise. It’s not like we’re the hottest in our city, we’re one of the hottest in California. They’re watching, they’re going to want to take us down and pin us as bad guys and all this extra shit. We knew this was coming though. Stockton’s so little. We went bankrupt at a time. These white folks don’t like that we’re getting some money. Even if it’s a little bit of money, we’re making more than them.

It’s like what they did with Drakeo. They were pinning the Stinc Team as a gang.

Young Slo-Be: They’re going to do whatever it takes to make us look bad, but we’re really a rap group and trying to get some money and get the fuck out of Stockton.

When you go to the studio, what do you bring with you?

Young Slo-Be: A notepad and a pen. I’m trying to write and rap; that’s what I bring to the stu.

You write at the studio?

Young Slo-Be: Sometimes. Sometimes I freestyle or go part-to-part [punch-in] on a good day. I might be high, feeling the beat.

How do you go about picking your beats?

Young Slo-Be: It’s got to knock. It’s got to sound smirkish. It can be happy smirkish, it just has to sound like some shit I would get on.

I feel like this project especially samples quite a few R&B and pop hits, using everything from “Pony” to “Trip” to “Sweater Weather?” What was the inspiration behind that?

Young Slo-Be: You do your research, fo sho. Shit man, we’re just trying to give people new sounds. I’ve got all these beats that people be sending me, and the cold part is that I don’t be looking, for real. My shit be built up with hella beats. One day, I went through all the motherfuckas and I picked a select few producers and we tapped in. Some of them were knockers.

You don’t have time to listen to all the beats…

Young Slo-Be: Hell nah! I ain’t gon’ lie, I be sticking to the same motherfuckas, but I’ve got to switch it up. It’s not even about switching it up, it’s like, “Okay, let’s get a new beat now. Let’s hear other n**s out.” I fucked around and did it and that was the best thing I ever did.

Did you tap in with some of Jaaybo’s producers for those sample type-beats?

Young Slo-Be: We’ve got the same producers. They’re tapping in with me, sending me beats, some of them be my type-beats, some of them be his type-beats, and they just be sending them.

They’re curated for you.

Young Slo-Be: They’re for me, but I want to switch it up though. That’s why I went to my email. We all use the same producers – Jaaybo, Joc, all of us. I had to hear some other motherfuckas out real quick.

Speaking of, what’s your relationship like with everyone in EBK?

Young Slo-Be: We’re solid. Those are my originals. They know who they is. We solid. Anybody who knows Nightingale knows they can holla at Slo-Be.

Did y’all grow up together?

Young Slo-Be: Nah, we didn’t grow up together. I’m older than them. I’m the oldest around this motherfucka.

How old are you?

Young Slo-Be: I’m 2100. I’ll be there for hella long. I’m the oldest, so those n**s came up right after me. They got family members who’s from the ‘hood, so it was going to come together eventually. Their folks got together and ooh-whap-ooh, it’s a new generation of Nightingale n**s, free the rest.

What do you hope to accomplish in the next five years?

Young Slo-Be: M’s. M’s in the bank account. I need to see something to keep this shit going, maybe own a couple of businesses. I ain’t gonna be rapping forever. I’m not on that type of time. Don’t get it fucked up, I’m going to keep rapping but I’m gonna need to own some businesses or something. Shit, in five years, I’m gonna be like Berner. He’s inspiring. It’s inspiring how he came up like that and stuck to the program. The Cookies shit did not grow over night. No one was talking about Cookies and now he’s got spots everywhere. Everyone’s talking about Cookies. He’s from Northern Cal, so now that makes me think that we can for sure do it because they’re trying to count us out.

After listening to Southeast, what do you hope for people to learn about Young Slo-Be?

Young Slo-Be: I’m a king. I handle what I’ve got to handle and I’m still hunnit proof. If you know, you know.

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