Ghetto Glorious

How three inner-city kids turned tragedy into a soon-to-be platinum hip-hop hit

But his learning curve continued on its downward arc. The first group he signed was a trio of auto-body shop employees who harmonized as they worked. "They sounded better in the car shop than in the studio," he muses.

Then came some good fortune that resulted, at least indirectly, from ex-2 Live Crew frontman Luther Campbell's bad luck. Campbell, who had his own record label, filed for bankruptcy in 1994 after an artist sued him for unpaid royalties. Several Campbell employees, knowledgeable veterans like public-relations specialist Debbie Bennett, took jobs at Slip 'N Slide. "Ted Lucas would be nothing without his staff," Lucas says gravely.

Lucas signed a rap duo called Tre+6 and the new Slip 'N Slide team went into action, producing and promoting the group's CD. According to Lucas about 50,000 albums were sold.

Slip 'N Slide founder Ted Lucas in the recording studio: "I love Miami. I'd do anything for Miami."
Michael Marko
Slip 'N Slide founder Ted Lucas in the recording studio: "I love Miami. I'd do anything for Miami."

By then Trick was free and vowing to go straight. Between prison stints he had won a rap contest at another Luther Campbell club that closed, Pac Jam. Campbell didn't have the time or money to sign the young rapper so Lucas stepped in, inking a five-year contract to produce Trick Daddy Dollars, as the artist was then called. In 1997 Slip 'N Slide released Trick's first album, Based on a True Story. It sold between 100,000 and 200,000 copies with the help of a medium-size distribution company called Warlock, which pushed it in the stores.

It began to look as though Trick and Lucas might make a career in the music business.


You'n no nann ho
that'll keep it wet like me,
make you come back to back like me,
lick a nigga's nut sack like me
You'n no nann ho, that'll ride the dick on a dime,
who love to fuck all the time,
one who's pussy's fatter'n mine,
you'n no nann ho

-- Trina's verse on "Nann Nigga"

For a video shoot of Trick's song "Suckin' Fuckin'," Slip 'N Slide has rented an opulent white mansion in Coconut Grove. The house sports 1980s touches like a white marble floor and a Lucite banister that wraps around a spiral staircase: cocaine baron stuff. In fact it was used for a scene in the 1983 movie Scarface, which depicted the life and death of a Cuban drug dealer in Miami. Trina has a bit part in the video. She opens a scene on the phone with Trick, inviting him to a party. She's dressed in a white bikini and has a delicate white feather boa draped over her shoulders. If her acting seems slightly stilted, she can be forgiven. In a year she's risen from obscurity to the threshold of fame. "Everywhere she goes, people are just raving about her," Trina's mother says. "We were at the Bath and Bodyworks in the mall the other day and the cashier was like, 'Are you the Trina?'"

The forceful personality that came out on "nann" and made Trina such a hit originated in her grandmother's home at NW 66th Street and Fifteenth Avenue in Liberty City. It was a household filled with forceful women: her grandmother, mother, and three aunts. She did not know her father while growing up. She was encouraged to be forthright. "It would be expected for me to say what was on my mind," Trina declares.

"She has a very strong personality," her mother says. "She was always, like, the leader. We called her lil' momma because she was always taking care of people." And, more to the point, she was a sharp talker. "Yeah, she always had the slick mouth," her mom adds. "She always the one who can answer you right back."

Compared with the childhood memories of Lucas and Trick, Trina's recollections are downright bucolic. She recounts games of skip-rope and hopscotch in the street outside her home. On weekends there were cookouts in Morningside Park and trips with the family to Haulover Beach. She attended Drew middle school with Trick. "He was a little more on the wild side," she recalls. "We didn't hang out that much. But we were friendly."

At Miami Northwestern High School she was a majorette. During her senior year, she went to a club one night and a friend introduced her to Hollywood. The 21-year-old gave her his pager number. After they started dating, he would take her dancing at hip-hop clubs such as Paradise, Strawberry's Too, and Luke's Miami Beach. She never entertained the notion of performing.

After graduating she took office jobs at United Parcel Service and AT&T. Meanwhile her mother enrolled in cosmetology school, prompting Trina to consider a career as a beautician.

At that time Hollywood and Lucas were discussing the possibility of promoting music together. Lucas had just started Slip 'N Slide; Hollywood and Trina liked to visit the new studio. Lucas even invited Trina to do some background talking on a recording by one of his first groups, Tre+6.

Lucas began hanging around Trina's close-knit family. "Ted and Hollywood would stop by all the time," Vernesa Taylor recalls. Trick would even call from prison, she remembers. "He used to brag on the phone about how he was going to rap and write songs. He'd say, 'They don't believe me, but I'm going to do it.' And I told him to keep on trying," Taylor says.

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