By Terrence McCoy
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Jacki-O doesn't like to divulge too much about her "hard street life," but she will allow that none of her boyfriends have been "corporate guys"; none of her friends are "college graduates." She attended both Barry University and Florida Memorial College, though, studying forensic science and Spanish before dropping out. "It's not that I wasn't motivated. It just didn't work out," she says. College also left her in financial straits, she moans: "My credit's still messed up from that."
How did she survive those prestardom years? "From the fruit of the land," she replies. When asked what that means, she coyly laughs, half-joking, "Somebody might want you to give them a song. Somebody might want you to give them a ride up the block. You do it. You take that job because you need the money ... escort services, giving people rides, whatever."
Was Jacki-O an escort? Both Jacki-O and Poochie quickly shake their heads. "No, I'm just saying that in general," she responds. "You can scratch that. I'm just talking about different jobs in the street that you can make money from."
Jacki-O somehow manages to give polite, generic answers without coming off as evasive or angry. After all, the "escort" question could have yielded a well-deserved slap in the face. But there are other pressing questions that remain unanswered. First there is SoBe Entertainment itself. Not just an upscale publicity firm playing host for Jacki-O, it has a considerable financial stake in Poe Boy Entertainment. SoBe's CEO is Cecile Barker, a multimillionaire from Washington, D.C. who made his fortune with OAO Technology Solutions, Inc., an information technology consulting firm with offices in North America and Europe; he owns other businesses around South Beach, including the nightclubs 320 and Club Krave.
Several phone calls are made to SoBe to determine the extent of its involvement with Poe Boy. Finally, a man who identifies himself as "Dana West" angrily answers the phone, demanding that a list of questions be faxed to the office. When a follow-up call is made, another woman who also identifies herself as "Dana West" confirms receipt of the fax. But no one is willing to answer such basic questions as "What is SoBe Entertainment?" In fact no one is willing to identify who any of SoBe's executives are.
As weird as SoBe's support staff act, their behavior (which seemed a parody of a bad 60 Minutesepisode) and apparent fear of the press only masks what's really at stake. Another Miami rapper has just gone public with his claim that much of "Nookie" was actually lifted from him. In fact this veteran songwriter knows all about Poe Boy executive E-Class -- they used to be partners. Now their relationship is just another gone bust in the Magic City's small, tightly knit, and frequently litigious hip-hop industry.
Charles Trahan has been making music since the late Eighties when he and Leonarist "Prince of Power" Johnson formed Young & Restless and made national rap hits like "B Girls" and "Poison Ivy." The 32-year-old has since refashioned himself as a producer, lyricist, and arranger for hire. His recent efforts include two buzzworthy tracks for Slip-N-Slide artist Duece Poppi, "Lose Your Mind" and "Nasty Ho."
Back in the day E-Class used to be a member of the Young & Restless entourage. But Trahan isn't jumping on the Poe Boy bandwagon. Instead he's accusing the label of stealing one of his songs to create "Nookie."
Trahan says the theft took place while he was shopping his song "Pussy Good" back in November of 2002 to several local companies, including Slip-N-Slide, Miami's biggest hip-hop label thanks to platinum hits such as Trick Daddy's Thugs Are Us; and Pandisc, an important bass, dance, and rap imprint that has released countless influential records over the past two decades. (Slip-N-Slide owner Ted Lucas could not be reached for comment.)
He also serviced, or gave away, copies of "Pussy Good" to several underground DJs, and its airplay on local pirate radio stations allowed him to register a clean version titled "Coochie Good" with BDS Radio, a service that charts how often a record is spun on radio stations throughout the country. (A representative from BDS confirmed that it registered "Coochie Good" sometime in 2002.) Trahan alleges when he brought it to Poe Boy, E-Class saved it to his hard drive so he could consider it for an upcoming compilation. Trahan believes the label executive later played it for Jacki-O. (After the initial interview, Jacki-O could not be reached.)
E-Class turned down several requests for an interview. But at Poe Boy's warehouse office in Hialeah, his brother, Poe Boy COO Elvin "Big Chuck" Prince, categorically denies that Jacki-O listened to "Coochie Good" before she wrote "Nookie." He says E-Class would entertain Trahan's offers and sometimes purchase a few beats out of sympathy because, he explains, "His career isn't going so well." He concedes that his brother did play the song on his computer, but never made a copy of it.
"When he brought it to us, [E-Class] was like, 'No. I don't like it,'" he says. He claims it was never considered for a future Poe Boy compilation: "I don't want to hear a guy sing about 'pussy, pussy, pussy.'"