By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Abel Folgar
By Kat Bein
By Jacob Katel
By Karli Evans
By Jose D. Duran
By Pablo Chacon Alvarez
Ever since Trick Daddy and Trina darted across the national radar in 1999 with "Nann Nigga," the debut single from Trick's second album, www.thug.com, Slip-N-Slide has reigned as Florida's number-one independent record label. A quick walk or drive through Trick's hometown of Liberty City will show you why. Its rundown buildings and cracked asphalt streets, bleached and brightened by the unforgiving sunlight that beats down upon them, illustrate a grimy yet eerily intimate setting for the rapper's adventures in sex, drugs, and thuggin'.
Success, however, has allowed 32-year-old CEO and founder Ted Lucas to move his record company into a relatively upscale neighborhood in South Beach, where it is now based. The label has sold eight million records over the past decade, and enjoys two distribution deals: one with Atlantic Records for Trick Daddy and Trina's releases, and another, just signed last fall, with Capitol Records for fledgling stars such as Duece Poppi and dancehall artist Don Yute. Most of its roster is scheduled to release albums this year, starting with Trina's The Glamorous Lifeon May 11.
Slip-N-Slide didn't put out any records in 2003, except for a few promo-only singles such as Duece's "Lose Your Mind." Yet it managed to stir up plenty of controversy. Trina's scandalous shows for her recent album Diamond Princess, which usually involved a dick-grinding lap dance with some lucky audience member, brought citations and fines from around the country. Meanwhile Trick was arrested for everything from pulling a gun on a man during a pickup basketball game to possessing cocaine and marijuana at a football game at Homestead High School. In the video for Memphis Bleek's "Round Here," he proudly showed off an ankle bracelet, a result of his being on house arrest while awaiting trial on various charges he had collected throughout the year.
Many of Slip-N-Slide's records are full of vivid, hard-R-rated escapades. Nevertheless Trick Daddy stands out for his ability to season his hardcore rhymes with social commentary and disarmingly charming reminiscences of a misspent childhood, particularly on redemption songs like "Thug Holiday" and "Amerika." Trina, for her part, may look and sound like just another lyrical nymphomaniac in the dubious tradition of Lil' Kim and Foxy Brown. But anyone who lives in Miami will recognize her brassiness, brutal honesty, and infectiously girlish demeanor as traits seemingly echoed by every woman in the Magic City (at least from this male writer's point of view). There's an inner strength and beauty to her that is difficult to reduce to mere stereotypes.
Lucas's Slip-N-Slide Records, then, is a product of the complex relationship many in the black community have with the young executives who are making a mint selling hip-hop to the world. Are its records full of sex and violence? Yes. Are those records trash? No -- in fact some of them are as brilliant as any pop recording released in the past several years. Slip-N-Slide has responded to poverty, crime, and squalor with music that mirrors those problems. You can't blame it for a nation of youth, particularly people of color, who fantasize about being a thugged-out rap star, even if Trick and Trina's decidedly down-home appeal inspires those dreams. As Lucas says, "You can't get caught up and stuck in hip-hop. You've got to take advantage of other opportunities that come your way."
The following are excerpts from an interview with Lucas on the balcony of the Tides Hotel, an opulent building on Ocean Drive. As he sipped from a glass of water and bravely resisted the urge to answer his two cell phones ("I'm going to turn this off," he said politely), he spoke in a colloquial slang that betrayed his Southern, Carol City roots. Still the occasionally tough questions he answered didn't faze him. After five years of shouldering a city's hip-hop dreams, he had probably heard them all before.
New Times: You feel that hip-hop has been a conduit for people to improve themselves. But at the same time, I personally know about people who got stuck in the rap game and went to jail over it or got caught in certain situations because of it.
Ted Lucas:You've gotta take advantage of this hip-hop thing. This is just a door opener. Look at the opportunity that came to Jay-Z. Look at the opportunities for DMX, who's going into movies, Ice Cube going into movies, LL Cool J going into movies. If you don't take advantage of the hip-hop community and venture out into other things, then that's your fault, because the opportunities are there. Puffy -- come on, man. Here's a guy that went from being a dancer for Heavy D, and now he's become one of the most successful black businessmen that's out there right now.
Hip-hop music has opened the door to so many different opportunities. 50 Cent is selling shoes; Jay-Z is selling shoes, took Reebok's stock up tremendously ... you can't get caught up and stuck in hip-hop. You've got to take advantage of other opportunities that come your way.
Jay-Z's a good example. He's someone who's obviously a very successful businessperson, but when the whole thing happened with Un Rivera, because he had that image that he had to maintain, he ended up taking the case. [In December 2001 Jay-Z received three years probation for stabbing record executive Lance "Un" Rivera, whom he accused of bootlegging hisThe Life and Times of S. Carter, Vol. 3, in a New York nightclub in 1999.] What would you say to people who have the opportunity but at the same time need to know how to use the opportunity without getting themselves into more trouble?