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 Life on 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 his The 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?
If you're from the hood and you're going to continue to try and live that life and thug it out, you're going to be in situations like that, like the Un and Jay-Z situation that came about, you know what I'm saying? But it's up to Jay-Z to say, "Man, you know what? It's ain't worth me going here to get into this fight with Un. I just have to be a better businessman about it. If Un bootlegged my music, I've gotta find a way to go around it."
Definitely, in the hip-hop community, we're going to be in nightclubs where those kinds of things are going to happen. It's up to you not to get caught up in it. That's how I look at it. I try to avoid anybody putting me in a predicament where they'll send me to the penitentiary. I try my best to stay out of those situations. I'm in the record business, you know? That's what I try to conduct -- business at all times. I try to think about different things before I make a decision on how I'm a react.
But how do you stay out of certain situations? Say, for example, you're walking through a club and some guy comes up and wants to test you on some, you know, "I'm in that mood" kind of thing. How do you avoid those kinds of situations?
You really can't avoid it because it's going to come. I look at it like this. If I don't let no one put their hands on me, man, then we're all right. I know how to walk away. Talk, all that ain't going to bother me. As long as you don't put your hands on me, man, then we're all right. But I couldn't tell you, if they put their hands on me, how I'm going to handle the situation. I'm telling you the truth, you know? But words, I'm not going to let words ... I've been blessed, man. I'm not going to let what nobody say hurt me or make me want to lose everything I've worked hard for. That's the truth. As long as they don't put their hands on me, I can deal with it. And I won't put my hands on nobody.
Do you feel that record labels have a responsibility to mentor their artists?
It's not just record labels; it takes managers, it takes lawyers, and it takes a team of people to help artists understand that. Like, tell them what to do with your money. Don't make these mistakes.
But how are you going to tell an artist not to hang with his homeboys? You really can't tell him that, you know what I'm saying? You hope that nothing happens where they'll lose everything or get into a situation that they'll regret, or regret going out to the nightclub, and my friends got into some problems that night. So you just try your best to keep talking to them and surround them around positive people that help them understand that you don't have to thug it out all the time. That's the best way I can look at it. A record company can sit them down with managers, lawyers, accountants, and everybody, and sit down on top of 'em and guide them in the right direction.
Look, 50 Cent's got bodyguards all around him so he can stay away from it, because he's bodyguard up! Ain't nobody can get to him and touch him. But in other artists' situations, they might be in a nightclub where they can get into those kinds of situations. So that's the best I can tell them, man. I try my best to ... I won't say preach to them, but I do preach to them and let them know.
Do you feel like Trina's content is too explicit for young people?
I would say that Trina's not good for people thirteen and under. It's like an R-rated movie for thirteen and older, and it's up to the parents to make that decision as to what music they'll let they kids listen to. I wouldn't buy her album for my seven-year-old daughter; I wouldn't buy no album for her like that. But when you give it to these teenage girls that's in high school, around that age, yeah, that's when certain experiences start taking effect.
Going into images, with Trick being a thug and Trina, well, being Trina, do you see any residual effects from that, such as how people perceive Southern hip-hop as oversexed and thugged-out?
We're in the thuggin' era of music with 50 Cent and Trick Daddy. There's thuggin' going on all around the country, so it ain't really just a Southern type of thuggin'. Trick just gave his side of thuggin' from a down South point of view. 50 Cent give his thuggin' point of view from an up North point of view.
Trina and Lil' Kim is basically saying the same thing. But Kim telling you how the ladies do it up North and Trina give it to you on how the ladies do it down South, know what I'm saying? Now you got Jacki-O saying, "Nookie real good." She can talk about her nookie because Trina opened the door for these kinds of opportunities....
When Trina called herself "the baddest bitch," she gave you the down South point of view. I think that if you had no more female rappers come out, I would say that she closed the door on that chapter. But she really opened the door to make Khia ("My Neck, My Back") and Jacki-O have the opportunity now.
I guess, from my perspective, it seems that all Trina talks about is sex. Do you feel like, while her success allows other female MCs to come into the game, at the same time, all that female MCs can talk about to be successful is sex?
Let me make it like this here: Sex sells. They use it in the movies every day. Trina is a gorgeous young lady and, honestly, she's not the best rapper, so she had to take advantage of what the music business gave to her. It's like people want to see J.Lo. She talks about how sexy and pretty she is. She might not gonna be as dirty with it as Trina, but she talk about herself. Trina just didn't hold nothing back. She took it to rated XXXXX, as far you can go with it.
She has positive songs on her album, too. But every time we try and make some of the more positive music -- like Trick done made some of the more positive music -- the audience, the kids that's buying records ... you can put those songs on your album but those aren't the songs that are going to sell your album.
I've been impressed by Trick Daddy because he's not only a thug, but because he talks about all the other things that give context to the fact that he's a thug. You see his whole life.
I think that both points get across, because we have people call for those types of songs ... the ones where he'll talk about the president, where he'll talk about growing up poor in the neighborhood and how you can get off welfare. Like "Thug Holiday." He definitely gives a more overall point of view. They might classify him and see him that way, as a thug, but they know that he can bring it from another [perspective]. Politics, whatever it is, he knows what he's talking about.
On a lot of songs, Trick tries to help the kids, tell them don't make the same mistakes he done made. A lot of his records, you heard me? When Trick says he loves the kids, he really means that. He got about four songs on his upcoming album that are directed to young kids that are talking about "get your life together." In fact he just visited Cutler Ridge Junior High School earlier today; he had a meet-and-greet with the kids.
Obviously Trick had a lot of legal problems last year. What's his situation like right now?
Trick has been truly blessed, man. I'm a tell you something. God blessed him. A lot of prayers were answered, you know. All these legal battles are behind him now. He's going in a new direction, he's doing things, and he's staying out of trouble.
Is he still on house arrest?
No, he's off house arrest. All that's been resolved now, so we got that behind us. He's just now working on his new album and going forward. He got a new record out, Trick and Tupac ("Old School" remix).
He's just working, man. It was a little wake-up call, and I think he got over that hump now, and he's going in the right direction.
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