The light reflects off Trick Daddy's gold grills as he explains his personal evolution, as he tells it, and a recent move that will shock longtime followers of 305 hip-hop. "No more Slip-N-Slide Records," he says of his longtime label and frequent past lyrical shout-out. "No beef or nothing, but I'm a grown man now."
On a recent Friday evening, the rapper and entrepreneur born Arthur Maurice Young is holding court in a hotel penthouse overlooking Biscayne Bay. There's a spread of food and drinks on one long side table, and people are everywhere — lounging on luxe beige sofas and smoking cigarettes on a balcony that boasts a breathtaking view of the Miami skyline. Various press types are hustled in and out while the 34-year-old Trick Daddy paces, addressing the entire room, while the Dunk Ryders' song "Fuck the Otha Side" blares from the iPhone in his hand.
"I wake up every morning and put on black," he says. "I will not take the black off unless I'm worth enough money to wear white. Because now, my life is dark. The alleys is dark. My eyes open, but I see the same thing with my eyes closed. I see you and I don't see you." Seemingly to prove this, he does not break eye contact as he hands over a cold bottle of water. "Some of us are better than most of us; ain't none of us better than all of us, you know what I'm sayin'?"
Then Trick offers a sandwich. "When I eat a steak, my friends eat steak too," he says. "I don't order them Burger King and then order me Benihana's." The whole room quietly chuckles, and he continues. "So the black flag is representing the struggle, cuz that's what we're living. I'm a black flag bastard. I don't want people to think it's gang-banging, because we hang with niggas who represent red flags. We're gangstas for real.
"I want you to dissect this song," he says, handing over the iPhone. "You're from Miami, so I feel comfortable talking with you. We don't say, 'What it do.' We say, 'What they do.' You ready for this interview?" he asks. So we sit down to discuss his label move.
And it's a momentous one, because Slip-N-Slide, in many listeners' minds, has pretty much equalled Trick Daddy. After the murder of his brother "Hollywood" and an early-Nineties prison stint, Trick began writing rap songs and performing in clubs around Miami. In 1996, he made his debut as Trick Daddy Dollars on Uncle Luke' s smash hit single "Scarred." One year later, he shortened his moniker to Trick Daddy and signed with Slip-N-Slide Records. The label was, as it is now, headed by then-friend Ted Lucas, who, like Trick, grew up in the troubled "Pork 'n' Beans" projects of Liberty City. Since then, Trick has sold millions of albums for the label, but this year he severed ties with it. There were some mumblings about a deal with Cash Money, but he's quick to clarify that this is not, technically, the case.
"I'm not gonna be represented by Cash Money Records. I am gonna be represented by Dunk Ryder Records. It's my own label, that I am signed to as well. Cash Money has a deal with me and the Dunk Ryders, which is my first and favorite group off of my label. So I wanna keep that clear. I'm not signed to Cash Money."
Sensing New Times' befuddlement, he explains, "The idea is Dunk Ryder Records, Cash Money-slash-Universal. There were three members in the Dunk Ryders group, but one of my little brothers was set up by the system. So Soup is not part of the group, thanks to our government. The group now consists of Iceberg and Fella."
He lights a Black & Mild, takes a puff, and continues. "The Dunk Ryders are young, they're energetic, they are my protégés. So when I say the word protégé, nobody has to get offended no more. Iceberg came to me two years ago and said, 'I'm gonna be your protégé.' I took him under my wings and I'm teaching him the game. All you gotta do is listen to him on the lyrics."
He exhales a thick cloud of smoke. "Iceberg is 19 years old; his mama went to school with me. That boy was born in '89." Trick looks up; there are about a dozen people in the room, all listening intently. He puts out the Black & Mild and discusses his affiliation with Cash Money Records.
"Me, Baby, and Slim [Cash Money's co-CEOs].... We have a street agreement. We talk and deal on the street level. We are the street dudes. I don't play with lawsuits; I don't do all that. You owe me money, I'm coming to get it. As far as Slip-N-Slide Records, I've known Trina since we were 10 years old. As far as [Rick] Ross, me and him cool, despite all the negativity and all the people trying to say we have a problem with each other." He pauses. "If they know me and Rick Ross, they know if we had a problem with each other, they know one of us would've been dead by now. So that's a lie. As far as Slip-N-Slide Records, I don't know who works there, don't care about nobody else in that building. Period."
During a recent phone conversation, Slip-N-Slide's Lucas said, "I love Trick Daddy; I'm here to support him. That's just the truth. I would take him back tomorrow. God bless Trick Daddy."
On the web: Watch part of this interview on PrunkTV, at blogs.miaminewtimes.com/crossfade/prunktv.