Off Miramar Parkway, in a community studded with pricey identical houses, Trick Daddy sits in his living room watching the Lifetime channel.
Pornographic magazines like Club International are laid out on the coffee table alongside hip-hop periodicals the Source and Blaze. Assorted friends lounge about, ironing shirts, watching TV, and playing pool on a custom-built table. A young woman in a T-shirt and black panties saunters from a
Among those present is Sparky, who was released that morning from Dade Correctional Institute after a three-year sentence. Trick drove his oil-slick-black Volvo 2000 to spirit him home. "
Meanwhile Trick is rolling what he calls a "
The rapper finished his last stint behind bars in early 1995. He's been convicted of everything from cocaine trafficking to assault since 1989 and has spent more than four years locked up. Even today he keeps jailhouse culture alive in his songs, in the
"A lot of rappers talk about these things but they haven't lived it, or maybe they aren't living it now," says Charisse Nikole, a writer at the hip-hop magazine Blaze. "To a certain
You ain't no
that'll represent like me,
who'll say some shit like me,
one who'll lay the dick like me,
— from "Nann Nigga"
When Trick's song "Nann Nigga" came out this past February, it steadily grew in popularity until it reached the
While Trick dominates the present, Slip 'N Slide's 28-year-old founder and president, Ted Lucas, is betting that another Liberty City native, 24-year-old Katrina Taylor, better known as Trina, will command the future. She gave such an explosive solo on "Nann," wielding her sexuality like a Tec-9, that Lucas has signed her to an album, which is expected out this fall.
But this tale is not about a record executive who found talent in his back yard.
If it wasn't for the Hennessy,
and thug livin' from my enemy,
So I say a prayer for that player,
and I tote my fire everywhere.
... That's how we
dead and gone before we 24....
— from "For the Thugs"
"Hollywood, he was the type of person he would give you his heart," Lucas says. "Everybody knew that Hollywood was more the type of person that would help you than hurt you."
On the night of June 22, 1994, Hollywood sat in the front seat of a parked Buick on NW 25th Avenue and 152nd Street with his friend Walter
His death became a shared epiphany for the three friends.
"[Hollywood's murder] was definitely a wake-up call," remembers Lucas, who was limping back to financial equilibrium after a bold but flawed plan to promote a Miami Arena concert.
Trina was nothing more than a schoolgirl whose future plans included a vague notion of someday becoming a hairdresser. Her boyfriend's murder delivered a new awareness of her world's danger. "I was young and that had a big impact on me," she recalls. "Nothing like that had happened to me before. I mean you're close to someone today, and tomorrow they're gone."
The experience filtered into Trick's music: He frequently mentions Hollywood in songs. But as with much street rap, while Trick may lament his losses, he never criticizes or rails against the violence that claimed his brother's life. Such stoicism is characteristic of the music that is alternately called "thug rap" or "street rap."
Since Lucas founded Slip 'N Slide records in early 1993, its eleven employees have stayed close to the streets. Thug culture permeates the record label's offices. Lucas, a devout Baptist who regularly praises Jesus for his company's success, keeps two live .45-caliber bullets on his desk "just to let 'em know I mean business."
To keep that connection fresh, Lucas assembled the Red Eye Street Team, a kind of reconnaissance group of young men who prowl the hip-hop scene at night, going to clubs and neighborhood hangouts to scout talent and stay in touch with the community's musical tastes.
Trick's prison-filled past gives him credibility among rap fans. And he's not the only Slip 'N Slide artist with such a pedigree. Rapper Buddy Roe, real name Marlon Hanna, aborted his first album
A third South Florida rapper has achieved popularity recently. JT Money, Miami born and bred, made it to number one on the Billboard charts this past April with his latest single "Who Dat?" from his album Pimpin on Wax. He moved to Atlanta several years ago to be closer to that city's bustling hip-hop industry, but he still claims Miami roots. Trick and Money know each other well. Both say their current success is good for the hometown. "Yeah, Trick my homeboy, he tight. I think he complements what I do," Money said in a brief phone interview from Atlanta while heading to the airport. "This is all for the home team."
This is the first time Miami artists have reached the zenith of the hip-hop scene since 2 Live Crew outraged the nation with its booty-shaking music a decade ago. But make no mistake, Trick Daddy is no booty shaker. He doesn't even consider himself a purveyor of rap. "I ain't no rapper. Rappers do that gay shit," he mocks. "They talk about all their jewelry, money. They talk about shit they don't
See back in the day,
there wasn't no AIDs,
there wasn't no AKs,
more afros and braids
Wasn't nothing for a boy to get a straight fade
But not no more, niggas done twist up the fro,
let 'em lock and grow,
quick to go to
— from "Back in the Days"
Trick grew up as the second-oldest child in a household of eleven brothers and sisters in Liberty City's Pork
At age thirteen he arrived late to class and the teacher refused to let him in. Trick departed, returned with an iron pipe, and went after her, according to court papers. A school monitor had to restrain him. After the
The next year police charged Trick with auto theft and he was again incarcerated. The year after that, he was charged with aggravated assault and was again turned over to authorities. After his
That's where the wild child met his half-brother, Hollywood, who was three and a half years his senior. The older sibling made an impression and became a strong influence. Hollywood sneaked Trick into clubs and brought him along to parties. "We just chilled," Trick says. "We kept it real."
On April 3, 1991, sixteen-year-old Maurice Young ran a stop sign at SW 103rd Avenue and 149th Street, right in front of a Metro-Dade police cruiser. When the cop pulled over Young's car, he found three kilos of cocaine and a nine-millimeter Walther PPK semiautomatic handgun behind the driver's seat.
By that time neither the judicial system nor Trick's father had much sympathy left. According to court documents: "The defendant's father, Charles Young, stated he has given up on Maurice. He no longer wants him living in his house, nor does he want anything to do with Maurice. Young failed to respond to requests for follow-up interviews."
It was while stewing behind bars that he started writing lyrics, mostly about his life. "In
By simply testifying to the destruction he had seen, inflicted, or suffered, it seemed that Trick had achieved resolution. The subject matter is prison and death. "In my
Trick decided his stuff was good. So he reached out to the one guy he knew who was associated with the music industry: Ted Lucas.
See, marijuana got me coping with my problems
And Hennessy got me hoping I can solve 'em
My baby mama full of drama
I'm being like my sorry-ass father
I try harder
— From "Hold On"
"When Trick was in prison he was sending me these letters saying he wanted to rap. He sent me a notebook about twelve inches thick with songs, songs, and more songs. Probably about 400 songs in that one notebook," Lucas recalls while sitting in a rough-hewn pine booth in the Roadhouse Grill on Biscayne Boulevard. As the budding rock and R&B mogul tears into his barbecue chicken sandwich, Clint Black croons a ballad from the jukebox. Lucas remembers talking with Trick after the rapper's release from prison in 1994. He had reservations. "I was like, 'I would love to sign you to my record company, but you crazy. You going to end up going back to prison.'"
Although Lucas has no record, he knows a thing or two about criminals. While growing up in Carol City, he explains, his father was behind bars most of the time. He remembers entering jailhouse waiting rooms as a child and crying because he felt so claustrophobic. "Yeah, my dad was in prison all my elementary years," he recounts. "He was in for robbery, attempted murder, that kind of stuff. Everybody told me, 'You're going to be crazy, just like your dad.' They had me thinking I was the
He credits his grandmother,
When the time came for the Scholastic Aptitude Test, he took a shortcut; i.e., he cheated. With the aid of four well-placed girlfriends, who he says moved body parts to indicate letters on the multiple-choice exam, Lucas squeaked out a decent score.
As a result Ranger College, a two-year school in Ranger, Texas, accepted him. His plan was to transfer to a Florida university, but he didn't stay long enough for that. The summer before his first year, Lucas met Hollywood. The two hit it off. When Lucas arrived home for winter break, he went out with Hollywood one night to Strawberry's Too, a now-defunct nightclub in Hialeah owned by the daddy of Miami rap, Luther Campbell. "We had a whole lot of fun," Lucas recalls. Hollywood picked up the tab. "After that everything just changed for me. I was beginning to see the one, two, threes of life."
Lucas delayed his return to college. His grandmother and mother became nervous. The football coach called to check on him. Then Lucas took off. "You could say I ran away," he says. "I knew I didn't want to go back [to college], so I just left town."
His grandmother didn't hear much from him during that time. "I guess he didn't want his grandma to know what he was up to. But he came back," she says.
Lucas says he traveled on an illegal gambling circuit through Georgia and South Carolina. "Just like any normal black kid in America trying to make something happen, what does he do? Well, that's what I did," he offers. "I'm a child of God, but I'm not perfect."
In 1992 he returned home with money. After giving some to his mother and grandmother ("Yes, that's right, he did,"
He learned another lesson from the experience. Although the promoters suffered a loss, the musicians were paid. "I saw how much I was giving these groups and not making any money myself. So I thought, Man, I can get my own group, start my own record company." In 1993 he did just that. With seed money from friends (he declined to give the dollar amount or source), he started Slip 'N Slide Records.
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.
By then Trick was free and vowing to go straight. Between prison
It began to look as though Trick and Lucas might make a career in the music business.
that'll keep it wet like me,
make you come back to back like me,
lick a nigga's nut sack like me
who love to fuck all the time,
one who's pussy's
— 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.
The forceful personality that came out on "
"She has a very strong personality," her mother says. "She was always, like, the leader. We called her
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.
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,"
Then Hollywood was murdered. "It showed me how easy it is to die," Ted Lucas says. "Everybody doesn't get to live to 30 or 40 years old. It made me closer to God."
Trick admits it was his brother's death that gave him the motivation to stay out of prison for good. Lucas helped pay to transport Trick from prison to Miami so that he could attend Hollywood's funeral.
In the years that ensued, Trick and Lucas stayed close to Trina. "When Hollywood died, we tried to comfort her," Lucas says. "We never let go; she was always part of the family. Trina's like a little sister to me and Trick."
"[Trina] took it pretty hard. She was devastated,"
Trina talked about that period reluctantly while eating fried snapper at the East Coast Fisheries restaurant on the Miami River. Hollywood's death was "a shock," was all she said. Trina dropped her plans to be a hairdresser. In 1997 she took a course in real estate sales.
In 1998 Trick approached her with some lyrics. The song, Trina explains, was intended as a comical riff between a man and a woman. To make it work, Trick needed a woman who could spit words like bullets. He says he immediately considered Trina despite her lack of experience. "She bad, she off the chain," he says.
Lucas agrees. "Nobody else talks like Trina. Nobody else has a slicker mouth than Trina. She was a rapper already and just didn't know it."
Trina listened to a rough tape of "Nann" that Trick had recorded. "We thought it was just comical," she says. "There wasn't nothing to be offended at. That's stuff that happens every day. You hear it, you see it, you are used to it. It was just funny."
The verse that Trina wrote didn't disappoint. The song begins when Trick sends a friend to get Trina's number at a club. Trina declines, saying, "Hell no, I don't wanna holler at no motherfucking Trick/over there all smelling like
Trina explains she wrote her verse from "a mix of the life I've lived and the people I've been around. One line is someone I know. Another line is something I saw." She cautions that it is not autobiographical.
Lucas was impressed with the product. "After we did the recording, I was like, 'Damn, we got a star in you; you could put your own album out," Lucas says.
When it comes to the song's overtly sexual nature, Lucas is matter-of-fact. "Look, if we don't say it, somebody else will. She's just keeping it real with what's going on every day in life."
Or, as Trina says: "People just want to be entertained."
As Lucas listened to other tracks from Trick's second album, thug.com, he became increasingly excited. He knew the darkly melodious grooves and Trick's unique percussive delivery would be popular. The big push came during this past January's Super
Lucas was trying to attract the attention of a big record company in order to ink a distribution deal. Until then Slip 'N Slide had spent relatively little on things like manufacturing CDs and cassettes. An arrangement with a powerhouse like Sony or Universal would mean national promotion and sales.
The response, Lucas says, was swift. The big boys started calling almost immediately. "Everybody wanted me. I couldn't even sleep. My phone was ringing at three and four o'clock in the morning," he boasts. He adds that recording companies flew him to New York and Los Angeles. They put him up in company apartments and took him out for lavish seafood dinners.
Michael Caren is the senior director of A&R (artists and repertoire) for Atlantic Records. He recalls hearing thug.com, then checking out Slip 'N Slide's past efforts. "We looked at what Ted Lucas and Slip 'N Slide had been able to achieve in the past. They were true entrepreneurs, using ingenious marketing and promotion efforts as well as understanding the demand of the streets."
With Atlantic behind them, Trick's videos started appearing on MTV. Radio stations across the nation began playing "Nann Nigga." By March "Nann" was the number-five single on the Billboard rap charts. By June it was number four.
Atlantic will also promote Trina's CD, All You Need to Know, due out October 26. In addition Slip 'N Slide R&B artist J-Shin, whose album My Soul, My Life is scheduled for release October 19, has an Atlantic contract. Caren says his company has high expectations for both artists. "The personality that Trina put in ["Nann"] got so much attention. We see just as much potential in her as in Lil' Kim, who's also with Atlantic," the executive says, referring to a successful female rapper also known for her bawdy lyrics. "And J-Shin's album we expect will be an across-the-board hit."
Lucas has ambitious plans. He wants to make movies and run studios. He wants to be a brand name. "I love Miami. I'd do anything for Miami," he comments. "I want Slip 'N Slide Records to be like the way the Dolphins represent Miami in
"2 Live Screwed," By Tristram Korten, June 3
"Hip-Hop Goes Back to the Streets," By Hobey Echlin, June 3
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