Rapper Trina, South Florida's baddest diamond princess, has upgraded again

When Katrina Taylor, better known to the world as Trina, stepped into the hip-hop world in 1998 by appearing on Trick Daddy's highly charged single "Nann Nigga," she took an aggressively male-dominated industry and bitch-slapped it to a pulp. Her verbal bullets on the track wounded Trick, her musical adversary and a fellow native of South Florida, with enough precision for the then-19-year-old beautician to leave a lasting impression.

"Nann Nigga" catapulted both Trick Daddy and Trina to a national level, putting Miami on the hip-hop map sans booty bass and 2 Live Crew. The song was hypersexualized to the point it could have made Uncle Luke blush (a little). NC-17 content aside, the single turned Trina's rap hobby into a full-time profession.

"I never really thought of doing music like that; I just did it for fun," she recalls. "At that time, I was studying to get my real estate license. I wasn't interested in doing music; I just wanted to make real money."

Indeed, her passion for making that real money was the cornerstone that set Trina apart from the rest of her female counterparts in the music industry. "People forget that this is a business, first and foremost," she advises. "You always need to be on your hustle, never let your guard down. If you see an opportunity, then go after it, because those things happen once, twice, if you're lucky."

In Trina's world, both luck and opportunity have graced her in the 12 years since her unintentional rap debut. Trina has forged herself as a power player in the music industry, where her name can easily be placed in the same sentence as female rappers Lil' Kim, Missy Elliott, Foxy Brown, and Eve.

Trina seems like she's already done it all: with four full-length album releases — including her platinum 2000 debut, Da Baddest Bitch — as well a highly coveted relationship with Lil Wayne at a time when calling him the "best rapper alive" first came into vogue. And who could forget her starring acting role in the straight-to-DVD black-buster, A Miami Tail, which includes the tag line: "We need peace in the streets or no piece in the sheets"? After all of that, this year could still be massive by Trina's standards.

"Two thousand ten is a big year for me," she says. "It's like failure is not an option at this point in my life. Where I am right now, it's only the beginning... lights, camera, action — I'm ready for you."

At the forefront is the May 4 release of Amazin', her fifth studio album, but with new business ventures and a new reality show on VH1 called The Baddest Chick, which is wrapping up the pilot, Trina has evolved from the raunchy, potty-mouthed, self-proclaimed "baddest bitch" and "diamond princess" of Miami to an internationally known brand name. Talk about an upgrade.

"Trina is more than a rapper — she's a brand," confirms Ted Lucas, longtime friend and CEO of Miami-based Slip-N-Slide Records, Trina's label home. "Trina is at a point in her career where she needs to branch outside of her box and expand her market. This new album, Amazin', is just that — her way of going beyond her comfort zone and trying to reach a whole new audience."

Amazin' boasts a who's who of the hip-hop industry, with appearances by Rick Ross, Nicki Minaj, Flo Rida, Lil Wayne, and Monica, and productions by heavyweights such as South Florida locals Jim Jonsin and Schife.

"Oh, Trina's still the baddest," Schife says when asked about working with the rapper. "She's an icon in the hip-hop world. I mean, it was first Lil' Kim and then Trina — no one can touch her status." Age has not affected her swagger in the studio, according to Schife. "You can tell she's a little more toned down, but she's older now. She's a mature, classy woman. She's no kid anymore."

The album's first single, "Million Dollar Girl" featuring Sean "Diddy" Combs and Keri Hilson, is raiding hip-hop and pop airwaves with Trina's latest statement of status. "Miami in the morning, be in San Tropez this evening," is one of the song's many boasts brought to life with a personalized Trina private jet as the backdrop of its music video. With Hilson's catchy hook on the chorus, "Million Dollar Girl" might just be Trina's entrée into the mainstream Top 40 lifestyle.

"It was hella nerve-racking. It's Puffy!" Trina says with a laugh when asked about working with Diddy, one of hip-hop's ultimate brands. "I used to listen to him and Biggie back in the day, and here I am, shooting a music video together. It's just crazy!"

More than simply eyeing Diddy's status as an artist, Trina couldn't help but take notes from the man himself: "Puffy is like the ultimate business guy. He has so much under his belt — the whole Cîroc thing, the clothing line, the TV shows, the movies. That's where I see myself eventually, building my brand to be able to do all these things and be successful at each one."

Trina isn't far behind, however. Diamond Princess and Diamond Doll are her two signature fragrances, and her Trina-fied clothing line, called Pink Diamond Couture, features all the necessary velour jumpers and skintight, embellished jeans to give Juicy Couture a run for its money.

"I'm a girly girl," she adds. "I love nothing more than putting on makeup and getting my hair done." It should come as no surprise, then, that her latest venture is none other than lip gloss. Yes, ladies, all the sparkle, sheen, and fruity flavor that will make your lips glow is only the first of many ideas for her brand Be Amazing Inspired by Trina. "I think it's important for a woman to always look good and present herself in a respectable manner," she says. "I want my fans to look classy, not trashy."

Trina understands that beauty has to come from within, first and foremost, so her nonprofit charity, the Diamond Doll Foundation, focuses on empowering at-risk girls in inner-city Miami. Through her organization, she has held holiday toy drives and has mentored young women in her childhood neighborhood of Liberty City. "That's one thing that I love doing is giving back to my city," Trina says. "I love Miami, and Miami gives so much love to me. Any chance I can get to give back to my community, I'm there."

So with all the sweetness that's coming out of Trina's life these days, is she still the baddest bitch of Miami? "Am I the baddest chick?" she responds, sheepishly refraining from cursing. "To me, baddest means someone who's strong, a fighter — someone who's fearless. So if that's the case, then yeah, I'm still the baddest, just older and wiser."

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Esther Park