"I've known Trick Daddy for a while," Miami rap diva Trina says of the fortuitous friendship that gave her the first leg up in the fickle music industry. "We went to junior high school together, and we've always kept in touch. Trick was like the crazy dude. He was everybody's friend. We hung out and partied. Its like a family thing."
Born Katrina Laverne Taylor, the Liberty City girl had a fiery debut to hip-hop audiences in 1998, when she was just 19 years old. "Nann Nigga" was technically old pal Trick Daddy's song, but it was Trina's verse that made listeners take notice. The lyrics were enough to make Caligula blush, as Trina boasted of her abilities. She was, she said, "quick to deep-throat the dick/Let another bitch straight-lick the clit," and nobody else could "keep it wet like me/ Lick a nigga nut sack like me." The ensuing notoriety sent the song, a single from Trick's album Www.Thug.Com, to number three on Billboard's Hot Rap Tracks chart.
Of course, haters couldn't take it, and rumors swirled that Trick had discovered Trina while she was dancing at infamous Miami strip joint Club Rolexx. (The main source of the gossip, however, has been bawdy female rapper Khia, a competitor in the rap game.) But Trina insists this is all wrong. "I did dance a long time ago, but that was right after high school, and it wasn't for me," she says. "I've always been adventurous and I thought, How do I wanna make money? How am I gonna survive? I was doing a bunch of different things.
"Eventually I decided to get my real estate license. That seemed like the closest thing to reality. I could be sitting at a desk, working an office job," she continues. "But then Trick asked me to be on his record, and it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I did the record with Trick and went back to my job at ERA Homeland Realty.
"But then I went on the road with Trick, and that's what shifted my mind from real estate to music. I wanted to be an entertainer; I wanted to be on the big screen. I loved the cameras and the lights." Shortly after she signed to Trick's label, Slip-N-Slide Records, her 2000 debut album, Da Baddest Bitch, went platinum. The 2002 followup, Diamond Princess, went gold, and 2005's Glamorest Life produced the hit single "Here We Go," featuring Kelly Rowland.
This past April 1, she dropped her fourth full-length, Still Da Baddest, a star-studded affair featuring guest appearances by the likes of Rick Ross, Keyshia Cole, and Missy Elliott. The album quickly hit number one on the Billboard R&B/Hip-Hop charts and number six on the Billboard Top 200.
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On a recent Friday night, Trina appears relaxed as she discusses the record at Slip-N-Slide's headquarters. Wearing a silver silk button-down shirt, dark red lipstick, tight black jeans, and black leather high heels, the self-proclaimed Queen of Miami lounges on a soft leather couch in a recording studio booth, away from her entourage. The diamond rings on her fingers glisten as she gestures with her hands and talks about the album's lead track, "Single Again." Does the Madonna of hip-hop have any favorite romantic places in her hometown?
"Romantic for me is just getting away from everybody and everyday routines like the clubs and the parties," she says, "getting away from things I would normally do. I like going to a spa and getting a massage or sitting in the middle of the ocean on a private boat. Just having that me time, and just away from all the people with the questions and the cameras.... When you can just relax and chill — that's romantic."
But there isn't much time to relax when you're one of the few successful female MCs left in the game. And because of her achievements, Trina says she sees herself as an empowering figure. "A lot of women have low self-esteem," she says. "I was just brought up around a lot of women and they were stern. Like, you don't need a man to do anything; you gotta take care of yourself, believe in yourself. My mom was like, go get it. And now I'm just a strong person, and I don't believe in giving up. I came a long way. I have been in the game for over 10 years and I'm still standing strong."
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The added life experience translates to a new level of maturity in some of her songs. At the same time, there is plenty of raunch: "I got the best pussy," goes one refrain. But as Trina says it, it's not solely meant to be provocative — it's just reality.
"I talk about what surrounds me: the partying, the girls being wild, having a great time, getting fly, getting your own money, being independent, going shopping, you know," she insists. "I am living the American dream, and everybody is not able to live that dream."
Her latest album, she says, is all about duality. "I came up from the hood. I have crazy, wild friends, and I got real sophisticated kinds of friends, and that balances me out. So when I'm in the studio, that's what I project. If I feel like talking grimy and raw, that's what I'm gonna do. That's a part of society," she explains.
"My life has just excelled to another level. That's where the soft, melodic, or romantic songs come from. That's the inner part of me," she continues. "I have been in and out of love — I am human. I'm no different from nobody else. I have great days, horrible days, I get mad. You know, it's all part of being a human. I am always stepping my game up. Everybody can't do that."