Trick Daddy’s Comeback: "I Didn't Leave the Rap Game; the Rap Game Left Me"

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Trick Daddy is a passionate man. He’s passionate about his city, his community, hip-hop, and he’s definitely passionate about his food.

“Tilapia, that’s a new fish,” he says. “I don’t even remember when tilapia came out. That’s not a fish we ate. Growing up in the ghetto, we ate grunts, we ate mullets, but we never heard of tilapia. It doesn’t really have a taste. I finally just seen a whole-fish tilapia, and it look like this fake snapper. It’s dirty and has no color, and all the tilapia fillets are the same exact size.”

Trick is a real Miami guy. He was born and raised in Dade County. Now 41, he has repped the 305 since 1973. He has never belonged to the Miami that rich people from far-off lands treat as their temporary high-rise playground. He comes from the Miami built on drug money and the hustle of the working classes, whether white or black, Caribbean or South American.

That’s the Miami that Trick helped put on the map, and that’s the Miami that Trick still loves today. But as he sees it, the real Miami, real Miamians, and real Miami hip-hop are suffering while wealthy interlopers contribute nothing to their adopted city.

“I am Miami,” Trick says. “You can’t just scream, ‘Miami!’ You have to live in Miami. You have to do things for Miami. You have to give to the community, the kids. I been through three Category 5 hurricanes, two major riots. If you did that, lemme hear that. I’m not impressed about your cars, your money, your jewelry; that don’t impress me. Show me that you love Miami instead of just saying it.” In Dade County, Trick Daddy Dollars is a legend. He grew up listening to rappers from New York and Los Angeles, eagerly waiting for the day when record labels would let him tell the stories of the 305. And in 1996, Trick was anointed the heir to the Miami rap mantle when he made his debut in Uncle Luke’s “Scarred” video.

“People like me, Luke, Trina, JT Money, we opened a lot of doors for musicians and artists,” he says. “There was people way before us that made big, classic hit records in Miami that didn’t get the recognition because they said all we knew how to do was sell drugs, look good, and kill each other.”

But Trick is the kind of man who won’t do what he’s told, so he set about releasing albums at a rate of almost once a year for the next decade. His first full-length record, Based on a True Story, dropped in ’97, but it was 1998’s www.thug.com released on Slip-N-Slide Records that set his and Trina’s careers on fire. If you claim to be from Miami but you don’t love “Nann Nigga,” then you’ve got to be an impostor.

By 2004, Trick had linked up with some of Atlanta’s biggest rap stars, like Young Jeezy and Lil Jon, scoring hits that brought the Southern rap sound to all corners of the world.

“We started doing our thing and changing the sounds of the music, getting accepted on the West Coast and the East Coast,” he says. “But it only lasted for a little bit, because these new artists came along, and they wasn’t trying to join forces. They was takin’ over.”

These days, Trick looks around and sees a lot of tilapia rappers, just a bunch of fakes with no distinct flavor or style, chasing a dollar like a fish after bait.

“All of them rap about the same thing,” he says. “Take all their a cappellas, and you could put it on a long beat and just keep dropping in verses and all of them gonna fit, because the wack new producers mimic beats. They build beats off other beats. That’s why they sound so much alike.”

Rap music was once the art of true street hustlers. These days, the hustlers are the record executives, and the product is a glamorous lie.

“You’re lying, making the kids think you can do that,” Trick says. “They doing all this killing, and they ain’t got killed yet. In their first single, they’re in Phantoms and Maybachs. My first thing I ever rapped about a car was ‘I want a Benz, but I’m 50 grand short.’ I didn’t have nann dime, but the kids think it’s that easy.”

Speaking with Trick in his modest yet elegant Miramar, Florida home, the same haven to which he’s occasionally retreated for the past 15 years, it becomes abundantly clear that Trick Daddy still cares very deeply about Miami, and he can’t wait to get back out and tell his city how he feels.

“People be like, ‘Trick, why did you leave the rap game?’ I didn’t leave the rap game; the rap game left me,” he says. “I’ve been dealing with a lot of different issues — the lupus, the IRS, along with just family problems — and now I’m getting all that together.”

The last couple of years, Trick has focused on his health and rebuilt his courage, and he is ready to return to the studio and the stage. You won’t see him playing any expensive gigs, though; instead, he plans to headline shows like tonight’s Fadenfest, a $17 ticket, because he doesn’t think fans should have to spend a week’s paycheck to see musicians they love. And he won’t be jumping on someone’s hot dance single just because the money is good. He wants the music to be real, like him.

“Music is supposed to be like the blues,” he says. “It’s supposed to be a story. It’s supposed to take you somewhere. It’s supposed to make you feel better, make you tear up, or something. You listen to today’s music, and they all over the board. They jumping on the wall, they land in the bed, and the next verse, they in church. No, that don’t all go together.”

For Trick, there’s nothing more thug than telling it like it is.

“When I rap about thugs, I tell them they don’t live that long,” he says. “If I grew up with you and we had a beef, we would fight, and the next day, we would be cool, we’d end up walking to school together, and maybe even become best friends one day. But now if we go to school together, I kill you, your friends kill me, and my momma and your momma at funerals on different blocks. What is that? And people thinking it’s gangster. There’s nothing gangster about that.”

So yes, Trick still loves the kids, and he wants them to go to school. He wants them to aspire to great things instead of simply chasing great wealth. He also wants Miami to be proud of itself, take charge of its future, and stop letting outsiders build high-rises that will run us out of town.

Being real isn’t an easy job, but someone’s got to do it.

“I have to go back to this music; I have to give them something,” he says. “I won’t tell them no lie, and when I tell them, they’re going to believe me.”

Fadenfest. With Trick Daddy, Otto von Schirach, Nunhex, Sandratz, Gun Hoes, and others. 8 p.m. Friday, April 10, at LMNT, 59 NW 36th St., Miami; 305-572-9007; lmntartsmiami.com. Tickets cost $17 plus fees via eventbrite.com or $20 at the door. Ages 18 and up.

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