By Francisco Alvarado
By Trevor Bach
By Chris Joseph
By Michael E. Miller
By Allie Conti
By Keegan Hamilton and Francisco Alvarado
By Jake Rossen
By Allie Conti
-- 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 12 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 barbecued 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 baddest kid and I was going to jail too." So he began to prepare. "They had me thinking, 'All right, if I'm going to jail, I'm going to be the baddest nigger there.'"
He credits his grandmother, Earthel Tyler Parks, for helping him steer clear of the authorities. "I kept him going to church is all," she comments. "He wasn't too bad. He didn't get in trouble with the police." That was largely because of football, which absorbed much of his energy. He played free safety and quarterback at American High School in Hialeah, then won a scholarship to Chaminade Madonna College Preparatory School in Hollywood. He believed he was talented enough to eventually play with the pros. But he spent less time with the books than he did with the pigskin, and by his senior year, it was unclear whether he'd have the grades to qualify for even a mediocre college.
When it came time for the Scholastic Aptitude Test, he took a shortcut; that is, 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," Earthel Parks recalls), he became interested in promoting concerts at clubs. He began by booking artists at discos around town and turning a small profit from ticket sales. But soon, he says, he started hiring up-and-coming artists like R&B singer R. Kelly to play at the (now closed) Studio 183 and other clubs. A year later Lucas took on a bigger project. Along with friends who ran a music promotion company called DDS Productions, Lucas arranged a Miami Arena concert featuring the groups Levert, Silk, HTown, and R. Kelly. It flopped. Lucas estimates he and DDS lost about $100,000. The budding impresario was nearly wiped out. "It was just too big," he admits. "I wasn't ready for it. Plus the timing was wrong. It rained that day. It was back-to-school time. People needed clothes, they didn't want to spend no money on a concert."
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.