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Going Gold

Off Miramar Parkway, in a community studded with pricey identical houses, Trick Daddy sits in his living room watching the Lifetime channel. Trick (his given name is Maurice Young) is a rapper whose latest album, www.thug.com, is a national hit. Although the past six months have been a succession of tours and video shoots, for now he is resting in his two-bedroom home, the fruit of his recent success. He is wearing a khaki-green tank top, cargo pants, and light hiking boots, all Polo brand. As he reclines on an overstuffed white chair, his shaved head gleams. "I ain't but 170 pounds sopping wet with rocks in my socks," he says. Ten gold teeth flash like sparks when he talks. There is a pool on the back patio, but Trick doesn't swim. "I just like to see bitches in it," he comments with a smirk.

Pornographic magazines like Club International are laid out on the coffee table alongside hip-hop periodicals The Source andBlaze. Assorted friends lounge about, ironing shirts, watching TV, and playing pool on a custom-built table. A young woman in a Tshirt and black panties saunters from a bedroom, surveys the scene, and turns around. When asked about her, Trick responds, "She an animal. She'll do me, you, my whole crew." Those are lyrics from his 1999 song "Suckin' Fuckin'." For this rapper, there appears to be no distinction between music and life.

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. "He my boy. He did his time straight. Didn't snitch on no one," Trick says proudly while his friend looks around, wary, as if adjusting to his newfound freedom. Sparky declines to identify the reason for his incarceration. "It's better if I don't talk about that," he says politely.

Meanwhile Trick is rolling what he calls a "boonk," a Phillies cigar leaf wrapped around cocaine-laced marijuana. Trick takes the first hit, then says the obvious: "I don't believe drugs is necessarily bad." He is, if nothing else, blunt. In accordance with his "keeping it real" credo, Trick uses no artifice; he hides nothing.

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 friends he rolls with, even in the way he spends his days. He rises at dawn, as if he's still on remote control to queue up for prison breakfast. Before sitting for an interview, he walks into the kitchen and cracks open a bottle of Sprite. Almost instinctively he pours a drop into the sink. A small homage, he says, to dead homies.

"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 extent, Trick is still living it. His image is real. It's really scary. He's like what, 23 or 24? When you look in his eyes, you can tell he's seen stuff beyond his years."

You ain't no nann nigga,
that'll represent like me,
who'll say some shit like me,
one who'll lay the dick like me,
bitch, you'n no nann nigga....

-- from "Nann Nigga"

When Trick's song "Nann Nigga" came out this past February, it steadily grew in popularity until it reached the No. 4 spot on Billboard magazine's rap charts. The song was so filthy and raw that it was hard to clean up for radio. Yet with the help of Atlantic Records, which signed on as distributor for www.thug.com, the sanitized version received massive airplay. Fans flocked to the stores. Currently between 800,000 and 900,000 albums have been sold, and the record will likely go platinum by fall. The song's success added nann, a Southern black superlative that roughly means "no one else," to the national lexicon. It also created a huge following for unrepentant thug Trick Daddy. And the rapper's success is inextricably linked to his Miami record label, Slip 'N Slide Records.

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 Tec9, 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. Trick, Ted, and Trina's relationship is based on more than business. They were friends back when their futures were far less certain. The landscape of their music, where dogs tote AKs and 'hos ride their men until the condom breaks, is littered with inner-city drama of a biographical nature. Yet when they met, it must have seemed inconceivable that these three, who hail from one of the hardest-core urban environments in the United States, would parlay their friendship into a million-dollar business relationship.

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Tristram Korten

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