For the last 10 years, Trick Daddy has given poverty a passionate voice. But before becoming one of Southern hip hop’s most influential lyricists, he lived through project life, bloody riots and back-woods prison bids. Bear witness to the wisdom of a thug.
Who is Trick Daddy? Sure, he’s a rapper, but he’s never been easy to classify—one minute his words ache like a withered old soul, the next he’s recording hooks with a pack of fresh-faced neighborhood children (yes, Trick love the kids). He’s a self-professed thug for life (all of his albums, except for his 1997 debut Based On A True Story, have contained the word “thug”), yet he’s more socially aware than your average politician. They don’t call him the Mayor of Miami for nothing.
Trick was born Maurice Young in the Liberty City section of Miami, Florida. His home was the Liberty Square Housing Projects, commonly known as the Pork ‘n’ Beans Projects, the city’s dysfunctional flipside to the glitzy South Beach lifestyle portrayed on TV. The public housing complex was originally built in the 1930s to accommodate the city’s low income, largely black population. For the first 20-plus years, a wall on the east side of Liberty Square separated the black and white neighborhoods, but by the time Trick was coming up, things had changed. The wall was torn down, and all white neighbors had fled Liberty City for good. The once promising community had deteriorated into crime and tension with police, resulting in a number of riots. After an all-white jury acquitted four white police officers in the brutal killing of a black insurance salesman named Arthur McDuffie, a violent, three day riot ensued. The violence made its mark on a young Trick, who was then only five years old.
Today, after a decade in the music business, the 31-year-old seems to be at a turning point. His once trusty label, Slip-N-Slide Records, seems distant to him now, with CEO Ted Lucas seeming more occupied with his newer artists Rick Ross and Plies. To make matters worse, his fellow Slip-N-Slide/Atlantic artist, Trina, was recently dropped from the label, and Trick’s latest, Back by Thug Demand, had sold only about 130,000 copies as of press time, a weak showing compared to the rest of his catalogue. Marketing an artist like Trick, who speaks his mind and is full of contradictions, is not easy in this volatile music industry. Still, Trick seems secure in the knowledge that he is a man of the people. With his new crew and label Dunk Ryders, Trick is finally taking some younger artists under his wing. Even if he falls, a genuine artist and human being like Trick can always count on there being many hands there to catch him. Aw, trust.
Mass Appeal: Last time you spoke to Mass Appeal, you were on house arrest. When did you get your freedom back?
Trick Daddy: I been off of that for over a year and a half. But it’ll never be freedom for me. I’m a hip hop artist. I’m a thug. I’m black. I’m an ex-convict and I’m living in the state of Florida. I’m always gonna be in some type of trouble, even if I didn’t do it. But never the good stuff. Never the toys, never the school supplies.
How do the police treat you when you’re at home? They must know you.
I always feel like there’s cops and there’s police. What separates the two is that one goes to work looking for me, and the other one goes to work to make the streets safer and also to make it home to his family. For one, it’s personal: black guy, gold teeth. He’s probably a drug dealer, or I just don’t like fuckin’ Trick Daddy. As for the others, they’re like, “Good morning, sir. Sorry I had to pull you over, but you were speeding.” Yeah, I was in a hurry. “No problem. If you’re in a hurry, we’ll run your name, get your ticket so you can get on out of here, man.”
Down in Liberty City, some of the politicians are trying to close down a shanty town called Umoja Village, where all the homeless people are living. Have you heard about this?
Yeah. Where can they go? They already homeless. Are the [politicians] creating a monster? Are people going to end up on their back porches? Are they going to end up in the supermarkets and the grocery stores? Are they going to end up sleeping on the school bus or in the high schools so when the kids get there, their urine and feces are everywhere? What are they going to do?
How do you think the city usually deals with homeless people?
No city in America cares about the homeless. Not the America I know. The America I know is spelled with three Ks. The America I know is still prejudiced. The America I know is still unjust. And the rich get richer and the poor stay poor. And we either work for them or don’t work.
If you were the Mayor, what would you do with the shanty town?
There would be no homeless. Let’s say there was a mother or a single parent with three kids—the two oldest kids and one of the dads in prison, and the other one on drugs. As long as that woman is doing something—I don’t care if she work at Burger King, if she sells newspapers—as long as she doing something to help me help her, as a state official, as a city official, I’ll get her the voucher and make sure she get on some food stamps to help feed her kids. I’d encourage her to do better and be something in life and remind her that her kids will more than likely follow in her footsteps. A strong woman with a strong backbone builds a strong foundation and raises strong families. Sometimes you have people dumb enough to not even try to help themselves. She want to have a baby every year just so her food stamps can go up. Shit like that is where I say, “You got to go.” Other than that, when people can’t help themselves, but they trying their hardest, with all their might, those are the people I help.
How do you tell the difference?
You can tell the difference by how they keep their home. The mannerisms of the kids, how they keep themselves, how they talk when they come and see me. Are they appreciative of it?
Do you know why they first started calling Liberty Square the Pork ‘n’ Beans Projects?
Actually, it was split up back then into three projects. They split it up by the color of the doors, I think to simplify it for the county workers who do the plumbing and the yard and pick up the trash. If they had a toilet that went bad, they could easily tell them what area the toilet was in and it wasn’t as hard to find the address. For a three block radius it was the Pork ‘n’ Beans, and then it was the Green Machine, then the Blueberries. The Blueberries had the blue doors, the Pork ‘n’ Beans had the orange doors, and the Green Machine had the green doors. So after they renovated some of the Pork ‘n’ Beans in the ’90s, knocked it down, rebuilt it, they just called all of them the Pork ‘n’ Beans. Everybody got white doors now.
Do you remember the Liberty City riots in 1980? You might have been too young.
I remember the McDuffie Riots. I remember people walking around with heads on the bottom of sticks. We had real riots. Not the play riots where the police kill the people like in LA. We had riots where the people were killing each other. The next riots, I was probably 11, 10 years old. It was the William Lozano riots, where the white cop stopped the Jamaican man on a motorcycle and killed him.
When you were coming up in Miami, did you ever go to the everglades?
Never went to the Everglades. If I wasn’t rapping, I don’t think I would have ever left the state of Florida. Matter of fact, I think I wouldn’t have ever left Miami with the exception of going to prison. My first vacations out of the city were to prison in different hick towns, dirt back roads in the state of Florida. Rap music is the only way I can see snow or freshwater fish.