If you don’t know Trina, I promise you, you’re missing out. A testament to her ability to adapt and grow, the icon has been called "the most consistent female rapper of all time" by XXL Magazine, and made Billboard’s list of "31 Female Rappers Who Changed Hip-Hop." For the past two decades, this mononymous badass has evolved her sound to keep up with the times.
Entering the rap game in 1998, the Miami-born artist featured on a Trick Daddy song before releasing her first album, Da Baddest Bitch, in early 2000. She’s since released five more albums—her latest, The One, came out this past June, nine years after the release of her previous album, Amazin’.
The One is the first album to be released under Trina’s own label imprint, Rockstarr Music Group. Her single “BAPS” (Badass Pretty Sagittarius, obviously) ft. Nicki Minaj is this year’s “thank u, next”, with Trina calling out a handful of her exes including James Harden, French Montana, and Tory Lanez. (Hot Girl Summer never ends, and it’s objectively a bop, I might add).
The 44-year-old rapper has worked with everyone from Flo Rida to Ludacris to DJ Khaled—and now, Solange. For L’Officiel USA's Fall 2019 cover story, Trina interviewed the songstress in a revelatory texting conversation where the duo bonded over creative processes and fearlessness.
The album and imprint mark the beginning of a new era for Trina: the Diamond Princess now sits upon her throne as Queen. The rapper spoke with L’Officiel USA about her legacy, navigating the hip-hop world as a woman, and her hope that, as a daughter, she has made her mother proud.
How has your creative process changed since you first started your music career?
My creative process honestly transcended as I grew as a woman in life. I think as a public figure in the music world, you must adapt with change, growth, and the culture being shaped. When I first started, I honestly just went into the booth and talked reckless and raw like they wanted me to. It really wasn’t much prepping for this career—I had a different direction picked for my life then—but I got called in music and I just went. As I grew as a woman experiencing different things since being in the industry as a music entertainer, I realized my power is learning the game and using my power creatively for the ladies. I took my creative moments from life experiences either from me or around me, and a song was born. If I want to remind the industry that I still will get reckless here and there on a record, I will go into that creative process and record. I’ve been in this industry for two decades and still have remained consistent and vibrant in the culture changes…I mean, I am more honored than my fans are to have gained this ongoing support. In my current career, I have the power to go whatever direction I want to as a businesswoman and as an artist. My sixth album spoke this same growth, which is why I named it The One.
For your first album, Da Baddest Bitch, you were unhappy with the lack of creative control you had. That changed for Diamond Princess. What does creative control mean to you and how did that transition from album one to two feel?
Back then, I was viewed to represent the raw and reckless, about her bags, female sex-appeal driven entertainer. Because of this visual, when you saw my name then, you wouldn’t care to judge me in an artistic manner or notice that I wanted to grow. The label and execs saw me as giving them this fuel and that was where they wanted me to grow as an artist continuously. Let’s be clear, I am a woman, and personally I was growing in my wants and needs, so it would make sense to show this professionally. They didn’t see the Trina speaking on being in love or the hurt emcee who is embracing it for the ladies; they saw “NANN” Trina! I felt Da Baddest Bitch was a project that got slept on even on the marketing scope because of that, and the energy wasn’t viewed as wanting me as a music entertainer to go left too much. And I can see why on the ROI scope because you get comfortable with your “for sure"-type moves versus the risqué moves. Today, I can speak on it both creatively as an artist and in the mind of business decisions because of my own record label imprint, “Rockstarr Music Group.”
As a woman, I was growing and wanted to show that artistically I was creative even more. We are in a competitive industry overall, so I feel that you should want to gain more control of the creative concept and focus of your art. No matter the type of business, why stay stuck?
Similar to that, you now have your own label imprint. What did that mean to you for The One, and what will it mean for future albums?
Yes! I do [have my own label imprint] and am so proud to say this, no matter the tests or obstacles. In so many ways, I believe being tested comes from wanting to step outside the lines and take a risk on yourself. Rockstarr Music Group is mine, and I want to make sure that its legacy matches the legacy behind my music. The One introduced the record label in a sense of the release being first under the imprint, and I had full creative control over it. This album release had its difficulties, including the post-release events, but it's still under my own [label], and I delivered a collective, creatively expanded Trina as a female emcee/icon in my own right. Future projects for artists under my label and any new music, if I choose to release, will be under RMG, and that is a blessing in its own. A long time coming and deserved. It doesn’t get easier to hold your spot in the hip-hop world as a woman and especially as an emcee. So you learn how to adapt, expand, and remain in your position until you are ready to retire its legacy. This is what I remind myself of in difficult times. I am thankful to be able to talk on my evolution since 1998 and honored by the support I still get from my fans and supporters worldwide.
You’ve been in the industry through multiple eras. In what ways do you feel it has changed? In what ways do you feel it has remained the same? What would you like to change?
That’s a question that makes you just stop and say…talk about the eras of the hip-hop music industry and its trials and tribulations. Looking where we are in today's culture, how our world has moved to a digital working approach, to how social media makes for no more privacy in our world; there have been significant changes since I was introduced in 1998. Look at how music is primarily sold now versus back in the 1998-2000 era; people are going to apps or downloading on smartphones before considering going to a retail store to purchase. On the other hand, I know people who would prefer the physical copy just as much and tend to stray away from using social media to broadcast their life, let alone worry about a stranger’s life more than their own. Today in hip-hop, I LOVE how it is more female rappers, and making a storm introduction to their brand being built. We are being welcomed more openly in music today. At the same time, you must be adaptable to abruptly grow or change some of your ways as a music artist; it's still a male-dominated industry. The politics of holding your ground as an emcee, creatively impacting, and building as a business hasn’t changed. To me, that gets worse for you as an artist if you’re not learning the game as you grow musically.
Do you have any advice for younger artists?
First and foremost, learn the business of music as you grow as an artist. I am speaking strongly on the business aspect so as a younger artist, you are well-equipped to reduce mistakes in the industry early on in your career. We aren’t just entertaining; this is our business as well. Keep learning and digesting the game to grow as a businesswoman and as an entertainer.
What inspires you?
Life inspires me as an artist. As a woman, growth and experiences inspire my energy. I get inspiration from the good, bad, great, and ugly in life musically. One song may be fueled from an event that changed me as a woman, and the next track may be from my girlfriend experiencing a situation that I wanted to turn into a song for the ladies. Art is meant to be multidimensional in the feelings people get from its creation.
When you interviewed Solange, you said, “deep fear is only there because it’s testing you for something greater.” Is that sentiment something you’ve found to be true in your own life? What are some of your fears? Recently, have you felt that something is testing you for something greater?
She is so sweet, and the conversation became comfortable for us to just talk like we’ve known each other forever in a sense. That is something that I find motivation in as a businesswoman, and I wanted her to know that it fits her legacy as well. We all need reminders every now and then. Yes, I have felt that I am being tested in this phase in my life/career; consequently, every step correlates to this test towards a new phase in time. I don’t know where that may lead my career or me as a woman, but I am always willing to bet on myself.
You also talked with Solange about performance, noting it’s key to who she is as an artist. Do you feel similarly? If not, what is key to you as an artist?
Absolutely, it is part of your delivery as an artist and entertainer. You give the energy you ignite for your brand with fans, and if that energy doesn’t give an emotion, there will not be any reaction. Performances become the envelope in the presentation given from your talent, so it is one of my key attributes to who Trina has evolved in and will continue to as a woman. Another key tool as a music artist is being enabled to grow creatively, which we discussed more in-depth already, but it is an area that needs reminders because we can also get comfortable. And lastly, I think the direction you project your career is key as a female emcee on the same scale as these two.
What is your favourite song off of The One and why?
“MAMA” would be my favorite song if I truly had to pick from my sixth studio album. The One had so many of those records that you can honestly just ride to and relate or feel a vibe towards. I chose this song because I wanted to show my mom how much she meant to me and to my path as a woman and that I hope that I have made her proud as a daughter. And the visual of this song complimented the theme, even more, when it was released. This track is one that I will always hold dear to my heart.
What does the future look like for you? What upcoming projects do you have in the works?
I am focusing on going into the future in happiness as a woman. And as an artist, I truly hope to continue inspiring rising femcees to hone their craft and hold their lane always. I hope my fans continue to enjoy my music and I am enabled to motivate them in one way or another. I am so grateful for the love given since my introduction.
Cover and last photo courtesy of Christian J. Google. Middle two photos courtesy of Riocam.