TrinaDate of Interview: 05/04/2011

With a music catalog filled with gold and platinum records, one must wonder about the shock surrounding XXL Magazine’s 2010 dubbing of Trina as “The Most Consistent Female Rapper of All-Time.” Upon close inspection, however, the rationale becomes clear: since 2001, she has garnered seven “Best Female Hip-Hop Artist” nominations at the BET Awards, the highest total overall, and she was the only female rapper to release five studio albums during this time. Consequently, Trina has proven – time and time again – that XXL’s accolade is no misnomer. Based upon these immutable facts, she is still “The Baddest B***h.”

In the midst of preparations for her sixth studio album, Trina managed to squeeze some time out of her busy schedule and settle down for an interview with Clayton Perry – reflecting on the rise of Southern rap, her infatuation with diamonds, and the challenges facing female artists.

Clayton Perry:  As a female rapper in a male-dominated genre, what do you think has been the biggest obstacle in your pursuit of success?

Trina:  Sometimes, it’s pretty overwhelming, when you think about being on a show and the line-up has five or six guys and one girl. But with me being the only girl, it made me stronger and kept me focused. So the only obstacle was myself, because I realize that I could do whatever I wanted to do as long as I stayed determined. I just try to maintain and stay in my lane, so that I can continue to put out albums and just continue to be me.

Clayton Perry:  Having spent well over a decade in the music game, what old obstacles do you think female rappers have overcome, and what new obstacles have emerged in the contemporary music landscape?

Trina:  When I first started out, every woman had to be a sex symbol kind of thing, and every woman had to be sensual and provocative. I guess it was just a part of the era of music at that time. Now, women are still sexy, but they are more flirty and fun. And I see more women talking about getting girls to be on a whole other level and to be independent and just be a “boss chick.” I think that’s the difference now: you see more women stepping out on their own and making their own money. It’s way different, just a decade later. There’s always going to be obstacles, no matter what happens. I just think every artist, especially females, have to understand what works best for them. You really have to understand what it is that you can bring out of yourself to constantly recreate and revamp every time the music changes or every time you come out with something different. Because when you evolve, you grow; and because you’ve seen and done so much, you have to put all that into action and show it.

Clayton Perry:  Although several accolades have been attached to your name, with the release of your forthcoming project, you will join a rare club of hip-hop emcees to record six studio albums. Even so, on a more personal level, what professional accomplishment do you consider to be your great contribution to hip-hop?

Trina:  I really adore my fans and how much effort they have put in supporting me for so long. From the very beginning, everybody that loved me back then has grown up with me as I grew up. I think that is really important. Because of them, I have been able to stay relevant and stay consistent. I have been able to do this for a decade because people want me to continue doing what I have been doing for this long.

Clayton Perry:  Over the years, you have built a brand and empire that extends beyond the music business. As a businesswoman, what professional lessons played a role in your success?

Trina:  Well, coming into the business – as a young artist – it was all about having fun: music, touring, partying, collaborating with other artists, and just having a great time meeting a lot of different people. But as you continue to do the same thing over and over, the “business” side starts to become more clear, because you start getting offered different things and being placed in certain situations. And there’s a part of you that begins to grow up and say: “Hey, this is more than art, now. You are a brand.” And when that happens, you become more of a businessperson. You become more involved in everything that you’re doing, and you’re not just jumping from a plane when it’s time to do a show or signing the dotted line just because you’re in a meeting. You finally get to a point where you actually know what’s going on around you, because this is the life that you have grown into. You need to be involved. You need to know the business. I don’t let  my manager handle everything. You need to know when business is good. You need to know when it’s slow. You need to know the details of your budget. And you need to know all the things that are important about your career. I think that’s what made me put my foot down and have a say-so and feel comfortable saying: “No, I don’t like this!” or “Let’s try this!”

Clayton Perry:  When did this finally become clear to you?

Trina:  I started looking at my career as a twenty-four hour job. I call it work. I don’t really look at it as just having fun. Fun comes along with it, but there is a lot of work that has to be done, too. There are a lot of stressful long nights – and early mornings.  There are times when you have a lot of fun and travelling – and there are times when you have to be away from family. So every time I do a project, I think of the business aspect. I think of how it’s going to affect me, and how it’s going to benefit me. Everything! [laughing] I think I have always been guided or taught how to be in control of what I am doing. No matter what, I can perform throughout the entire year, with or without an album. So I had to understand that this is not just doing performances. This is my business. This is a career. This is how I live. This is how I eat. This is how I provide for my family.

Clayton Perry:  Trina, it’s really inspiring to hear you talk. As a native of North Carolina, I remember that there used to be a day and age when Southern rap was not considered hip-hop. In your mind, when did the South become a key player in the hip-hop game?

Trina:  Absolutely, I totally agree. At first, people really did not take the South that seriously. It wasn’t considered real hip-hop – just fast music, a lot of up-tempo, booty-shaking dance music. Over the years, it has gotten stronger, and there are some Southern artists – Trick [Daddy], T.I., Ludacris, Lil’ Wayne, Rick Ross – that took what they believed in and turned it into a whole hip-hop genre. I’m really honored to be a part of that movement. There are so many different artists from different parts of the South that have different types of music. And now it’s taking over – and at first it wasn’t even considered!

Clayton Perry:  At what point did you officially realize that rapping was something you could do as a career?

Trina:  Oh, this is one of those moments that left me in total shock! I had just recorded “Nann,” my first record with Trick, and he invited me to his album release party. And I was thinking: “Okay, cool. I’m going to go watch him perform, do his single, whatever.” I was just there having a nice time. He was performing and everybody was having a good time dancing and partying. And he played the record, but when it got to my part, he stopped, talked to the crowd and said: “Do you guys want to see Trina come up here and do her show?” [laughing] I literally ran out of the club! [laughing continues] I was thinking: “Oh, you’re crazy. I’m not doing it. No way. Absolutely not. I’m not getting on that stage.” It was a really funny moment, but then he was so serious. I just said: “OK.” When I got on the stage and started performing “Nann,” every girl in the club was singing the verse. I was in awe. From that moment, I really started thinking about it; and when he first started his tour, I actually was able to go on and perform. Tallahassee Homecoming – that was a huge, huge show. They went crazy, and with that performance, it literally jumped inside: “I’m never doing anything else.” And it was one of those things I took seriously. It became really serious, and I put out my first album within the next year.

Clayton Perry:  A large number of women look to you for inspiration. As the founder of the Diamond Doll Foundation, what is a crucial message that you want to leave with the young women of this current generation?

Trina:  No matter what happens in life, you have to believe in yourself. Sometimes I find myself thinking that the people I thought believed in me the most believed in me the least. One of the hardest things you have to do is feel like you are walking alone. I just became a very strong person, because I just knew that there was nothing I could not do. So you have to be very focused and fight for whatever it is that you want to do. And give it all your all, 150 percent. The world isn’t perfect: everybody has a past and everybody has a story. But I think that if you are 100 percent genuine with yourself and just do whatever it is that you love, then it’s so easy to make everybody else believe in it, because you believe in it.

Clayton Perry:  Very true. Your most recent mixtape is entitled “Diamonds are Forever,” and for as long as I can remember, “diamonds” have been associated with your brand.  What makes you gravitate towards “diamonds,” and how do they relate to your persona?

Trina:  I just think a diamond is like a really priceless thing. They’re rare and beautiful. And they’re very sexy and alluring. They also make you fabulous! [laughing] But I just think a diamond is a really priceless thing. And diamonds are a girl’s best friend! [laughing continues]

For more information on Trina, visit her official MySpace page:


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