In the hip-hop industry, female MCs tend to have a shorter career span and are widely overshadowed by their male counterparts, and with the Grammy Awards replacing their Best Female Rap Solo Performance category with a unisex one, the path to success for a female lyricist is a very steep mountain to climb…
But despite all the odds stacked against her, Trina has successfully risen to the challenge, carving a glittering career that spans over 13 years and has no signs of slowing down. The 32-year-old Miami native recently caught up with The Wrap Up’s Vanessa Laker to talk new music, the transition of rap, longevity in hip-hop, the decline of female rappers, Nicki Minaj and much more.
The Wrap Up: Hi Trina! You’ve just released a new mixtape, ‘Diamonds Are Forever’. Tell us a bit about that project…
Trina: Hiya! Well, ‘Diamonds Are Forever’ is a very honest record. It’s a work of art. It was so much fun to make. It was all original music, so it actually has more of an album feel to it. I worked with a lot of great artists, such as Rick Ross, Mya and T-Pain. It’s definitely something for the streets. It’s emotional; it’s sexy and just raw. It’s a very real record. It was such a great CD to make – one of my greatest, actually. I don’t even like to say it’s a mixtape, because it’s so close to an album.
TWU: And how would you say your albums differ from your mixtapes?
Trina: Well, this mixtape actually seems more like an album. Being the fact that I used all original music and I worked very closely with a lot of the producers, I really wanted to go into album mode. I wanted it to feel like an album, I wanted to use all original music and get my mindset ready for creating the new album. That’s how I was actually able to do this mixtape. I knew a lot of the songs wouldn’t be for radio, it would be for the streets and for the clubs. It was just real music and that’s what I love most about it.
TWU: You’ve been in the industry for 13 years now. What’s the feeling like for you when you release a new record? Is it still the same level of excitement, or would you say it’s a different type of feeling now?
Trina: The excitement is always there. As long as you still have that hunger and drive and just stay focused, it’s always there. My love for music keeps me excited. Longevity in this industry is not the easiest thing to do, so to still be releasing music after over a decade is a blessing.
TWU: Speaking of longevity, you’re the only female rapper to have ever released five studio albums. Why do you think other female rappers have struggled with longevity in hip-hop?
Trina: Erm… I think a lot of it is label issues. There’s only a few of us (female rappers) left in the game right now. I think with label transitions and then artists may take off one, two or three years, but then when it’s time to come back out, it’s like starting all over again. So I’ve just been consistent, as opposed to doing shows and concerts all over the world and that’s what has kept my stride going. I’m just always very consistent with releasing new material and like I said, a lot has to do with the label. Then there are so many factors that can cause delays in the release of an album, especially with females, because there’s more work and creativity that goes into a female artist. It’s a lot more expensive. You just have to have a great team behind you and positive people who can keep things moving.
TWU: Ten years ago, there were a number of female rappers in the charts, but nowadays, with the exception of yourself and Nicki Minaj, female rap is practically none-existent on a contemporary mainstream international level. But this rapid decline in female rap has never affected your career. Why do you think you’ve continued to flourish, yet other artists have been less fortunate?
Trina: You gotta stay working, no matter what. I work when I have an album out, I work when I don’t have an album out, and I work predominately throughout the whole year. Even if you’re not seeing me, I’m somewhere working. I’m constantly in reach of the fans, I’m constantly performing, I’m constantly attaching myself to the fans and those that continue to follow, they can see that and that’s what helps me to stay on the relevant side. I’ve never really stopped. If the songs aren’t out, then the remix is out. For a decade it has just been consistent non-stop work; travelling, shows and just trying to stay in touch with the fans.
TWU: Looking at your career, over the last decade, you’ve released mixtapes and albums, pretty much back-to-back. Does it ever get overwhelmingly tiring and do you sometimes feel like you want to take a little break from it all?
Trina: You know, it’s not a tiring thing, this is work. Whenever I need a break, I make sure I can take a vacation or I make sure that I have time to get away from everything, once I’ve worked so much. Sometimes you just have to say, ‘You know what? I need three days off, just for me. No work, no music, no interviews, no nothing.’ It’s a good thing, but the more you work and the harder you work, the better you become at your craft. The more you work, the more I think you gain recognition, the more you stay relevant, the more the fans want more. If you’re an artist and you have fans, they’ll continue to want more. They don’t really understand the thing that you need time off. They always wanna see you, they wanna see you doing something, they always wanna here new music, they always wanna here a remix, or something. So for myself, I constantly and always continue to give more. It’s 365 of the year and I’m continuing to always work.
TWU: As a female MC, do you feel as though you’ve had to work twice as hard as your male counterparts?
Trina: OMG! More like five times as hard (laughs). Hip-hop is the hardest genre of music for a female artist, because it really is a male dominated industry. As a woman, you’re fighting, you’re holding your ground and sometimes it is like a fight. You know when I go on stage and do shows, I’m the only female and there’s like six guys in the show and that just shows you how few females there are in this game. So you definitely have to put in extra work – but that’s (just) how it is. But you know, I’m a workaholic and I LOVE what I do, so I just continue to work extremely hard. But yes, we definitely have to work five times as hard as the guys.
TWU: Nicki Minaj is blowing up right now and putting female hip-hop on the map again, but rather than uniting the genre and being the catalyst for the revival of female rap music, it’s kind of had an opposite effect. Why do you think that is?
Trina: Women are kind of catty and when someone new comes in, I think sometimes people don’t know how to accept that. Personally, I’m always looking for something new, I love the new talent. I love when I see someone new and when there’s a new female, it’s exciting. Nicki’s doing her thing right now and it kind of reminds me of when I first came out and I was doing my thing. I was really excited for the other females that were out at the same time as me, you know, the Missy Elliot’s, etc. I wanted to be a part of the whole female thing. But nowadays, it’s a little different – which is a shame, but to each to their own, everybody has their own reasons. As an artist, you’re not going to be everybody’s favourite person. There are people that love me and there are people that don’t care to hear my music, and that’s OK. But there shouldn’t be an issue, we should really just salute one another – that’s how I look at it. When new girls come in, we should have this big female power movement and make the genre stronger, because there are only a few female MCs in the game. For every ten guys, there’s just one girl, it’s so unbalanced.
TWU: Very true indeed. So, how would you say hip-hop music, as a whole, has changed over the last ten years?
Trina: I think now we’re in a decade and era where hip-hop music is really changing. I call it ‘hip-rock.’ It’s more poppy and transitional. It’s more radio friendly and it’s OK to go outside of the box and do what you feel, as opposed to when I first came out in 1998. If you were sexy, you had to be a sex symbol and the music had to be for the streets and for the clubs. But nowadays, fans just wanna hear a great record, no matter what type of music it is. You can experiment and try different sounds now. I’m so happy to be a part of this whole evolution. From my era at the beginning, to now recording the sixth album, where I’ll be featuring a lot more pop records and just experimenting with different sounds. I’m working with a lot of different types of artists and I think it’s nice to incorporate a mixture of sounds, as opposed to just completely hip-hop. It’s a great transition. I think the sound of today is a beautiful one, I love it and I’m excited about it.
TWU: You’ve worked with some of hip-hop’s finest, but which none-hip-hop artist would you like to collaborate with?
Trina: It would be Beyoncé. She’s my favourite of all time. I absolutely love her, I think she’s phenomenal. She’s like a masterpiece. That would definitely be like my favourite person to work with.
TWU: And when will your UK fans get to see you live?
Trina: I’m working on that right now. I’m hoping to do a UK tour real soon. I’ve never been there before and it’s one of my top desired destinations to visit and perform live. I believe I have lot of fans out there, so I definitely have to come out here soon and perform for the UK fans. It would be a dream come true, so I’m really looking forward to that. Hopefully we can do that by the end of this year. I can’t wait!
Trina’s mixtape, ‘Diamonds Are Forever’, is out now.