If Trick Daddy's rapping style doesn't sound quite like anyone else's, he has his upbringing to thank: He spent much of his youth in juvenile centers and prisons.
The isolation, he said, forced him to develop his own sound.
"You pretty much get your own vibe from yourself," said the 22-year-old rapper, whose second album, www.thug.com, has made a slow, steady climb up the Billboard 200 albums chart. "Whereas when you're in the street, you can just go into any record store and say, 'OK, the Roots -- let me hear what they got,' and if you like they style, you can go after it. In prison, you only get to hear what's on the radio and that's what you've got to write from."
He never imagined, he said, that one day his own music would be on the radio.
But about a year after his release from prison, where Trick Daddy (born Maurice Young) last served time for attempted murder, the then-19-year-old MC appeared on 2 Live Crew frontman Luke's 1996 single "Scarred."
"Once the 'Scarred' record took off so fast, I just said 'It's that easy? I can do this, this is easy,' " the Miami rapper said recently from the offices of his label, Slip-N-Slide Records.
And he's stuck to a formula. "Once you know what the consumer wants to hear," he said, "why go outside of it? Give 'em what they want."
"Nann Nigga" (RealAudio excerpt), a hit from www.thug.com that features vocals by fellow Slip-N-Slide rapper Trena, appeals to audiences because of its "bouncy, nod-your-head beat" as well as its accessible subject matter, Trick Daddy explained.
"For any song on there, what I'm talking about is what goes on everyday," Trick said. "You've got some people who feel like they need to change your life; you got some people feeling like they need to be thugs. It's ... real stuff that goes on everyday in our society."
Trick Daddy released his debut album, Based on a True Story, in 1997 under the name Trick Daddy Dollars -- he has since dropped the last part of the name. A gritty account of street life that combined R&B sensibilities with Trick Daddy's heavy, Southern-styled rhymes, the album spent 16 weeks on the Billboard R&B albums chart.
In September 1998 he followed with www.thug.com, which so far has spawned two singles: "Nann Nigga" and "Change My Life" (RealAudio excerpt). In recent weeks the album has made a slow, steady climb up the Billboard 200 albums chart; it's now at #32.
That steady, rather than explosive, progress is just fine with Slip-N-Slide, General Manager Debbie Bennett said.
"Trick doesn't want the world at his feet today," Bennett said. "He's willing to take each project one step further, two steps further, than the one before. We wanted to build a story with Trick, not create a flash in the pan."
Raised in Miami, Trick Daddy was locked up for drug and firearm possession at 15. The day he was released, he was arrested on an attempted-murder charge for shooting a man during a street fight. He was convicted and ended up behind bars again.
Despite the isolation, Trick was able to keep up on the rap scene while he was in prison by listening to the radio. The artist who most influenced him, he said, was Tupac Shakur.
"His music seemed so real -- I feel the same way he felt," Trick Daddy said of Tupac, who was murdered in Las Vegas in 1996. "Every one of his songs had a story to it; you could almost visualize what he was saying while he rapping."
After he was set free, Trick Daddy said, he went in mad pursuit of a record deal. "In prison you can't get heard," he said. "When I got out, you know, you done wrote so much stuff you want to be heard."
Slip-N-Slide Records label head Ted Lucas had known Trick Daddy since childhood. Bennett recalled, "Trick told Ted, 'I can rap, I can rap,' and Ted's like, 'Yeah, but you're a pain in the ass.' And Trick was like, 'But I'll listen, I'll work. I want this. I see my potential.' "
Trick Daddy said his music is "just me being myself. I don't believe in being a phony. Some rappers may rap about things that they personally don't do. Everything I rap about, I mean every word of it."
Still, he called his second album www.thug.com and included such songs as "Log On" (RealAudio excerpt), even though, he said, he's never been online. He said he picked the title because it would be catchy to kids, "who probably go straight home after school and get on the computer."