We were on our way to Live Tone Studios in Whitehaven. I was driving 23-year-old New Orleans native Trentin Hardrick to meet Memphis producers Sleepy and Taz, two people I knew could turn water into wine when it comes to making music.
I noticed that Trentin, aka Trigga-Trigga, didn't have any notepads or anything to write with. Watching an artist write verses and hooks on the spot in a studio is a norm in the management business. I asked Trentin, who was referred to me for management by his father, where was his song-filled note pad.
By way of his New Orleans drawl, Trentin said he had five albums written down in his head. I wondered whether I was wasting time and gas bringing this "unprepared" young man to the studio. I dropped that thought as soon as they put the music on. Right away I knew that I was witnessing someone with a gift.
"Growing up in New Orleans is competitive. Everybody want to be the best at something. Life is so fast there," said Trentin, indulging my business-focused curiosity. "I was 10 years old hanging out on the corners until 1 a.m. to 2 a.m. in the morning. It was definitely crime infested. But you know, I considered it a privilege to grow up there because it was so hard to live there, and if you made it out, then everybody know you official."
I asked why he was running the streets at such an early age.
"That's just how it is. Everybody want to be successful, so they do whatever they think they need to do to make money. New Orleans is a city that's like a gift and a curse, but no matter what, it makes you strong," said Trentin.
"I started out like a lot of the other young kids. When I was 13, I played football for the East Shore Buffaloes Playground Association, that's the neighborhood I'm from, and I excelled at that," he said. "We won the championship and I made the All-Star team that went on to play teams in Atlanta. I enjoyed that, but unfortunately I still found my way back to the streets."
I knew that earlier in the year Trentin's brother, Steve Hardrick Jr., had been sentenced to 30 years in jail in association with five murders. I blended that info into the conversation.
"I hear that he (Trentin's brother) calls home and writes you and (that) he's always telling you to do the right thing, watch who you surround yourself with and basically (urges) you to be the best person you can be and follow your dreams in the rap game. What does that mean to you?"
"Everything," said Trentin.
"I love my brother and I feel where he coming from. I've only been out of prison about seven months. ... I literally just left Angola Louisiana State Prison back in April. "
How long were you in there, I asked, also wanting to know what he did to get there.
"I got locked up when I was 17 for probation violation, robbery and distribution and I did 5 years on that charge."
Did he learn anything?
"I learned that I didn't want to be in there. I had a lot of time to think, you heard me? I thought back on my original dream of wanting to be a rapper and that was long before I started playing football. So I used that time in prison to perfect my craft," he said.
"I let prison be my college. I became a battle rapper. We had cyphers like Kendrick Lamar and those other rappers were doing on "The BET Hip Hop Awards" show a few days back, ya dig?
"I was good, but I wasn't the best when I started out. The prison audience let me know that. You have to think about it, but prisoners are the hardest critics you will ever have. They don't have nothing to do all day but sit around and hate you for no reason. They all sit around with a boot in their mouth. (People from New Orleans say you have a boot in your mouth when a person is looking mean for no reason)," said Trentin.
"So when they say you won a battle rap, you really won, you good. I lost about 3 or 4 times but I won about 100 of them. I did some of my time with rappers – C-Murder and Lil Boosie – and they acknowledged me as well. They said I was good and need to get out and use my gift to make money. I felt that was as well."
The conversation turned to inspiration. Trentin said growing up Lil Wayne from The Hot Boys inspired him to start rapping when he dropped the album "Light's Out."
"But it was when I listen Soulja Slim, R.I.P, that made me know I need to write it and go for it. Slim was like a Biggie or Tupac, that's what he meant to New Orleans.
"The world didn't get a chance to hear all of him. He was killed before his time, and when I look in the mirror, that's what I don't want to happen to me. I want to fulfill the dream."
"I'm looking to drop a single from my album before Christmas of this year and I'll be dropping the album early next year," said Trentin. "Me and my management team, Six~Four Management LLC., welcome all conversations from Record Labels, but if we can't find one that fit, then we'll do it ourselves.
"Just like when The Hot Boys and No Limit came out back in the late 90's and everybody loved them. America can prepare to fall in love with New Orleans again."