Trick Daddy – Take It 2 Da House

Time was when being a ‘thug’ was all about the absolute rejection of style: the ‘keeping it real’ ethos taken to its repellant-but-compelling extreme. Funny then how nearly all the big name thugs in rap circa 2001 – Nelly, Mystikal, Ludacris, the Cash Money boys – look and sound as glamorous, airbrushed and target-marketed as their R&B counterparts, no matter how much they cuss and boast about their guns. This reverse process reaches its culmination with Lil’ Romeo’s undeniably great “My Baby”, a track whose every constituent element – the catchy female-sung hook, Romeo’s high-pitched voice, the sheer hilarity of seeing a little kid struggling to hold up the weight of his gold chains – is antithetical to the very concept of ‘thug’. And yet Lil’ Romeo is undoubtedly a thug-in-waiting. Frank Kogan talks somewhere about ‘G’, originally Snoop and Dre’s shorthand for ‘gangsta’, having become some sort of magical property in its own right, operating as a sort of multi-purpose Viagra for the young thug. Whatever ‘G’ is, and whether he bought it, stole it or inherited it from his No Limit posse, it’s clear that on “My Baby” at least Lil’ Romeo has G in spades.

A similar lightning bolt of G positively sizzles on Trick Daddy’s “Take It 2 Da House”, the most irresistable rap joint I’ve heard in ages (ie. weeks). Weaving staccato horn blasts into a whimsical stop-start bounce groove, its unambiguous joie de vivre infused skank is equal parts “Shake Ya Ass” and “Back That Azz Up”, as well as any number of cheeky bounce hits of yore (for more sonic thrills also check out Trick’s ace “Where U From”). Lyrically, too, Trick Daddy sounds like a bit of a second-hand patchwork of all da thugs that have gone before him, as he describes exactly which girls are allowed to take it to da house; namely, “if you look good with your big ole’ butt/live in your own crib/make your own bucks!” Trick doesn’t quite have the individual persona of a Nelly or a Ludacris, so he channels his charisma through his thug lifestyle and almost nothing else (as if making a point, his new album is titled Thugs Are Us). The result is less distinct maybe, and I imagine the album would drag, but taken one hit at a time there’s a certain intense thrill to be gleaned from this string o’ cliches; a sugar-buzz fuelled by its supreme artificiality.

Some might complain that Trick Daddy is too ridiculous to be a thug, and in many ways they’re right. On the other hand, the continual debasement of the idea of the thug – away from the grim realities of guns and drugs and towards some sort of cartoonish caricature of commodity-fetishised excess – is only really disappointing if you think there’s something spiritually rewarding about the real thug life. ‘Thug’, like ‘G’, is a fairly fluid concept, and its various permutations live and die by their fiscal success. No surprises then that the big name thugs, the ones Trick Daddy hopes to match, sold out ages ago. Who cares about ‘selling out’, though, when the product they’re selling is so damn hot?