Em's Longtime Buddy Catches A Break

After years in the underground scene, another Detroit rapper steps to the mic

Trick-Trick grew up on 7 Mile Road, just east of Detroit's infamous 8 Mile Road. In the mid-1990s, he spent his time hustling the streets and trying to make a name for himself alongside a then unknown Eminem. While Em has became a household name, Trick-Trick has been a mainstay on the underground hip-hop scene. But that's about to change.

Last week, Trick Trick's "Welcome 2 Detroit" featuring Eminem, entered the Billboard Pop 100 at No. 90. It's the first single off "The People Vs.," which will be released Dec. 13 by Wonder Boy/Motown.

Although it marks first time the two rappers have worked together, "Welcome 2 Detroit" is a song that's been a long time in the making.

"We met back in the day, before [Eminem] was signed," recalls Trick-Trick. "At the time, people didn't take him seriously. It could have had a lot to do with him being white. Before I met him, I was first introduced to his music by a [radio DJ] named Bushman. I said, 'I gotta hook up with this guy.' I'll never forget [that] Bushman was like, 'Here's the catch: he's white!' I said, 'I don't give a f*** what he is. The boy's sweet!'

"The following week I was with Proof from D12, and he introduced me to Eminem. I met him and [manager] Paul Rosenberg. I won't ever forget this, too. I looked at them and said, 'Ya'll are two scary lookin' white boys,'" he laughs. "When Em signed with Dre, I knew he would have success, but I had no idea we was lookin' at the next Elvis Presley."

Years of friendship have led to Eminem playing a big role in Trick-Trick's shot at the big time. He wrote, produced and raps on "Welcome 2 Detroit."

"One day, in 2004, Em called me and said to come into the studio. He put a CD in and it was his version of 'Welcome 2 Detroit.' I thought it was just him giving me a shout out on the record, and he was like, 'No, this is yours. This is from me to you,'" says Trick-Trick.

"He gave me a lot of advice and worked with me real close on this album. If it had just been a Trick-Trick record it wouldn't have gotten as much attention as it is [getting because of] Eminem."

Trick-Trick considers the pair to be a "tight family," yet he didn't sign to Eminem's successful Shady Records imprint.

"Em wanted to sign me to Shady and Interscope," says Trick-Trick. "Their roster is so big, though, and I've never really been the type of artist that can be controlled. I'm always doin' somethin', gettin' into somethin'. Normal label protocol wasn't my style; it's still not my style. The offer [from Shady] was there, but it was so complicated that it didn't ever go through. Shady is a powerful label and they work hard, and Interscope is the best brain in the business. But it all panned out, and I ended up being on Universal, which is the power behind Interscope. So, even better."

But it's not just the Eminem connection that has led to Trick-Trick's success. Over the years, Trick-Trick says he has sold about 2 million albums on the streets and through various indie labels, including his own Wonder Boy Entertainment.

"On Click Boom Records, I had one single that [sold] like 600,000 copies through a [licensing] agreement," he says, adding that it took a lot of hustling to get the word out about his music. "You get in the streets first, and you work the record in the clubs -- I like to call them the mom-and-pop clubs, you know the places that only hold 90 people -- and the topless bars. If you see a woman [dancing] to a certain song, you remember that song. Then the [local radio] programmers picked the record up."

Before he signed with Motown, Trick-Trick got a taste of success when "Welcome 2 Detroit" was leaked to radio. Then he was willing to do "whatever it took" to build on that success and get his name into the mainstream.

"Two weeks before the [2005] Anger Management tour, the song leaked," he says. "I called Em and said what do you think if I tagged [along on] this tour? It came out of my pocket, but we got our own tour bus, followed the whole tour and promoted the single. When Universal found out I was on the tour, they were like, 'Whoa, if we don't catch up with this guy he gonna leave us!' So it paid off."

"They say whatever it took to get your baby hooked, it's gonna take the same thing to keep her goin'. I feel like that. I can't sit down and relax now. Now I gotta work 10 times harder," he says. "I'm not a stranger to this business, and I have my own money. So when the label says we gonna go buy one billboard, I'm gonna go buy two more. When the label says we gonna do a 20 city promo tour, I'm gonna make it 30 cities. I want to go the extra mile."