Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion shook the music industry when they dropped their new collaboration "WAP" on August 7.
The song, which stands for "Wet Ass Pussy," has been praised by fans as an empowering anthem that exudes female sexual liberation and confidence. But the record has also been met with criticism. Former Republican Congressional candidate DeAnna Lorraine said Cardi and Megan "set the entire female gender back by 100 years with their disgusting and vile 'WAP' song." Conservative political commentator Ben Shapiro critiqued the song and video's message, and CeeLo Green suggested the record was "disappointing on a personal and moral level."
While there seems to be a renewed interest in debating women's sexuality in rap every time a record like this drops, it's far from a new topic. In fact, artists like Trina have been making sexually explicit music for decades. Shortly after the release of "WAP," her name began trending on Twitter. Many people, including Cardi herself, refuted the idea that women incorporating sex into rap music was anything new. "People think that 'WAP' is so nasty and freaky except people from Florida... Trina, Khia, Jackie O used to go in in,” Cardi tweeted on August 10.
Trina had a similar reaction after learning of the "WAP" backlash. She tells Complex that she and her friends laughed and attributed the latest drama to haters being mad for no reason.
"I just feel like it's a freedom of expression," she explains. "I feel like I'm the main person to be like, 'Yes,' because I'm a sensual person. I came out in my career talking about being sensual and being expressive. Some people can't really handle it, and that's fine. It's not for everybody. If you're one of those that can't handle it, stay up under the rock. You do that. This is not the world for you. This is the world of extraordinary, and it's women being free of fear and saying what they feel like saying.”
Coming into the spotlight in the late-90s, Trina has witnessed the highs and lows of the industry in regards to the treatment of women. While she has lots of stories that shine a light on the not-so-great aspects of being a woman in rap, she admits that she is excited to see how the new generation of women rappers are changing the narrative. "Shout out to all the new female artists," she says. "I love to see it. There's more women that we can celebrate that are beautiful. Hate it or love it, we're here to stay."
Trina spoke with Complex about the response to "WAP," her long-lasting legacy, and the new generation of women in rap. The interview, lightly edited for clarity, is below.
What was your initial reaction to "WAP"?
I love it. I think it's absolutely phenomenal. The video, first of all, is amazing. It's incredible. It just shows all the beautiful women. I'm real happy that Cardi used the new artists, Mulatto and Suki and Rubi Rose, because these are the new generation of girls that are out here. You see them grinding. They're making noise. That platform was just elevated for them.
When it came to the song, duh, it's a woman's world. Some of my friends kept telling me, "Oh, people are making a big deal about this song." And we were just like, "What?" We just kept laughing. I just feel like it's a freedom of expression. I feel like I'm the main person to be like, "Yes," because I'm a sensual person. I came out in my career talking about being sensual and being expressive.
Some people can't really handle that, and that's fine. It's not for everybody. If you're one of those that can't handle it, stay up under the rock. You do that. This is not the world for you. This is the world of extraordinary, and it's women being free of fear and saying what they feel like saying. This is the country of freedom of speech. Who is anybody to say what somebody shouldn't have came and said? Those that are, are the ones that want to say it, but they don't have the guts or the balls to say it.
You were trending on Twitter shortly after the song dropped. Cardi even shouted you out, saying you had been on this wave years ago. It seems like you had a similar reaction.
Oh, yeah. It's time recycling itself. The video, first of all, is outright amazing. The girls look amazing, just the theatrics of the video, being so full. It looks phenomenal. The new girls are explicit, they're raw, they're raunchy, they're provocative. They say whatever they feel. They don't need a narrator. They're in control of the narrative. That's what makes you who you are, being true to yourself.
When I listened to Cardi and all the new girls, I'm just like, "Yeah, talk that talk," because if you're not confident in yourself… It's not all about the sexuality of a song. You have to have confidence within yourself, period, to be able to stand firm in this industry. They're going to talk about you and have something to say, regardless. If the song was called something else, they're going to have something to say. That's just where we are today. You have to hold your ground and you have to be confident. I think this song was fun. Yeah, it's sexual, but it's fun. It's grown women—they're 21 years and older. If you're not that age and if you're not confident with this, don't listen. It's simple as that.
"If you're one of those that can't handle it, stay up under the rock. You do that. This is not the world for you. This is the world of extraordinary."
Why do you think "WAP" received so much negative attention from men?
They're mad. They're mad because you could really see the incline in female rappers right now. We're not in competition with the men, but it's always been a male-dominated industry. We all know that for a fact. It just shows that over time, more girls unite and connect and work together. I've been screaming this for decades, because when I came into the game, it was that. It was me, Eve. It was Missy. It was all the girls that linked up. Then for a moment, it was dry, and it wasn't that.
Listen, I'm up on the internet. I didn't even know there were so many female artists, and when I do see the news and hear your voice, your technique, your cadence, your whole stature, your personality, just being that boss within yourself, that is what is going to make you be able to last in this game that’s so male-dominated.
I know for the guys, they're used to a girl or two. You can do a verse and a feature. You all recognize it's a necessary thing for the look, but then when we be vocal and different with the guys, it's something to say. It's going to always be that way, but I just feel like these girls need to keep on shining and keep on uniting and talking their truth.
I don't always talk about sex and being sexual. It's a part of my life. It's a part of our culture. It's a part of who we are. Honestly, personally, I feel thankful there's Cardi. And you have two girls to double up and tell them to shut the hell up, as opposed to you fighting the war by yourself. Because realistically, let me tell you, when I came out and I did this, it was always something.
As a veteran in the industry, can you recall your own experiences with backlash regarding your music?
You had to dumb down certain things, because there wasn't so much internet access. There was no Twitter. There was no Instagram. There was none of that. The label would be in control and fight with you about certain things being vulgar. I just feel like even for myself, there were certain records I turned down because I was like, "Okay, now I'm just in a real nasty mood, but if I put this out, then they might not have a taste for it," thinking of what the masses are going to say.
Now it's changed. I'm just happy that Cardi decides to stand on her two toes and go for it. Nobody can stop your reign. Nobody can tell you what's good, what's not good, how to talk, or how nasty your song can be. The song can be as nasty as you want to be, if that's what you want it to be. I'm all for girl empowerment. I'm all about being a feminist. I'm all about being confident within yourself. If you're going to be sensual or sexy and sexually provocative and outspoken and boss up there, own that. I'm all for that.
How did you handle pushback from your label and critics?
You know what happened? When that became an issue with me being creative, it’s like a space within your artistry that you're trying to get lost. Your fans are rooting for the person they saw when you came out. Truth be told, when I first came out, I was moving out to Miami and I was traveling in and out of the country. I was doing stuff. I was in love. My life was blossoming. Of course, I had evolved from one space to the next space. I wasn't just stuck in one area. Even when I released my second album, it was more soft. But then my fans were like, "We don't like this Trina. We don't want the soft record. We want this."
I found myself in a dark space, trying to create records that was like Da Baddest Bitch. You've got to think that you're an artist, you're in the club, and you've got to perform. Your fans definitely want to hear the turn-up record. That's a fact. I have slow records they love and want to hear, but when it comes to that raunchy and vulgar... Man. I would be thinking: Did I create this record or did the fans create it because they know more than me and they're more engaged than I am? It's got to be some nastier people than me, because everybody's engaged with the lyrics of this record.
It becomes frustrating, because you lose your creative balance. You're trying to please the label. You're trying to please the fans. You're trying to please everybody. You get lost. There was a point I just made a straight R&B album. My label was like, "Yo, what is that? You can't just put out a whole album full of slow Beyoncé records. That's not going to work in the club." I was frustrated because I was in a very different space. I was very vulnerable. I was going through a lot. I had lost my little brother. I wasn't in the party phase, so I didn't care to play any music of that essence. I just wanted to do stuff that was meaningful and touching, but then it became a little sad.
"Nobody can tell you what's good, what's not good, how to talk, or how nasty your song can be. The song can be as nasty as you want to be."
How would you describe your legacy at this point? What has been your biggest contribution to the game?
You know what? I don't even really be thinking about it like that, honestly. I think for me, I just look back at certain things. I'm like, "Dang, that really happened. Wow. I did this. I did that. I'm grateful." I don't know if we go through these phases. I'm thinking about how I've done so much stuff. I have to remind myself that I've done this. I don't think about it for the moment, as opposed to somebody who reminds me of, "Oh, you're this." I don't live in that space. I'm just grateful. I'm thankful each and every day for the highs and the lows. My life and career is great. It has been a journey. It's been some great moments, some terrible moments. Some "I want to give up" moments. Some "I'm going to the top and never coming down" moments. It's been all of that. I just live in that kind of space. I'm just grateful for everything that comes my way every single day, even now.
Do you think you laid out a blueprint for other women to be sensual and confident in their music, though?
Yeah. A lot of the girls tell me that. I'm reminded of that. If I'm going to be honest, I love it, because I look at the girls and I can see myself in them. It’s not like they want to be me or nothing. It’s their drive. They say to me, "Wow, we love you for this. You kept it real. When I was growing up, it was just seeing you. I shouldn't have been listening to you. I was getting in trouble." I hear these stories every time I run into any artist.
I remember the first time I even met Cardi. She wasn't even the Cardi she is now. She was performing before me at this club, and when I got ready to come on, she was still on the stage, so I saw her performing. When I performed, “Look Back At Me” came on, and my DJ backed it up. She got the mic and did the record. And I'm just standing up there looking at her like, "Wow." When I see stuff like that, it's a reminder of what I've done, and the inspiration I've been. I like it. I be excited.
"Look Back At Me" got a lot of young girls, myself included, in trouble growing up.
[Laughs]. I would call that a favorite record. When I recorded “Look Back At Me,” I was done recording on my album. I had a listening session with the A&R and the CEO [of my label]. When they came, they heard the album and they was like, "We need another record. We need a ‘NANN,’ but a little different. Your way, minus Trick. Think of something that's going to be the girl record." So I got this beat, and I sat around and let it play for a while. I just kept going back and forth, back and forth. I remember coming back to Miami and my friend had a party at the strip club. It’s an old school song in Miami that was being played and they were dancing. They just all kept looking back. It was one of those things where I looked at my friends and I was like, "That's going to be the song."
When I went in the studio two days later, I created the "Look Back at Me" record. And when I finished it, I was like, "I hate this record. I don't want to talk about this one. I don't want to do this." I begged them. I had two other records that were slow records. One of them was the Monica record ["Always"]. There was another record that I fought so hard to be on my album, because I did not want to put "Look Back at Me" on my album. The label said to me, "We will let you put both of these slow records on here, only if you turn over and give us the "Look Back at Me" record. I was like, "It doesn't go with the album. It's too dirty." I went crazy about this and then it became one of the records where people still go crazy for it when I perform. I did not want to put this record on my album at all.
Your debut album turned 20 this March. How have you grown as an artist since then?
Man, I felt like I was going through a lot, honestly. With the last album I put out, I was off for six years. But because I was off and on, I was in the darkest space. I was in an unhappy space, a terrible space, a hurting space. It was the most terrible time between 2013 to 2016. That was a lot for me, to do that album. By the time it came out in 2019, it was a lot. It was sad because I was working with my ex-partner at a management team and there was a lot of stuff happening.
I was not going to put out the album. I got in the studio with Rico Love. He fought and pushed me, like, "You got it. I believe in you. Come on. We got this." I created the album. I was just at a space that I didn't really know what to do no more, or how to figure it out. That's, again, one of those moments. When I look at that album, it's more realistic of the woman part of me growing up, opposed to the other albums. I went from 18, 19 years old, until now, creating music. It's so much growth, so much elevation.
So many things happened in the timeframe of me doing music. When I looked at the last album, The One, it reflected that. It was more vulnerable. It was a different vibe than my previous album. To me, it showed a whole different element of growth. I've learned more and I know the business. I know different things that I didn't know before. I had to go through all of it to get to this point.
Who are some of your favorite artists right now? Who do you see yourself in of this new generation?
I love Megan Thee Stallion. I love the City Girl girls. Of course they are from Miami. I love Chameleon. She's a new artist. I love Mulatto. I love Saweetie. I love this new girl, Flo Milli. She's from Alabama. I love Lady London. I love so many of the new girls. Sukihana. Hood Brat, a girl from Miami. Brianna Perry. I hate when I leave out somebody, but it's all the girls that I'm just seeing online. Rubi Rose. I see them making their own way, doing their own things, grinding without a deal. That's the thing. See, when I started, if you didn't have a deal, you didn't even get respect. You had to have a major deal for people to even take you seriously. Now, when I look, girls are just on the internet grinding. The internet is a gift and a curse. It's a good thing, but it's a toxic thing. You have to just control the narrative. I feel with these girls, it's business, man. It's about trying to get out there, because it's not that many platforms, as one may see. This game has changed so dynamically.
Do you have a close relationship with any of the girls, like Cardi and Megan?
I do. Everybody that I have mentioned, I've met or I've talked to in some form. Some of these new girls: I've never met Flo Milli, but I love her album that came out. Mulatto, she reached out to me to do the [“Bitch From Da Souf” Remix] record. I remember I had to go overseas, and she was shooting the video. I did so much to make this video happen for her. I was so happy for her. I was like, "Man, I've just got to go show up and show love," because I'm somebody that has inspired her. It's a lot of love, and she respects me. I've got to go be the person that I am and give her encouragement to go hard.
As a new artist, especially women, we're emotional. When you hear other artists or other women giving you props and saying, "Yo, for real, you really killed that. You're doing your thing. I'm proud of you. You look amazing. Stay blessed up, stay up," when you hear that, it's something about that, that uplifts you. You never know at what phase or what space a woman is in. Now it's like, "Dang, she really came. She really did the video. She's really that OG." You put that out there in the universe, and those artists receive that.
I just love it, because it makes me feel like I have done something right with all these lyrics and all this stuff. Somebody somewhere was learning their own little way to get their life. Just boss up and be you, be confident. Be strong, be independent, be happy. Don't be no hater. Women shouldn't be haters. That's ugly.
What's going on in your world right now? What are you working on?
Well, I'm working on another project. Actually, it's almost done, I actually went in the studio with Hitmaka and I got a lot of records done with him. I'm super, super excited about that. I have my label, which is called RMG, Rockstarr Music Group. I have a couple of artists on there. One right now I'm focused on is Nia Amber. She's a R&B singer. A beautiful, amazing girl who just dropped a new record on Monday called "Swing My Way." I'm really focused on the next wave and just trying to help the new girls get on, because I know what it's like to want to make that dream come true.
"I'm happy that we're living in this moment where there's more female artists. It's not just one. There's more women that we can celebrate that are beautiful."
What are your long-term goals for Rockstarr Music Group?
Rockstarr Music Group was formed to put on a bunch of new, fresh artists with different music and diversity. I just want to give artists a chance to live the dream. I give them a chance to have the platform to live out their dream. The game is to be told, not sold. You've got to figure it out. You've got to get out there. I'm going to help you out as much as I can. I just want you to be creative. I want you to be innovative. I want you to be a strong person that believes in your craft and what you do. I'm just building up these new artists.
There are so many artists that look up to me and that want help. I get tons and tons of music every single day. The industry is not the same. It's not as easy getting deals for artists. I wouldn't want to have an artist in a shady situation, a side deal, a 360 deal, a deal where you're not making no money and can't provide for their family. That's not the way. I'm trying to do stuff a little bit different. My way is a little bit different. It's a little more bossed up. That's the plan for the future.
What is the most important thing people should know about you right now?
I want people to know that you have to get to know me again. I don't know if you really know me. I'm not the person that I was last year or when you left off in my career. I think it's a big misconception. I'm a happy person. I'm going to always be that way, whether you like it or not. I suggest you to understand that. I like to give off great energy. My energy is full of bliss and it's full of clarity.
Shout out to all the new female artists, too. All the girls are doing their thing. They just keep riding and riding to the top. I love to see it. I'm happy that we're living in this moment where there's more female artists. It's not just one. There's more women that we can celebrate that are beautiful. Hate it or love it, we're here to stay, man.