How Trick Daddy’s ‘I’m A Thug’ Gave a Voice to the Voiceless
In 2001, Trick Daddy became the people’s unofficial champ when he dropped his single, “I’m a Thug." His fans appreciated the dirty-mouthed rapper for his shit talking, as heard on “Nann Ni**a” featuring fellow Florida rapper, Trina. But “I’m a Thug,” the lead single from his fourth studio album, Thugs Are Us, was a bonfire anthem for the underrepresented., everyday people from the streets going through life’s motions; this was a song you could feel.
The track itself was an ode to his former labelmate Buddy Roe, who at the time, was serving a life term in federal prison for possession of cocaine. “N***as who I roll with/Watch them ni**as they're gon' love this,” spits the Florida rapper “N***as who —out on bond, on the run/And got ten years on parole.” The most interesting contrast in the song was the crass lyrics about no empathy the judicial system, juxtaposed with the child choir, as they sang about being "a thug" with the kind of enthusiasm that made you think they were promised a trip to "Toys “R” Us, after finishing the song. The retail chain has been featured in lyrics by many rappers (the brand even tried to appeal to that audience in the ‘90s with a hip-hop commercial).
While you wouldn’t call Trick Daddy a "conscious rapper," by any means, the music video itself — directed by Nick Quested — featured a bunch of kids — all from around the way — running towards Trick as he hands out treats from an ice cream truck. This moment represents when a young black man is perceived as the bad guy, but in reality, he cares about his community. The rapper’s overall allegiance to streets is in itself social commentary, and the video highlighted the class division that has plagued America since the country's not-so-humble beginnings. The video wasn't certainly meant to be perceived as "deep;" when you live that life, it’s just the way it is.
Ultimately, “I’m a Thug” become a chart-topper, and the album went on to reach platinum status. But despite the success, the rapper hasn’t changed, and the song’s message is more figurative than anything: be true to who you are, where you come from, and always speak your truth. That’s what you call a thug for life.