Miami is all about blending. Blended sounds, blended fruit juices fucking everywhere, and especially the blending of the glitz with the street, the foie gras with the pizza. Miami has also been attempting something of an artistic renaissance over the past few years, and the construction of downtown Miami’s gargantuan Perez Art Museum has been a big part of that. It is certainly something wholly unique in Miami that did not, and likely could not have existed until recently. The museum, with its astronomically expensive taxpayer bill, wild traffic problems, gorgeous future-as-fuck hanging gardens and ocean view, and mixture of high and low art, also represents a lot of the good and bad of Miami and its art scene. it makes sense then, that Trina would want to be on the ground floor of said art scene. Trina is the baddest bitch to ever come out of Miami, as seen in her music videos and starring role in 2003’s seminal A Miami Tail, and she’s long been an OG figurehead of Miami’s hip-hop scene.
She’s a Miami native who hit the scene under Trick Daddy’s tutelage in a glorious sunshine team. She had plenty of crossover hip-hop hits in the early 2000s and was known for her high-pitched, melodic flow and filthy lyrics. She’s prolifically represented the 305 and was at one point, before falling off the map for a few years, named by XXL as the “Most Consistent Female Rapper of All Time”. That’s not even mentioning her legendary tabloid-ready liaisons with Lil Wayne and the NBA’s Kenyon Martin (who will probably never forget her—or at least her lips). She’s coming back in force. As Miami natives, when we see that Trina is performing somewhere, it’s like Magic City comfort food. It’s not merely a nostalgia trip, but a barometer of where we are and how far we’ve come.
She teamed with hyper-modern video and performance artist Jacolby Satterwhite to create a piece exclusively for the museum, which combines Trina’s vocals and motion-captured performance with a kaleidoscopic 3D-animated video. The project, “En Plein Air: Diamond Princess,” is part of the Perez Art Museum’s WAVES series, which is a series of commissioned multi-media art collaborations. It was also advertised that Trina would be doing a show after the video. Naturally curious how Trina’s typically ratchet act would intermingle with the flashier Miami art crowd, I decided to capture this occasion.
The crowd was a small collection of well-dressed, fairly upscale Miami art patrons that spanned a pretty broad age range. Jacolby Satterwhite’s video was an almost indescribable, a glitchy, mesmerizing collage of 3D rotating platforms, robotics, and Trina’s. Imagine if Soul Caliber fucked an episode of Xavier: Renegade Angel, and then Trina popped in dressed in a Dr. Robotnik suit. With a scorpion tail for a dick. Little Trinas popped out randomly from impossible architecture and falling obelisks and towers, symbolizing a doomed future lorded over by the Diamond Queen. Devices rose and fell shooting lasers out of the screen and destroying the imaginary buildings. Satterwhite told the museum that he collected drawings of his mother’s and then animated them through computer software.
The soundtrack, mixed by DJ and producer TOTAL FREEDOM, began with modulated, droning ephemera. Trina’s disembodied and highly distorted voice kept looping in and out of the video. “Watch me watch me watch me” she beckoned us. Eventually, the vocals became sentences and came together over a dubstep beat. Then the beat morphed into an arpeggiated synth beat and became danceable. The museum-goers began bobbing their heads after finally having something danceable to latch onto. Robotnik trip danced and propellered and gyrated between a giant 3D ring on the screen. Some guests I talked to said there was a giant on-screen uterus as well, but I somehow missed that between the exploding towers and tiny Trina faces hidden in nooks and crannies. Trina’s voice repeated the mantra, “Fuck them bitches” and “Okay bad bitches” like a prayer. After the beat reached a danceable, synthy groove, the screen went black.
Classic Trina music videos played in preparation for Real Trina to come out in a black, see through sequin studded dress. “Where my bad girls at?!” she screamed. The tiny crowd gave out the best woo’s it could. Real Trina sprinted through truncated hits: “Pull Over,” “Here We Go,” “Single Again,” etc. Fans new and old yelled along to the hits, letting the nostalgia and ocean-spray wash over them. It would last 15 minutes or so. The show was short, but combined with the video, quite dense, like putting an entire box of Nerds in your mouth and chewing.
Some guests were disappointed with the short run time. One well-dressed, older patron named Amy said: “I think this is Trina in her hometown. I expected to at least 30 minutes…and the price was a little steep…they just want to collect money. They need money for their museum, I understand. I was just getting warmed up, and the show ended and just killed it.” She insisted that the show wasn’t like a real Trina show, but when pressed, the patron admitted they had never actually been to a live Trina show. And also that they got in free through the bank that they work for.
In Miami, a city with an ever-changing, youthful art scene, a rapper-museum collaboration that might be commonplace somewhere like New York City or LA, feels a bit like venturing into uncharted waters. The design district and Wynwood and rich people gallery culture is still finding its sea legs in what it wants to sink its greenback teeth into. People are still used to finding the rappers not showing up at the nightclub or going out and getting your “money’s worth” on an endless 8-hour late night DJ-set. So it makes sense that a bunch of wealthy white people might be a little confused by a little 30-minute rap set, having heard that Trina “represents Miami” and believing that they ‘deserve’ a longer show. As a city, we’re also used to paying a lot for shows and art, and only to find that the majority of them are shit. People here love to bitch about how Miami’s culture and music scene is worse than New York’s, and how it needs to improve, so when something cool actually does come down, nobody is exactly sure how to react.
Ruben, from the Netherlands, absolutely hated the show: “I didn’t know what I was here for, and thought it was really short. There were big gaps between what she was singing and what the crowd was doing. I heard she’s from Miami, and that this is her home base. I think if she’s from here she should have showed a little respect and performed a little longer.” I asked him what he thought of the video art, and he said he liked it better than the songs. “Trina’s songs are timeless, man,” I argued. “So is pooping,” he replied. Ruben’s boyfriend, a waiter at the museum restaurant, was disappointed that she didn’t twerk enough at the show. And proceeded to drunkenly twerk on me to demonstrate.
Appropriately named Art thought the piece was thought provoking: “I think we see these images and have a thought in our mind that’s different from everyone else’s…We’re going pretty deep here, but I lean towards exponential organizations of technology. Which is pushing like the outer limits. So I’m looking at all these little planet figures and I’m just seeing the dots connecting in different places.”
One younger kid named Jack, who wore overalls and bleached blonde slicked back hair, was obsessed with the show: “It was an amazing visual performance by Jacolby. And then combining that with Trina, it was an amazing thing. It was great to have it in Miami…In my head, when I think of architecture, I always think of this male dominated world. The male architects build these huge buildings that resemble giant penises. And she’s flying over these buildings in a spaceship and destroying these buildings and it’s like ‘fuck yeah!.’
One girl named Cici said the show was ‘so Miami!’ I asked what she meant by that. ‘Trina kind of embodies a lot of what Miami is. With the booty bass and the energy and the sparkly personality. I think it’s also interesting the dichotomy of museum and Trina.”
One person was unequivocally overjoyed with the showing, though.
Noisey: What was it like shooting this?
Trina: We got to the studio. It wasn’t like a regular video. We were on this platform spinning around. He was like, ‘It’s going to be really creative.’ And I was like ‘OK, I trust you.’ So he started showing me the moves and I got really excited. So I was excited and humbled to work with him. He’s such an amazing kid and amazing dancer. I didn’t see the video before. I wanted to see it…He told me to trust him and see it when it was done.
What did you think of the final product?
I loved it. It was so exciting. It’s something that I’ve never done before. To see someone take something from one totally different aspect and make it into something else was really exciting for me. The robot thing…I was moving and like, “Is this stiff?” And he’s like ‘perfect.’
Is it different performing to a more museum kind of crowd?
It feels the same. It feels more like an outside performance, more like a festival kind of vibe. It’s different from a club or a theater kind of vibe. It’s more free. It’s Miami, so there’s the water and the energy and it’s amazing. I think the culture and blending of music and different sounds is more accepted here… Miami’s a multi-cultural city so people come here for different vibes and a different sound. I think it’s amazing from not having something like this to being able to do a nice intimate event.
When is the new album coming out?
It’s called Personal and it’s coming out later this summer. We’re dropping another single in June or July. I’m not rushing the album. It’s a lot more personal, more vulnerable, and a lot of different sounds than I’ve worked with before. It’s raw. I have the control to do what I want to do. I understand the importance of sound, now, and how to make that represent my life today.
How is the sound different that on previous albums?
It was beat and bass. Now it’s a lot of melodic, raw, edgy, blended. It’s kind of poetic. It’s a different texture of records. The style of the rap and song is a different side of myself, and it tells a story. I’m able to do what I want to do and it feels really great.
If anyone should represent the nascent, mercurial, expensive, and candy-colored nature of Miami’s new art scene, it should be Trina. She’s been here for the long haul, and she’s always had a thang for us. We should trust her. And if the future of art is Trina-bot crushing fucktons of dystopian 3D buildings, then that’s the future I want to belong to.