Ted Lucas Divulges Keys To Slip-N-Slide Records' 20-Year Run
Exclusive: From taking a baseball bat to bootleggers to brokering deals with Rick Ross, Ted Lucas explains his successes as the founder of Slip-N-Slide Records.
In 2003, HipHopDX began the “Industry 101” series. Staff members interviewed various executives in an attempt to provide readers with some transparency about exactly what happens behind the scenes in the music industry. Basic questions such as an A&Rs role or the specific duties of an executive producer were asked. But participants also disclosed how the changing media landscape impacted their jobs and, in some cases, even revealed the strategy behind specific moves. A lot has changed in the 11 years since those initial Q&As: Twitter and Spotify come to mind as examples. This week, HipHopDX will re-launch a special, three-part limited edition of “Industry 101.” And as an indication of just how far technology has taken us and you as the reader, if you’d like to see more of this content, speak with your views. A lot has changed in 11 years, but at the end of the day, the music business is still based on the concept of supply and demand.
Ted Lucas Divulges Keys To Slip-N-Slide Records' 20-Year Run
Ted Lucas is not a music executive that’s a household name. He is not easily recognizable on a red carpet stop-and-repeat or somebody prone to grandstanding in a music video or album interlude to promote his business. His label, however, Slip-N-Slide Records, has been a Miami music mainstay for nearly 20 years. A true independent, the label has developed over two hands worth of household names, and sold a reported 31 million albums while simultaneously changing South Florida’s sound and image in pop culture.
Lucas is deeply responsible for Rick Ross’ first and best-selling album, Port of Miami. Slip-N-Slide transformed Trina and Trick Daddy from local street acts to platinum stars. Most recently, Lucas developed Plies into the first mainstream music star from Fort Myers with three gold singles, amidst Top 10 albums. Unafraid to admit that he’s attacked music bootleggers or implemented old-guard tactics to get his records played in key venues, Ted is arguably a contemporary of the Suge Knight music exec model. However, with diversified distribution deals, a multi-genre roster and an open-door philosophy within his roster for years, he has adapted so much better than his ‘90s peers. Now bringing a Swedish-born act to the top of the radio waves, Ted Lucas is on yet another frontier, while honoring his proven formulas.
HipHopDX: How has Miami’s sound and culture changed since you launched Slip-N-Slide Records nearly 20 years ago?
Ted Lucas: When I first started, Miami was known for booty-shakin’ and Bass music. Luke [of 2 Live Crew fame] was definitely doin’ his thing; he opened the doors for us to dream—to see the opportunity to do this. I grew up on that type of music, I loved that type of music, [but] I felt like I wanted to represent my city [differently than] the booty-shakin’. There’s two sides: there’s the other side of the bridge, on South Beach. [I also wanted to show] that people from down South can rap. Back then, if you were from the South, you weren’t really considered a rapper—just a booty-shakin’ rapper. They almost didn’t really consider that music. I wanted to show Miami from my point-of-view, the way I grew up. This is the way a lot of the kids from the hood see it. That’s what I was trying to capture and put in the spotlight from when I first started.
DX: On the business side, while most labels since sign outright deals with labels, on Slip-N-Slide, you had artists and deals ranging from Atlantic Records (Trick Daddy and Plies) to Def Jam Records (Rick Ross) to EMI Records (Trina). Can you explain your strategy behind that?
Ted Lucas: I’ma tell you, man: I started off—this is a true story—I started off paying for my distribution. You know how when you want to do something and you have to put up collateral? For me to get distribution on Trick Daddy’s first album (1997’s Based On A True Story), I had to go through one distributor to get [supported] by RED/Sony. So I went to Warlock Records, [owned by] Adam Levy. I tell everybody: that was the hard-knock life; I appreciate everything, he taught me a lot. I bought my distribution. I had to put up collateral. The pre-orders came in. I had to fly from Miami to New York to give this man a deposit to put out my project, through RED distribution, through his label, Warlock Records, through Sony. I went through three different channels at a 45% distribution fee; nobody understands that. I didn’t know no better back then. I was getting 60% of the money; I needed that 80%. I didn’t know that Warlock had put another fee on top of it until the statements started coming. It was a learning experience, but I loved that. It taught me in the beginning. I don’t want it easy. That’s how you survive so long in the game, through situations like that.
[My job was to] get my records in stores. When they sold out two or three days later, I had to get some more in. I also had to beat up some bootleggers back then. Bootleggers used to get the baseball bat—for real. That’s how we started. I came in the game on a distribution deal, not on a production deal. I never did a production deal a day in my life. I did this business because of the way the door was opened for me; it was hard. This allowed me to do a lot of joint-ventures.
One of my biggest partners has been Atlantic; I’ve been in business with Atlantic for 14 years. I’ve been in business with Def Jam for going on eight years. I’ve been in business with EMI—which is now Universal. This allows me to go into different buildings and see who knows what they’re doing and who doesn’t—and what fits each individual artist in my system best.
How Ted Lucas Brokered Rick Ross’ Deals With Suave House & Def Jam
DX: Going back to the early days, when it is collateral, how much do you have to believe in your music as an executive?
Ted Lucas: When I put out music, I don’t put out 10, 15 different artists. I put out artists that I truly believe in and knew that the artist had a chance to change the game. Trick Daddy, for example, he was in prison. He was 14-years-old in prison; I had dudes calling me [praising his skill]. When I heard him, I knew he was bigger than being on Luke’s  record “Scarred.” I knew he was talkin’ about the other side. I needed to put the spotlight on that because that was my life, what he was talkin’ about. I wanted the world to see that.
Rick Ross—I bought his contract from [Tony] Draper at Suave House because [I felt he needed to be on a Miami label]. It took a while, and he was on the label for a minute, but I seen the “boss” in him. I seen everybody and their mama trying to grow beards like Rick Ross.
I knew with Trina—that every girl from the hood around America can relate to the bad one girl on the block, or the neighborhood. Girls can say, “Trina did it and I could do it.” That’s something that goes on every day: the bad, [light-skinned] girl from the hood.
Plies, he’s from Fort Myers, not from Miami. So when I signed him, we signed on a handshake. I told Atlantic, “I got a lot of money in the pipeline. I’m gonna put it all on the house that this dude is gonna blow.” They said, “Ted, what are you saying?” I said, “Listen: I get nice statements every 30 days from y’all. I put my collateral up that this dude is gonna blow.” And it happened.
DX: You go back 20 years, there were Rap execs who were not making actual music like Dame Dash or Suge Knight, but they still had high profiles in the media. There were also guys like Diddy and J. Prince, who became the face of their labels on videos and songs. You have always stayed off the grid, even at a time when it probably would have helped sales. Is that by design?
Ted Lucas: I can talk about it now ‘cause we’re coming upon 20 years and the statute of limitations is done. Back then, I wasn’t the cleanest guy in the world. I had a street life behind me, so I had to take a backstreet road to stay out of the spotlight and educate myself on the business. I didn’t want to be on the front-line, gettin’ all the spotlight. I wanted it to be about the music. That’s the most important ingredient.
DX: For Rick Ross’ 2006 debut Port Of Miami, Jay Z was still the head of Def Jam. You had some big A&Rs on that album too. What did Slip-N-Slide bring to that album and its success?
Ted Lucas: Rest in peace to [Port Of Miami A&R] Shakir Stewart. That really was the glue to the whole project. Shakir was coming down to Miami on the weekends, and he seen the movement. Me and him sat down, and we established a great relationship off of just “homeboy time.” I feel like I can vibe with him, get money with him. He introduced me to Jay. When Jay was the president [of Def Jam], he respected what Slip-N-Slide had been able to accomplish over the years, so me and him had a real conversation. It wasn’t like another executive, who had been up, sittin’ at a desk his whole life on the 30th floor. By Jay having Roc-A-Fella, he understood my [independent label] point-of-view, and he understood what we did. Jay put the best deal on the table. He understood ‘cause he went through it. It was beneficial to me and Def Jam, and that’s why I signed.
How Plies & Sebastian Mikael Maintain The Slip-N-Slide Brand
DX: Plies is Slip-N-Slide’s flagship artist right now. His style, introduced in the mid-2000s, helped solidify a sound and trend that’s prominent especially right now.
Ted Lucas: What Plies is able to do is he’s able to give it to you from a street-guy perspective, but he’s able to catch the ladies. Everybody can’t do that transition. When you listen to [Plies’ breakthrough 2007 single “Shawty”], that was a nasty record. Radio didn’t even know what he was really saying. He and T-Pain made a great song with that chemistry, but [could] not believe all these radio stations in the country are playing that record. I knew what he was able to bring to the table—especially coming from a small town, he had a lot of building to do. Once he got Florida behind him, I knew. When he was getting $10,000 for shows off of mixtapes, [I knew he had talent]. The sky is the limit.
DX: A lot of labels have public disputes when artists leave. Trick Daddy, Rick Ross, even Pitbull, are not with Slip-N-Slide anymore, but they never seem to publicly air dirty laundry. At 20 years, what does that mean to you?
Ted Lucas: First of all, I’m a child of God. Before I try to rob, cheat or steal from somebody, I don’t benefit from that. I don’t want nothing that’s not mine. I try to have an open-door relationship with my artists, who I consider my business partners. I don’t close no door. My phone number has been the same since I started [Slip-N-Slide]. I have nobody to hide from, run from—I don’t walk around with bodyguards. Any one of the people who I’ve been in business with will tell you: what you see with Ted is what you get. Ain’t no phony, no fake in me. I ain’t changin’. I’m gonna be 100.
DX: How are you celebrating this anniversary?
Ted Lucas: The business now came back to how it started: as an independent label. I got a new artist by the name of Sebastian Mikael with a song by the name of “Last Night,” featuring Wale. We put it out independently. He’s an artist from Sweden who attended college at Berklee in Boston. That gives me drive—still finding and developing talent. We have the #1 most-added record at radio [in “Last Night”], today. Independent. That’s awesome.
DX: What is the song that you think most embodies the Slip-N-Slide attitude and place in Hip Hop?
Ted Lucas: One would be Trick Daddy’s [1998 single “Nann Nigga”]. “You don’t know no label doin’ it like we doin’ it, you don’t know nobody accomplishin’ what we accomplished.” That was the one that kicked in the door and did a lot, but it was more than just a record. That gave me the motivation. I sat down with my team—I’ll never forget it—it was the Super Bowl [XXXIII] in Miami. We put a person in a nightclub stand by every DJ and make sure that record got played [one out of every four songs] in the club. When the Super Bowl was over, I felt like we won the Super Bowl in ’99. I came back to work that Monday and everybody and their mama was trying to sign the label. Everybody—Universal, Sony, they were all in the lobby. I’m in my office saying, “No, that [offer is] not good enough. Go back outside and get your boss on the phone.” That was a great feeling.