TrinaFrom her 2000 debut, Da Baddest Bitch, to last year’s Still Da Baddest, Trina has never been afraid to state her position in hip-hop. On her upcoming album, Amazin’, (tentatively scheduled for March 30) the Diamond Princess is taking a glamorous turn from “regular rap” to embark on a pop-friendly course of evolution.

Trina has enlisted genre-crossing producers Jim Jonsin (Lil Wayne, Jennifer Lopez), Scott Storch (50 Cent, Mariah Carey) and Rico Love (Usher, Chris Brown) to help her “think outside the box,” while guest appearances by rap heavyweights Rick Ross, Ludacris and Young Money upstart Nicki Minaj keep her in tuned with hip-hop listeners.

With the album’s first single, “That’s My Attitude” growing in the streets, The First Lady of the Dirty South talks to about the lack of female unity in rap, being her own boss, and her love for Lady Gaga. On your last album you re-stated your position as the “baddest chick.” What bold declaration are you making with your upcoming album?

Trina: The album is called Amazin’. It’s really amazing. I did a whole bunch of different records. I went outside the box a little and still kept it grounded to the Trina that everybody knows. What does outside the box entail?

Trina: I worked with [producers] Jim Jonsin, Red Spyda, Rico Love, Scott Storch, Shaft, Drummer Boy on different kinds of records that I normally wouldn’t do. In the past I’d say, “I’m not going to try to sing on a record. I don’t want to do a pop record.” I went a little different and mixed it up on this album. I’ve changed and grown so much in this business from making the standard rap record. What inspired you to go in this new direction?

Trina: It was just the evolution of being in the business, and my career. Just to see myself change from the beginning to now and how much stuff I can do now and I wasn’t able to do before. How much control I have now that I didn’t have before, to actually be able to be hands on. I’ve never really done that before. So we’ll have a chance to hear you flex your pipes a bit?

Trina: [Laughs] A little bit. Not too much. One of my favorites is a record called “Capricorn,” it’s not even really a record. It’s a poetry kind of record. It’s me talking throughout the whole record. It was inspired by the Lauryn Hill, Erykah Badu, India.Arie type of artist. I listen to their music so much. I just wanted to do something that wasn’t really rapping and was just me expressing how I feel. It was really artistic. I’ve got another record called “Eat Your Heart Out” and it’s pop, but it’s a record that women can relate to. If you’re fly and you’re over your ex it’s like, Yeah, look at me now—eat your heart out. Did this new ear for pop music inspire the Lady Gaga record, “Let Them Hoes Fight?”

Trina: That’s a record that came out, but we didn’t actually clear it to come out. I just hate the fact that stuff like that happens. I have a lot of respect for Lady Gaga and being able to work with her meant so much to me and to have it come out like that was just disappointing to me. Jim Jonsin actually reached out to me about being on the record and when I heard the record I went nuts. I love her music. I love how creatively over the top she is. I didn’t get to work with her in the studio personally, but to get to do the record was an honor. You recently brought video vixen-turned-rapper Angel Lola Luv out on stage with you and Nikki Minaj is featured on this album. How do you avoid the cattiness between a lot of females in the rap game?

Trina: I’m just a confident woman. I’m so confident in myself that when I step out I know that I am that bitch. I’m not worried about her to the left or her to the right. We’re missing that unity. We don’t have that because everyone wants everyone to tear apart. This is why there are no categories in awards for female rappers. You can’t just have two artist in the category. You need Trina. You need Nicki Minaj. You need Missy Elliott. You need Eve, Lil’ Kim, Foxy Brown, Remy, Shawnna, Angel Lola Luv, Teyana Taylor, Lil’ Mama. You need everybody in the game that’s doing this. Is that why you’re bossing up and putting out an all female group, Pretty Money?

Trina: The group is me, V. Sharock Star and Angie Love. They’re a hip-hop/R&B duo. They’re young, energetic and fun. V. Sharock Star is feisty. She reminds me of me when I first did “Nann Nigga” on Trick’s album. And Angie, she’s from New York—she sings and has a beautiful spirit. Together it just works. Pretty Money has a mixtape out called Sitting Pretty. Working with them in the studio is a different feeling for me being in the CEO’s chair. How so?

Trina: Just being an artist you have to take that backseat sometimes. Being an artist and CEO you get to see how you probably once drove the label nuts. I can see it because they’re driving me nuts. It’s still beautiful to get in the studio and watch them work and see them come to me and need advice. It’s just a beautiful thing. I have three other artist and that’s just me trying to be successful. I’m trying to build a brand. I love what I do and I wouldn’t change anything about it. Did it bother you that MTV’s “Hottest MCs 2009” list was devoid of any female rappers?

Trina: I expect that, because the industry is male dominated. It’s just too many guys. You got Jay-Z, Nas, Lil Wayne, Ludacris, T.I., Young Jeezy, Soulja Boy, Rick Ross, and you got 10 MCs. Where are you going to put a girl? If you had a vote which female would you put on the list?

Trina: I’d say Nikki. She definitely deserves the respect. She doesn’t have an album out or sold any records, but it’s more so about the passion and the response she gets from the listeners. To see her pave her way from nothing to come up to be a topic or a name. You give that respect to the person coming up making a name for themselves. That’s just real talk. I don’t pull any punches. People say I give too much credit to people but it’s not about that. It’s about being real. And being real is giving props when it’s due. You can’t be hating or mad when you see people doing their thing. I love it. If you mad then you not doing something right. —Rondell Conway