Nino Bless: Bless The Mic
Amidst this steady work with a steady income, it was the legendary Kool G Rap that encouraged the longtime "rapper on the side" to go full throttle with his passion. In the several years since, Nino Bless has done just that. Whether rapping, blogging [click to read], or compiling acclaimed mixtapes [click to listen], the emcee "blessed" by G Rap says he refuses to let his godfather down.
HipHopDX: Youve been in the industry for quite some time, how have you evolved from behind the scenes to the point youre at today?
Nino Bless: As far as Hip Hop, I was rhyming in the late 90s and whatnot. I didnt have no resources; I didnt have nobody who could introduce me to Russell Simmons or Puffy or those people. I knew I wanted to be involved in this industry, so I knew I had to create outlets for myself. Basically, I started a street team and I started mixtape distribution. Through that, I met a lot of deejays, a lot of clients and whatnot. Through that, I ended up starting a marketing company called Milestone Media. Once I started doing that, I started building resources and connections. I wasnt making no money off of rapping; there was no outlet for me to have a career as a rapper, so I just stood in the industry, and I was making money. I was satisfied doing what I was doing, and I was good at it, but eventually, certain things came about.
Me and Kool G Rap [click to read][became close]. He was like, Look, you need to start focusing on this rap thing. That eventually led me to pursuing this rap thing full-time. It was kind of hard because I had to balance what I wanted to do music-wise, and pretty much paying my bills through my company. Its not a rarity; Chamillionaire [click to read] did it. Me and Chamillionaire chopped it up for a few hours one time, and he was telling me that him and Paul Wall used to hang up flyers in Texas, doing a lot of street team stuff, and thats how he met a lot of different rappers, deejays and people. A lot of artists start off in the industry through other realms.
DX: Was it hard for you to go from paying dues in one arena to starting over in another?
NB: Yeah, definitely. Not every emcee who I had a relationship with took what I was trying to do with open arms. Theres a rapper on every corner. A lot of people who do DVDs or distribution or even show promoters or even Hip Hop writers, they all want to be rappers. [Laughs] A lot of these dudes want to rap in the first place, but they couldnt do it, whether they didnt have the flow or the voice or whatever. Once I started stepping it up with my music and taking it more serious, dudes was like, Oh shit, you really trying to take it there. A lot of the artists that I was close with, they seen that especially Kool G Rap. He was the first one to really be like, Wow. In the beginning, you were a baby with this, now, youre not only walking, but youre about to be graduating the first level of class. Youre doing it! That helped me build that confidence.
DX: On the tape, you say Im Americas nightmare, a young spic that just dont give a shit. Expound on that a bit
NB: Its basically taken from Fredro Starr of Onyx on Last Dayz. Its a real famous quote, Im Americas nightmare, young black, and just dont give a fuck / I just want to get high and live it up. I basically took that. I guess, in a sense, he was just saying that Americas scared of this. At the end of the day, kids from the ghetto with a voice speak about things that people dont cover. Were a voice to something that mass media doesnt cover. We have different laws here. That wasnt exposed to people in Wichita and Iowa, but Hip Hop did that. When Fredro Starr said that, he was covering the black side. Im covering it from another side: the young spic perspective. Im a minority, and we get treated different too. Throughout my music, I cover things that a lot of other rappers dont cover.
DX: Youre one of the few New York newer emcees that isnt harping on being from New York. Do you feel part of the new class of New York, or do you just feel like an artist who happens to be from New York?
NB: [Sighs] For the new class, period, I feel like were breaking a stigma in a sense. Joell Ortizs The Brick [click to read] was the only thing Ive heard recently that gave me the feeling I got to get into this shit in the 90s. Im not really limited to a New York thing, cause theres a lot of emcees comin up, like Lupe Fiasco [click to read], even though hes been out for a bit, hes relatively new. Youve got Crooked I [click to view] from the west coast, whos doing a project with me, Saigon, me, Joell Ortiz [click to read] and Joe Budden [click to read]. We represent the new class. Right now, mainstream, the odds are stacked against us; theyre not trying to support lyricists. So we have our outlets and resources, like HipHopDX, and mixtape deejays, underground crowds.
Theres a stigma that if it aint about the paper, rappers dont do shit. Every rapper on [Untold Scriptures] [click to read] did it out of love, out of respect. We all ride together. I can call Joe Budden and just poly with him, the same thing with Crooked I, Grafh. We all know the odds are stacked against us. I think I represent the new class in general.
DX: You mentioned Joell. This month we have it confirmed that Americas ready for a black president. Do you think Hip Hop is ready for a Latin superstar. Certainly, weve seen that with Cypress Hill, Big Pun and Fat Joe, but theyve never been credited as thee best.
NB: I think Hip Hops ready for it. I think a lot of Hip Hop doesnt look at Joell as a Latin emcee. Even though he was signed with Aftermath, he didnt get an Aftermath push. We dont know if theyre ready right now. Joell Ortiz has been widely accepted through the realm that hes been exposed to. He hasnt been exposed to the major MTV crowd and whatnot, but for what hes done, dropping under Koch and appearing on a lot of underground shit, people have accepted him. Yeah, youll hear the Latin stuff the Pun comparisons on records like Brooklyn Bullshit. People were ready for Eminem, I dont know how theyre not gonna be ready for a Latin emcee. I dont look at Nas a black rapper. If somebody told me Jay-Z [click to read] was half-white, I wouldnt be like, Aw man. It is what it is. I dont look at race. We didnt get our chance yet.
DX: Youve positioned yourself between underground and mainstream. I can see you going to a major, or perhaps doing something similar to what Termanology or Joe Budden do. How careful have you been in your career to ride that middle?
NB: I dont knows if Ive been careful. The main thing with me is Im really just trying to be true to myself, keep doing the music Im doing, and I really just want creative control. I dont care what the label is. As long as they believe in my vision, and give me creative control, Im willing to work with them. If not, Im happy to stay where Im at right now. I feel like Im marketable and can be accepted in the mainstream, yeah, but thats not up to me. I dont have one million dollars. I dont have the resources to get on MTV, BET and these major radio stations. I just be myself. When I did Untold Scriptures, for instance, I didnt glorify selling drugs on Means of Survival. Im saying, get the fuck out the hood. Im saying things that a lot of dudes aint sayin. Im not telling people to sell drugs to be rims, jewelry and whatnot. Im being true to myself, and trying to be lyrical.
DX: Being of that late 90s class, what does storytelling mean to you and your work?
NB: You can drop jewels all day, in a number of different rhymes. But when you tell a story, youre painting a picture for them. Its more descriptive and elaborate for the listener. People understand what you do a lot more cause theres no disguise. Cause of Influence, [click to listen] it did exactly what it was supposed to do. Its about a kid from the burbs getting influenced by a Hip Hop record, and ended up taking it too far, and an innocent female ended up getting shot and passed away due to this dudes ignorance. You can debate it from whatever angle you want to debate it from, but I guess when I tell a story, I guess it gets the message across so much clearer.
DX: How much went into Third Degree[click to listen]?
NB: A lot. To be honest with you, back in the days, the art of the feature was a little more sacred. When you heard Mobb Deep collaborating with Nas [on Eye For An Eye], these records were put together with a purpose. They werent just, Yo, can you hop on this record cause I need your name to appeal to your fan-base? Third Degree did take effort, cause we wanted to make sure that the order was right. We wanted to make sure that everybody came off and did their thing. Everybody who rapped on that record heard what the person did prior to them, so we wanted to make sure that the record had some continuity. Thats important, cause if youre gonna put a record out with [Saigon, Crooked I, Scram Jones] on it, make it worthwhile, make it last, make a statement with it. Its hard, cause a lot of peoples schedules are a little different, but its a testament to a dude like Saigon, because he didnt have to do that record. He just did a record ["Cmon Baby remix"[click to listen]] with Jay-Z half a year ago; he didnt have to do a song with Nino Bless. But he said, Fuck that, I want to be a part of a record with real lyricists on it. Crooked as well.
DX: Whats next for you?
NB: Crooked I and I are doing a project tentatively titled New Breed. Weve been talking about it for a month and a half. Im also gonna do Untold Scriptures Volume 2, the follow-up. Its been received so well, people love it, so I figured let me stay with the name. I people to see progression. A lot of labels are hollering too, and I dont know whats gonna come of that. Im gonna be in peoples faces. Im not gonna be one of those artists that you hear about, drops a project, and ends up on the milk carton in XXL. [Laughs]
DX: G Rap protgs became Nas, MF Grimm, Papoose, do you put yourself as the next protg thats going to do big things?
NB: Only time will tell. [Laughs] I cant call it. G personally feels I have as much ability as anybody hes ever worked with. He cosigns me heavy. He passed jewels that were imperative to me, especially in my progression. Only time will tell, but I know one thing Im not gonna let him down.