Maino: Miracle Baby
Despite the setback, Maino adopted his Hustle Hard mentality and moved operations across town to Atlantic. After proving himself to have mainstream potential with the success of his lead single, Hi-Hater, and the follow up All the Above, fans and the industry as a whole patiently wait to see whats next from the boy first introduced by Lil Kim. With the release of his debut album, If Tomorrow Comes drawing near, the sky seems to be the only limit for the self-proclaimed miracle baby.
HipHopDX.com: You are unlike many other rappers in that you tend not to glorify the fact that you served time as part of your image. Why is that?
Maino: 'Cause thats not who I am as a man. I was in jail and I didnt want to be there. I dont want to glorify that shit. I did it, I got through it. I came in a man and I left as a man. Im a G. With certain things it is what it is. You see the scare on my face, it tells a story. I dont try to hide that shit. I dont make songs about it but I dont try to hide it either. I showed it in the All The Above video because I want people to see my struggle and see where I come from. This is the story of a young boy going in, doing his time, and coming out and reaching for the stars.
DX: With todays industry being more about image than anything else, have you ever had an A&R or label rep try to get you to play more off that angle?
Maino: Nobody ever told me what to do as far as my persona. My persona is what got me this far. I dont know how far back you remember me, but when I was on the DVD circuit, before I had a major deal, thats the reason Ive been able to last this long. And thats how I been. This is not my first major deal. I got signed to Universal, things didnt work out, and now I am on Atlantic. But even through all that, I never had anyone ask me to promote jail more. I dont have to promote myself in that way because its kind of hard to go around it in an interview. Thats a question that always comes up and I always have to reflect back on the time I spent in prison. I mean I actually started rapping in jail so it is what it is.
DX: Youve mentioned many times that you got started rhyming while locked up, do you feel like you would be where you are today if you hadnt gone through that experience?
Maino: No. If I didnt go through prison and I didnt feel what I felt, no. I would not be here today. Im almost positive of that.
DX: Why do you feel that is?
Maino: Music was never a thought in my head or even an option until then. Im being honest with you. The way I was living homietrust me, I would not be rapping. Im a miracle baby, man.
DX: When a mixtape artist manages to crossover they sometimes lose their core audience. So far youve managed to walk the line with your singles by being commercially appealing yet still holding onto the ear of the streets. Is that a conscious action or is that just how the music comes out?
Maino: Its important for me to protect my integrity. Its important to for me to be me. If I dont then this, this is all for nothing. I was never trying to just make a song, Im trying to make a career. And the way you build a career is by staying true. Like, songs come and go, but artists last forever. If I just made up a hot song that had no identity and just blow up that song, no disrespect but, I would be more close to what Flo Rida is and I dont want to be that. No disrespect to the homie, were cool. But thats just what I didnt come here to be. Thats not what I want to be. Id rather grind it out and still have content that the streets could relate to. Im glad I came up on the mixtape circuit for all these years because now were here.
DX: Sometimes when artists come from the mixtapes and sign to a major their core audience is sometimes left missing the artist they came to know and love. Did you keep the mixtape fans in mind when going through the creation of the album?
Maino: Definitely. But before I really answer that question, lets examine how many people made it off the mixtapes and actually put out an album. If were talking people who came straight off the mixtapesm, I can name only two - not including myself and thats 50 Cent [click to read] and Fabolous [click to read]. Im talking about people who were on the mixtapes before their big single. People that are remembered before they blew. With that being said, when I first did Hi Hater [click to listen], a lot of my fans were like What are you doing. How you going to come out with this commercial shit? So I had to keep grinding and make people understand like look, Im still that nigga. In order for me to win in a big way, I have to make records a certain way so that I can bring the streets to the world. And really, the only commercial records are the ones that are on the radio. Like, Im still Maino. Im still hard. Even the song All the Above, which is probably a bigger crossover record than Hi Hater was, if you listen to what Im saying Im still keeping it street. Im still talking about going from nothing to something. Listen to the words What do you see when youre looking at me/ Im on a mission to be what Im destined to be. Im not talking that, "Oh baby lets go drink champagne in the Bentley." Im saying Im a miracle baby. Look what the ghetto has made me. Who cant feel that?
DX: The album is entitled If Tomorrow Comes. What does that mean?
Maino: Thats actually part of a longer sentence. The whole thing is If tomorrow comes I want my tomorrow to be better than my today. That means were out here, were hustling hard, homie. Were grinding with a purpose. What I mean by that is, when you grind you want your tomorrow to be better than your today. You want to have more money tomorrow than you had today, you want to be more successful tomorrow than you are today, you want to happier tomorrow than you are today. Nobody is going to look forward to some bullshit. You go to sleep hoping that when the sun comes up its going to bring you a better day. Thats what If Tomorrow Comes is about.
DX: Being a new artist, as far as the mainstream is concerned, you have to be on the road and do a lot of interviews and shows in order to let the people become familiar with you and at times it can wear down on your spirit. What is it that motivates you to keep going during all that?
Maino: I think about my life and where I come from and the fact that I dont deserve to be here. I get up in the morning and I work, I dont complain. I go to three or four cities a day. I sacrificed not seeing my son when I want to see him and spending time with him so I can provide a better life for him. Like its real simple, its either do this or be back in the streets. Bottom line.
DX: People have compared the Rap game to the crack game. Based on your personal experiences, would you say you agree?
Maino: I can understand why some people say that. But the one thing about the industry is that hate ethic. A person disrespecting, a person lying to you, not keeping his word, in the street Id end up breaking him up and beating his head in. The industry is distasteful in a lot of ways because of some of the people in it. A lot of people arent trustworthy, a lot of people are snakes, a lot of people are liars, a lot of people are dream-sellersit really is a disgusting business in a certain way because of the people that dirty it up with their bullshit. But is it really like the crack gamewell Ill tell you this, I aint going through now what I was going through when I was out there.
DX: I know. I have yet to hear of anyone turning up dead because they were late turning in their next single.
Maino: Exactly. Like it may be like a Crap game, like a game of dice because it can be a gamble, but it aint like the streets. The streets is real, my nigga. Like nobody whos really out in the streets wants to be there.
DX: You never try to portray yourself as some kind of super gangster but at the same time youve talked about having to lay down the hand of God and how you never tolerate disrespect. In your opinion where is the line drawn between being a man defending his honor and dignity and a thug trying to build a rep?
Maino: When I first got into the game I had a lot more incidents than Im having now. I kind of was able to fall back and just get to making the music. Thats what I ultimately wanted people to respect me for. But at the same time, things happen. Im stuck in certain ways and one of the things Im stuck on is respect. Respect is big with me, son. I idolize respect. I came up looking up to the gangsters because they had so much respect. I wanted to be just like them niggas. Them niggas had money, they had women, they had the clothes and the jewelry on and nobody could touch them because they were well-respected. I idolized respect. I couldnt wait to be one of them kind of niggas so when I came up I fashioned myself behind those kinds of niggas. Respect means so much to me to the point Im almost a fanatic about it. The minute I feel like a nigga is saying something or doing something crazy, I lose it. But at the same time, given where I am, I had to train myself to react different. Like I had to tell myself this is music, son. You aint in jail. These people really dont understand you. Respect to them may not mean that much. I cant use those street ethics in this corporate environment but I need my space and my respect. That means a lot to me.
DX: In a recent interview Styles P talked about the difference between success that comes from being respected and commercial success. With everything youve gone through to get to this point which do you want more?
Maino: Respect is big. It means more to me than this bullshit five minutes of fame. That will never be questioned. I will always maintain my dignity and I will always maintain my integrity. But at the same time, I need that commercial success to create the opportunities. I need those opportunities but Im going to do it in a way that I can still be me. Im not going to sell myself short or sell myself out. I need these opportunities so I can feed my people.
DX: Youre from Brooklyn. What is it you love most about your boro?
Maino: Our pride, man. I love our pride. Like you can see a dude and be like, Yo, why you got on that green hat? and all hell say it's 'cause Im from Brooklyn, nigga, what the fuck! I love that pride. Everything is Brooklyn. We just feel like because were from Brooklyn were the shit and I love that and Im waving that flag man.
DX: There is a long list of big name Hip Hop artists that have come from the streets of Brooklyn. Do you feel any pressure to keep that tradition going?
Maino: Oh definitely. Im derived from that. I fall from that family tree. From [Big Daddy] Kane [click to read] to [Notorious] B.I.G. to Jay-Z [click to read]; Im a direct descendant of that. I came from that tree.
DX: Looking back, which Brooklyn emcee had the biggest impact on you?
Maino: Id say B.I.G. hands down. It was definitely B.I.G. that did it for me.
DX: You got your foot in the door by linking up with Lil Kim, one of Brooklyns biggest female emcees. Whats your relationship like now?
Maino: I mean we family. Were definitely family. Always will be family.
DX: You and T.I. are close. How big a role has he played in helping you develop yourself as an artist and building your brand?
Maino: Thats my brother. The love I got for him is outside of music. The love I got for him and his family and the love he showed mehes done things for me that nobody, not even people from my own city was willing to do for me. Like, hes the type of dude that any help I could possibly need, hes willing to get down and help me. Hell do that on any level. That comes far and few in this business, son, when you do come across someone like that you have to salute him because there are not many.
DX: How often do you two speak now and do you two have any plans to work together after his release?
Maino: Because hes incarcerated and he has limited time on the phone so I havent had the chance to speak to him yet. Im sure I will speak to him soon and I definitely plan on going to see him if I can. Im a felon myself, so Im not sure if I can do that but I do plan on at least trying to go see him. As far as the music, thats the homie right there. I mean when he gets out, the skys the limit. I mean right now Im more concerned with him getting out of there, but Im going to be here.
DX: If you could use only one word to tell the world who Maino is, what would it be and why?
Maino: Unstoppable. When some people are faced with adversity, they bend to it, they fall. If you put adversity in front of me I find a way to get past it and get through it. I break the doors down. Im a train that never stops moving, my nigga. I chase success every single day. I dream of winning every single day. This is what I want to do, its all I want to do. My relationship with my baby mother was so strained because I was so selfish about doing what I wanted to do. I got lost in the music. Why? Because I want to win. My drive is like 20,000. You have no idea how much I dont want to go back to what I came from. So if it means me being on the road for a year straight, doing them free shows, grinding in the studio Im going to do it, my nigga. Then Im going to get out to them cities and get on them corners and sell that crack. I need to eat, my backs against the wall, my nigga.