Mainos rep on those Brooklyn streets is thorough. But while it may garner him a certain level of credibility (he speaks on that below), it doesnt have anything to do with making hit records. A few years back on the strength of Rumors, a brash, industry gossip smackdown of a song, Maino caught a deal with Universal Records that only managed to make his buzz stall out. Now riding with Atlantic Records and his Hi-Hater singleand now the prerequisite remix with Swizz Beatz, T.I., Jadakiss, Plies & Fabolousbeing a certified smash, its looking like Mainos musical output may soon match and eclipse his block infamy. All good for Maino since establishing a legal legacy for his peeps is one of his stated goals. His debut album, If Tomorrow Comes
, drops September 23 but despite the title, his future is looking bright. Say hello. AllHipHop.com: You served ten years in prison, when did you go in?Maino: The early nineties, 93AllHipHop.com: That said you werent out when say Biggie and Lil Kim first got real popular. Being on the inside how was that for you?Maino: S**t, any cage is hard. But I grew up there and I made the best of the situation.AllHipHop.com: Youve mentioned many times that you got started rhyming inside, about what year was that? Maino: Oh man, I started after B.I.G. came out, Ill say about 95 or 96, around that time.AllHipHop.com: And before that you never really thought about it?Maino: Not at all.AllHipHop.com: Is there anything you did growing up that might have hinted to that ability?Maino: No just an being an avid fan. I grew up listening to the greats, like any other kid in the street, no different. I listened to Hip-Hop, that was mainly what I did. Im from the ghetto and Hip-Hop, that was a part of my life. But I never wanted to be a rapper, I never aspired to be one and never thought about being one. I never thought I would write rhymes, I never thought I would do any of that until I went to jail.
Kay Slay was the first person to really put me on the radio, put me on his mixtape and I went from there. I was aggressive about it, I just wanted to meet the DJs. I didnt want to get out and try to shop a demo. I was trying to get my music directly to the street.
AllHipHop.com: At that time when you realized you had that talent, was there a certain point when you thought, you know what, I could really do this?Maino: Yes, because that was just my hustlers instinct kicking in. I figured like I grew up hustling, I grew up in the streets, I figured maybe I could use rap to be an addition to what I was doing in the streets
I could give it run. Im about money, lets see if I could make it work, to see if I could grab opportunity and get out there on the streets and put my best foot forward and make it possible. I didnt know if it was going to work but I said, I might as well try, what could I lose? But if it dont work I can always fall back on the street anyway. AllHipHop.com: So when you got out in 03, what was the first thing you did?Maino I jumped right into the mixtape circuit. I met Kay Slay he was the first person to really put me on the radio, put me on his mixtape and I went from there. I was aggressive about it, I just wanted to meet the DJs. I didnt want to get out and try to shop a demo, that is not what I was trying to do. I was trying to get my music directly to the street. Before I even got out of prison because Im such a strategist that my thoughts were premeditated before I got out. I had formulated, I had people out in the streets so my mans was in a position to help me. So by the time I got out all we had to do was go see the lawyer, incorporate the paperwork and the nameregister the name Hustle Hard Entertainmentand we were on our way. AllHipHop.com: You doing well on the street mixtapes, is that how you managed to be a ghostwriter on Lil Kims album?Maino: Who ever said I was a ghostwriter, who said that? I never said that.AllHipHop.com: You didnt say that, but its just the word
Maino: Oh, its just speculating. Well, I am not going to run with that. I have never supported that idea of me being a ghostwriter for anybody. People are going to speculate because that is just the business. People are going to speculate that Kim dont write her rhymes. That dont have nothing to do with me though. AllHipHop.com: Your song Rumors was popping off and you signed to Universal, it seemed liked things stalled, though. Maino: Well, we live and learn. At that point, I dont think they understood where to go with me, as far as me being a New York artist. I dont think I was ready either honestly. I dont really think I was ready as I am today. Right now Im 100 percent sure, Im ready, Im on deck. So, it was cool for both of us because I was able to get some on the job training. It was a learning experience, sort of like college. Now Im really in the work force. Maino "Rumors"AllHipHop.com: Looking back is there anything you would have done differently specifically?Maino: Well it is all about my creativeness, as far as making certain records and just growing as an artist. Where I am today, as far as that, I dont think I was there, then speaking directly at growth as an artist.AllHipHop.com: So correct me if Im wrong, would it be safe to say that wouldnt have made a Hi Hater with Universal?Maino: Right, I dont know if I was capable of doing it, because first and foremost, its my mentality. I didnt understand the game the way I do now. Everything takes time, I had to go through that period get here - so that portion of my life was well needed. If I didnt go through the situation with Universal, I dont think I would be able to make Hi Hater because I actually made the record right after I was released from Universal. It was right after I was released from Universal and right before I signed with Atlantic. AllHipHop.com: I see you got credit as co-producer, what did you do to get that credit?Maino: Because the whole record is my idea. My man Mista Raja, I called him up and told him I got this idea, I want to use this particular record. We used the beat that [Mary J. Blige] had, we found that beat, shout out to my man, DJ Unique, for getting the instrumental to us. What I did was Mr. Raja, he looped it, and I rapped to it. So, Im getting my Diddy on. Maino "Hi Hater"AllHipHop.com: Did you know you had something when you finished the song did you realize it would blow up?Maino: Well at first I wasnt fishing for it, saying Yeah, Im looking for a hit record. I was just being myself. In doing the record I was like, Oh its coming out good. But it wasnt until people were walking in the studio and started dancing, oh man
immediately. It was like a reaction off of impulse. So I was like, Wow Im holding a bomb right here. so I finished the record and everybody loved it and I held it. I held the record for a year.AllHipHop.com: Why, because you were waiting for that right time?Maino: I had just got out of Universal and I was negotiating with Atlantic. My deal with Atlantic wasnt done yet and I did the record right in the middle of that. So now I was faced with the option of either release the record on my own or holding it until after my deal is done, waiting until Atlantic was going to be able to get behind it. It was a couple of times I wanted to leak the record on my own, this record could have actually came out last summer. But I dont think it would have been as big as it is today, because my deal wasnt done. I needed the machine behind it.Hi Hater Remix - Maino f/ t.i., swizz beatz, plies, jadakiss, fabolousAllHipHop.com: Whats your relationship with T.I. like? Maino: That is my brother man. Hes a very real dude. Grand Hustle is family. Im not actually signed to the label but we family. Those are my allies, those are my brothers.
That is some industry s**t. What is street cred? What is that, where does it come from? I dont know these dudes for being anybody so how can they have street credibility?
AllHipHop.com: You have mentioned before the difference between street cred and respect. Can you speak on that? Maino: What is street cred? That is some industry s**t. What is street cred? What is that, where does it come from? I dont know these dudes for being anybody so how can they have street credibility? I dont know these rappers for being a fixture in the ghetto. I am and I was who I was before rap. Ive been well respected where I came from, been known in my immediate area of Brooklyn, as well as in prison. So I believe thats just the industrys term to solidify a couple of these guys that may wear bananas and their pants hanging. So I dont buy into the street credibility, I dont even know what that is. Respect on the other hand is the greatest of everything because without respect what do you have? I grew up in an era where if you wasnt respected, you couldnt have your chain on. If you wasnt respected you couldnt wear that watch and bracelet. If you did you would have to hide it, because n****s are on your ass for that. That is a guaranteed fact. So if you had that respect and that was the greatest thing in the hood because nobody was going to touch you. You could bring a girl from another project to your hood. She didnt have to worry about girls jumping on her because you were respected.Im not saying you had to be the most gun-slinging, gangster in the hood, but for different reasons men are respected. I just happened to be of the ones who was really respected way before I even picked up a thought of rapping. AllHipHop.com: For you what is the greatest part of being an MC? Maino: Being able to provide for my family, take care of my son, legally. You dont understand I never done anything legal in my life. I came out my house I was in the street at a very early age, I went through so many trials and tribulations being a pre-teen, a teenager and going to jail for a long period of time, getting out and going directly back to the streets and making the transition from being a street dude to being an artist. This is the first time where I have ever been in the position to provide for my people with a legal foundation.AllHipHop.com: The situation with Lil Cease, is it squashed, or a case of it is what it is?Maino: It is what it is. That is not even a thought in my every day process because that was just a situation I needed to address and I addressed it. I dont have a problem addressing anything I feel like I need to. He couldnt watch his mouth, so I gave him a reason to watch his mouth. He will never disrespect me as long as he lives. And anybody who is affiliated with him will never ever get out of line again. AllHipHop.com: Being that your status is elevated, that means that eyes are going to be on you. How do you deal with the fact that there is always going to be an idiot out there just itching to test you?Maino: What I am doing right now, is I stay kind of pulled back a lot on the beefing with a lot of dudes. I try to hold back and just let the music speak for itself, because it was a time when people only judged me and people only noticed me because of controversial issues I was through. So Im not even focused on these other dudes. Im just focused on my trying to make good music and go to the next level. However, I dont think that anyone is just going to step out of line for the sake of doing it. I would be a fool to keep trying to look for that, I wouldnt be a true blue hustler to get all the way here and to constantly do things that are going to chase the money away. That is what you call being counterproductive, how can I get all the way into a corporate environment, get a record that is moving all around the country and do s**t that is going to take away from that. That wouldnt be smart at all and I am nobodys dummy.AllHipHop.com: After somebody listens to the complete album, If Tomorrow Comes
, what are they going to get out of it?Maino: Hell of a lot more respect for me as a person. I think they will love me as a man and not just as some MC. I stay away from all the MC s**t, the rapper s**t. Its just real talk and real situation in life. Even if you look at Hi Hater, its not really about me being a rapper, its about a situation everybody can relate to. So I try to make my music to where certain other people can take something out of it, not just listen to some ill metaphor or something. That is not what I am in it for.
I didnt learn anything in jail as far as preparing me to be a regular upstanding citizen Real talk, its designed to just leave you in there and you got to wing it and take it upon yourself to pick up something. They give you a vocational training, you can get your GED but is that really going to prepare you for the world? You have to have it in you, to want to do something.
AllHipHop.com: Any track that stands out? Maino: There is a couple. There is a record called Floating that I love. Its about loss, its about losing homies to death and jail and how do you cope with that. I say, I dont want to feel sober, I want to feel numb, I dont want to feel sober. So with most people arent going through they say they drink and get high and that is kind of what the story is about. Man it feels like Im floating on the clouds. Im high, because I dont want to face the word alone. Because when you are going through these things you want to ease your pain. You dont want to think about what is making you hurt, that is what the record is about. AllHipHop.com: I saw this video on the Kay Slay show and you mentioned how they're building of all of these jails but not building schools. Do you feel that jail rehabilitates people at all?Maino: No it doesnt. I didnt learn anything in jail as far as preparing me to be a regular upstanding citizen, honestly if it wasnt for rap I would go back to the street. Real talk, first and foremost its not designed to be that way, its designed to just leave you in there and you got to wing it and take it upon yourself to pick up something. They give you a vocational training, you can get your GED but is that really going to prepare you for the world? You have to have it in you, to want to do something. You got to say, I got to take this time and Im going to use it to perfect whatever craft I want to get into, whatever field I want to get into. It just gives you time to think, its just all on you, though.