In hip-hop, a little embellishment goes a long way. Nowadays, fabricated drug tales and overblown hustler personas are often utilized to score record deals. But unlike most MCs, Maino has lived the life often falsified on wax. The Brooklyn native's rap sheet is extensive, including 10 years in prison for kidnapping. While his street credibility is unquestioned, it hasn't translated into a fruitful hip-hop career, as of yet. In 2004, Maino released "Rumors," an ode to taboo hearsay such as DMX's alleged drug habit and Trina's alleged bi-sexual escapades. It was the start of a career marked by controversy. In 2005, Universal Records A&R, Tone, of the Trackmasters, signed Maino. In preparation of his debut album, Death Before Dishonor, Maino became a mainstay on the New York City mixtape and DVD circuit. He also appeared on "Gimme That" off Lil' Kim's The Naked Truth, "Definition of a Thug" off Funkmaster Flex's Car Show Tour album and "Code of the Streets" off DJ Kay Slay and Greg Street's The Champions.
Through his candid lyrics, Maino's buzz accumulated. But it was still his penchant for beef that garnered the most attention. In 2005, Maino's friendship with Lil Kim resulted in feuds with Lil’ Cease, JR. Mafia, and Brooklyn MC Gravy (who's friends with Foxy Brown). Then, last year, he was embroiled in a heated rivalry with Queensbridge native Tragedy Khadafi. His reputation as a "hip-hop bully" grew. Maino's vigilante behavior, however, didn’t translate into support from Universal Records. Frustrated, he eventually asked for his release in 2006. Then, with some help from 50 Cent, Maino signed to Atlantic Records. With a renewed vigor, Maino finally hopes to release his debut album this year. In the meantime, he's released a new mixtape, The Hand of God. Once again, though, controversy has followed. His new song, "Take It Like A Man," addresses the demise of East Coast hip-hop, suggesting Bad Boy Records is "dead" and artists such as Jay-Z and The Wu-Tang Clan have fallen off. XXLMag.com talks with the controversial MC about his new record deal, rollercoaster career and tough guy image.
Your song, “Take It Like A Man," ruffled a few feathers. Has anyone confronted you about it?
First of all, ain’t nobody gonna confront me about shit. The only conversation I had was with Puff. He asked me if I really felt like Bad Boy was dead and I told him, 'Yeah.' So he said what he said, and I said what I said. I ain’t trying to single him out, but there was a time everyone wanted to be a Bad Boy. That time is over. People in the industry and the people I’m talking about don’t [like the song], but I ain’t have too much backlash from it.
Do you consider yourself a hip-hop bully?
I’m definitely not a bully. Why, 'cause I don’t take shit from a nigga? Cause I don’t allow niggas to disrespect me?
No, because you’ve had alleged altercations with Lil’ Cease, Tragedy Khadafi, and Gravy and you always seem to be involved in drama.
I stand out amongst an industry full of fuck boys. You have to look at who I am before rap. I’m not going to say, 'I’m a college educated, working class man.' I told niggas from the jump - my whole life I've been a criminal, and then I started rapping. I went from being in the street, spending 10 years in prison, to coming home parlaying into the industry. I've been banging all that time.
Can the industry's perception of you sometimes overshadow your music?
I don’t want people to think that’s what I’m about, 'cause any nigga that really pays attention to my music knows I can put a good song together. I know how to make records. My lifestyle just goes with the music.
Last June, a gunman tried to rob you inside a sneaker store in Brooklyn. Although you walked away unharmed, did it ever cross your mind that he could’ve killed you?
I could’ve killed him also— let that run around your mind, too. You gotta understand me - I come from that. I come from putting my gun in other niggas faces. So that’s my background. Now, I know for a fact this nigga really didn't know what he was doing if he got the gun on my head. He didn’t know what he was doing and that’s why he ended up in the position to be popped. He ran outside of the store [and] the police was outside. The witnesses were like, “Hey! He was trying to rob Maino!” Police interviewed me on the spot, and I told them straight up, 'Man, I don’t know nothing. All I know is somebody with a mask, I never seen the person before, threw a gun in my face. I grabbed it, we tussled, gun went off and that’s that.' Dude went in jail trying to say I told on him or I made a statement. To this day, I don’t even know what that man looks like.
Do you feel you’re invincible?
Definitely not, man. I can die today. I’m not running around the industry thinking I’m the toughest nigga, that’s not what it is. I’ve had discrepancies with rappers that never went further than wax. But, I also had discrepancies that went way further than wax. I feel like, if you get on a record and you disrespect me, than you’re willing to deal with what comes with [that]. We're all accountable for our [own] actions. So, if I disrespect a nigga, in my mind, I know I’m accountable for dealing with the repercussions.
You often say your victims were struck by the “the hand of God.” Is there anyone else in hip-hop that needs to feel your wrath?
The whole fakeness in hip-hop is just crazy. Everybody is a follower. Niggas ain’t comfortable being themselves 'cause who they really are isn’t appealing. Everybody wanna wear a [biker] chain on their belt [or] pants and don’t know what the fuck they doing. Get the fuck outta here; the streets don’t respect that. That’s the problem with these niggas - they too extra. You got niggas that will sit up there and lie to your face. You got these A&R niggas playing with niggas’ budgets, lying to a nigga, selling a nigga a dream. I would like to touch that and change it if I could, but I don’t think I could because it’s run by a bunch of fuck boys.
Why did you switch from Universal to Atlantic Records?
Tone, from Trackmasters, had another agenda. We sat down and I told him the best thing he could do for me, if he really gave a fuck about me, was to let me get the fuck up outta there. It's just money to you, [but] it’s my life. 50 [Cent] stepped in and helped me out, [though]. He did some real nigga shit, put in a call for me and spoke to the right people. The situation was already gonna happen, but when a nigga like that makes a call, it's way more major.
Although you first made your mark nearly two years ago, do you still consider yourself a new artist?
Every nigga that’s out right now [has] been out before me. And I’m not talking about every nigga with an album. I’m talking about every nigga that’s perceived to be a new artist. I was listening to all these niggas when I was still in jail. So you tell me. I haven’t even reached the general public yet. Let’s be honest, I haven’t been exposed to the masses yet. Niggas keep hearing about Maino, but I haven’t been exposed. I haven’t been on 106 & Park. I haven’t been on Rap City. I haven’t been on TRL. I haven’t had a single out. But now, God willing, everything is going to go where it should this year.
There are rumors you were supposed to appear in Def Jam's Icon video game.
I was supposed to be in the game. I don’t know what happened, but at the last minute, they said I wasn’t in it. They flew me out to Cali, scanned my body, went through the whole motion [sensors] and stuff. I was definitely disappointed 'cause I was running around promoting the shit [and] talking about it. It’s all-good, [though].
You're also on a 50-foot billboard in downtown Brooklyn for Stash House’s clothing line.
I’m very major right now on that billboard on Fulton [Street] and Flatbush [Avenue]. Shout out to Byron Kirkland and the whole Stash House for putting that together. You think these people would invest in me if I was that much of a liability? I can sit down and deal with business. I’m not some fucking animal. You got a nasty bitch like Foxy Brown running around spitting in people's faces and doing all kinds of nasty shit. That’s a fucking animal right there. That bitch can’t function. If I was that much of an animal, I would have killed a nigga already.