UTG INTERVIEW: Maino On Hip-Hop, Basketball And Brooklyn Gentrification

Maino

“I never understood the artist that got famous then looked at fans funny, because if it wasn’t for the fans we wouldn’t be here. So I’m one of those dudes who’s grateful just for the opportunity to be here and do what I do.”

On December 9, Full Court Press Vol. 1 will be dropping worldwide. The album is a compilation of original songs featuring NBA players and rap stars joining forces to make family-friendly and positive hip-hop songs.

Under The Gun was fortunate enough to get on the phone and chat with the King Of Brooklyn himself, Maino, about his involvement in the project. His track “Showout” is a collaboration with Ma$e, Chris Stylez, and New York Knick, Iman Shumpert.

We spoke about the relationship between hip-hop and ball players, the importance of thought-provoking rap, and the current state of New York music. He even let us know what he thinks about the gentrification of his borough and how Jay-Z knows that Maino is synonymous with Brooklyn.

UTG: So tell me, how did you originally get involved with Full Court Press?

Maino: My man Cipha Sounds and Drewski from Hot 97 put me onto it, told me it was a dope concept tying in NBA players with actual rap artists. And really putting out music that was motivational and inspirational, so I figured definitely, I’m about that. Let’s get it.

Was that something that drew you to the project? That it was friendly for kids and sent out a positive message?

Yeah, of course.At the end of the day we as artists and also athletes, you’re looked at by children, by kids, by young grown adults that want to actually be famous or be successful or be entertainers or be athletes, so you know, it’s definitely cool to be able to do something where they can relate to it, do something more family oriented or friendly for the listeners. Look, I’ve got an 11-year-old, he’s about to be 12 years old, by the time this interview is out. So I get it, you know?

So do you think that that’s something that’s missing from hip-hop, the positive messages in rap?

Yeah, unfortunately it seems like only the partying and the bullshit and the women and the money seem to be at the forefront. You know there was a time when it felt like it was different shades of music giving the same opportunity. You know, you had artists like NWA but then you had artists like De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest. You had artists like Public Enemy- you still have those kind of artists, but they may not be as successful on the radio and you may not feel their influence, but they’re there. Those kind of artists do exist, with those messages, but I guess those messages haven’t been given the same outlet. Me personally, I like to make inspirational music. My biggest song to date is “All The Above,” you know? Which was inspirational music, to help people in their lives and their own struggle. My new song is called “Dreamer”; it’s in that same kind of vein. It’s about going from nothing to something.

How was it being on a track with Iman Shumpert from the New York Knicks?

It’s not the first time. I’ve been on a track with him before, I’ve known him for some time and I’ve known that he’s always expressed his love for hip-hop and the fact that he actually writes his own raps, and I think that he takes it seriously in his own way. He goes out and he comes to the studio and he does what he does.

ImanShumpert

You also have Ma$e on that track. You’ve got NBA, Bad Boy, Brooklyn. What a combination.

Definitely. You know Ma$e being–I may want to say a legendary New York artist–coming from those ’90s, very early 2000s, it’s New York. It feels like New York, it feels like the stadium. It’s just a fun track on a solid project.

You know the whole stigma that rappers want to be ball players and ball players want to be rappers, how true do you think that is?

I think it’s simple. From rappers’ perspectives, ball players have these big huge contracts and they have access to the kind of money that every artist is not able to reach. From a ball player’s perspective, a lot of these dudes they have a lot of money but they’re not famous. Some of these dudes get held up at clubs and can’t get in; nobody really knows them unless they’re superstar players. Unless you’re a LeBron or Carmello, and a couple of other people, you’re not as well known but you may have a lot of money. It’s like an even trade, artists have the fame, ball players have the money.

shaq-fu
So can you play ball yourself?

Yeah, hell yeah! I’m nice!

The album is called Full Court Press Vol. 1 so I guess that implies they’ll be doing some more of these in the future?

Yeah, and I think it’s kinda late. There was a time when they were trying to stop athletes from rapping but now it’s a lot more accepted, and a lot of these athletes are actual fans of hip-hop, so a lot of them dibble and dabble with rapping, they just play ball. They’re not any different than us. So I think that we’re related in some sort of way; we all come from the same kind of communities, most of us come from the same kind of background from all over the country. We do a lot of the same things, it was only right.

You said earlier that the track that you’re on is a very New York based track. Speaking on New York hip-hop in general, what do you think about the state of NY hip-hop? Cali is getting all the buzz with rappers like Kendrick and YG…

I think the utmost of New York. We’re in pocket to do a lot of the same thing. Everything happens in its own time and it’s gradual. New York, we had our era, we had our time, and then hip-hop spread, it grew, it metamorphosed, it changed a little, and different regions started to grow. You start to see different trends and different style and culture- it’s all good. We have a lot of new artists coming out of New York, coming out of Brooklyn. It feels good to me. I think that as long as we continue to make dope music and put out great songs and projects that it’s gonna be alright.

Let’s talk about King of Brooklyn Part 2.

Oh man, that’s the business there! Yeah, we dropped that November 25, it’s Part Two. Part One we dropped last February. So this is two projects in one year. The single, “Dreamer,” number three added record in the country. B.O.B., French Montana, Young Tweezie- it’s street music, speaking directly to my core. Great solid project, 11 records. I feel great about it. Four videos already done. We’re just gonna keep it pushing.

I saw on your Instagram that you posted a photo from one of the shoots.

Yeah, I shot two videos that day.

Damn, is that exhausting or what?

Hey, you know, who am I to complain? This is the job that got me out of the streets, so I’m grateful to be in a position to say that music is my– not only my lifestyle–but it’s my way of life, it’s my livelihood. This is how I feed my children. This is what I do. So I don’t complain about the long hours, I don’t complain about not sleeping, I don’t complain about having to be on the road, I don’t complain about these things. I deal with it, I embrace it.

I never understood the artist that got famous then looked at fans funny, because if it wasn’t for the fans we wouldn’t be here. So I’m one of those dudes who’s grateful just for the opportunity to be here and do what I do.

So it’s King of Brooklyn Part 2, is it a continuation of Part 1?

You know, the original KOB just felt so good to me, and it was just refreshing. I had spent some time trying to make certain kinds of records and trying to fit in for the radio, with King of Brooklyn, I just said, “You know what, I’m not trying to make no record or do nothing, I’m just trying to do what I do and speak directly to my core.”

I had wanted to do another project right after that, that was kind of similar, but the success of King of Brooklyn led me to getting a deal and distribution through SONY RED, recorded at Phase One [Studios] and it’s like a mixtape-album, so it’s actually gonna be in stores, actually gonna be on iTunes. So people can download it and buy it. And enjoy it!

Are you always going to be a Brooklyn guy?

Brooklyn is in my heart whether I live in Brooklyn or not. I physically haven’t lived in Brooklyn in a long time but I’m always there. I breathe Brooklyn. Whether I’m on the West Coast, I’m in the Midwest, I’m down south, when they see me, they see Brooklyn.

What do you think about the recent changes and gentrification in Brooklyn?

Yeah, yeah, yeah. It is what it is, you can look at it a couple of different ways. For the people that are like, “Oh my god, they changing, this and that,” but the change, visually, it looks beautiful. My only problem with it is for the people that inhabited this area prior, where are they moving to? Because I know they can’t afford this rent, so that’s my only problem with it. I love the way it looks because you don’t see lots of abandoned buildings, you don’t see abandoned cars or these things anymore that I used to see when I was growing up, so visually it looks great. It feels good, but just my city alone feels good. I remember riding around in my Bentley on Eighth Avenue and pullin’ up on the side of a Maybach. I look over, and it’s HOVA [Jay-Z], and he came to the window and said, “Whattup Brooklyn!” So when they see me, they see Brooklyn. Even HOVA. It feels good to be recognized, and it feels good to rep a city that’s changing. We’ve got the Barclays so it’s like a fucking tourist attraction now! Change is good, change is inevitable and we’ve got to embrace it.

And how did you decide on your collaborations on KOB Part 2?

I just let it flow naturally, I pretty much work with just about every person in the game in one way or another. I reached out to French, I reached out to B.O.B. because I felt like that was different. I had a song that I said, “Damn, let me reach out to Lil Durk, this sounds like something he could be on.” I reached out to Busta [Rhymes]. Having good relationships to be able to do that is great. As long as the music is dope, because when I do features, I like to make sure, before I present it to the artist, that the record is already dope.

T-Pain’s track on ‘Full Court Press Vol. 1’:

Interviewed by: Derek Scancarelli

Derek Scancarelli

Derek Scancarelli is a feature writer, interviewer, videographer, photographer, radio-er and more. In 2015, he received his MA in Journalism in New York City. In addition to Under The Gun Review, Derek has worked with Noisey (VICE), Alternative Press, New Noise Magazine and many more. He also pushes some buttons at SiriusXM.

Comedian Jim Norton once called him a serial killer on national radio. Enjoy the internet with him on Twitter.
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