Life as a shorty shouldn't be so rough. At 16, Jermaine “Maino” Coleman started a 10-year prison bid for a drug related kidnapping. Released in 2003 with street battle scares to prove it including the infamous razor blade slash on his face, one of Brooklyn's finest talks about his independent grind and how Hip-Hop saved his life. Now following in the footsteps of Brooklyn greats like his predecessors The Notorious B.I.G. and Jay-Z, time will tell if Maino's Brooklyn lineage and mic skills will lead him to the top as well.
HipHopWired: The title of the album is If Tomorrow Comes, what was that whole process like because it's been forever for this album to come out dog? I know personally that you've been grinding for like 5 years now so nothing comes easy.
Maino: If tomorrow comes, then I want my tomorrow to be better than my today. Ya feel me? It's been a rough ride but I'm blessed. I'm blessed to be in the shoes I'm standing in right now and I wouldn't have it no other way. I gotta work for everything that I'm getting. I don't think people expected me to get this far but I'm turning doubters into believers everyday homie.
HipHopWired: That's true, no doubt. We got a lot of MCs out here with fake jail records but during your whole grind, since you actually really did, what kept you from not going on that route again even with the deals falling through, you could have easily slipped back into that life and got caught up.
Maino: Me having a focus for one, I had hope. A lot of times we do things in the street because we don't have hope man, we don't give a fu*k, but I had hope, I had focus and a great support system. Good people around me man and I was destined to be what God wanted me to be. I felt what it felt to be in jail for years. He didn't want me to go back, he wanted me to use my life, he didn't want me to be preacher but he wanted me to use my life to inspire the hood, to inspire the streets and let em know that we can do whatever the fu*k we wanna do.
HipHopWired: That's good, that's great. So as far as you inspiring the hood, another thing I always respected about you is that you never glorify the jail stint and for most of your records you don't really talk about it. Why is that? You could easily ride off that and you got the stripes to ride off it too if you chose to?
Maino: I don't know man. When I got out, I still made gangsta music but at the same time, reality is not a fad. It don't play in and out of style. It don't get played out, it's real. So I can't help but to write about my life and if it sounds inspirational then so be it. I didn't actually set it out to be that way though. I didn't set out to be that way. If I say that I'm a miracle baby because I've been through this, this, this and that and if people can be inspired by that, it's cool but I didn't set out to make my music like that. I just wanted to give them real Shyte and my life in itself is inspirational for somebody that's in the hood right now. Or somebody who just came home from jail and saying, “Man this ni**a Maino made me feel like I can do something,” because B.I.G. made me feel like I could do something.
HipHopWired: How have you been able to transition? Like when I first met you, the state of Hip-Hop has changed from when you were initially coming out, it was more street oriented, now it's more pop radio friendly records and your records aren't radio and pop friendly but they are getting played on the radio. We probably wouldn't have heard that from you five years ago. How were you able to make that transition and do those kinds of songs?
Maino: Because I'm a hustler and I watch the streets and I watch what's going on. It's very important for me to be able to make…see…Put it like this man, when I got out I had a plan. The plan was to get into mixtapes and then get me a deal and make some hit records so that I could make this a career. I can't have this be a career if I'm on mixtapes for the rest of my life. That's not a real career. I needed to compete, I needed to be in the game in a major way to really create some opportunities so I studied the game and I figured it out. I gotta make hit records. I could still do all the street Shyte I want but at the same time I need to make music that's gonna connect with the radio. Now I found a way to do it and still be me at the same time and not trade in my integrity or my manhood to be on a certain record. I'm still me, all my records you hear I'm still being me, I'm still being Maino.
HipHopWired: Right. When you first got signed, Atlantic had you, Quan and Saigon, all of you were with Atlantic. What made you stay with Atlantic because it seemed like the other two didn't really wanna switch it up. What made you switch it up some?
Maino: Well honestly I wasn't signed to Atlantic back then, I was signed to Universal. When Quan and Saigon were on Atlantic, I was on Universal. So the same situation that was going on with them at Atlantic was going on with me at Universal. At Universal there was like really no movement. After I got off of Universal, Atlantic felt like a better home for me. I knew that I had what it took to be different. I had a look, I knew I had a voice, and I knew I had the ability to make those kinds of records. I can't speak for those other artists though.
HipHopWired: Recently you had an unfortunate situation that went down with one of your partners getting shot by the police, what do you think about the rise of police brutality especially since Obama came into office? It's almost like The Pigs got a point to prove…
Maino: Yo man, it's disgusting. It's something that we've been enduring all our lives and before we were born. In the situation with my peoples we got the money and the means to make sure that they don't get away with it but what about the families that don't have the resources to really fight the system. It's crazy man, and people gotta wake up. They put these police in our neighborhood and they're not always right, they're not always mentally capable of dealing with young Black men, man. Straight up.
HipHopWired: How is your homeboy doing?
Maino: I just got off the phone with him maybe fifteen, twenty minutes ago. He's holding up, he's definitely a strong individual and mentally he's gonna get through this situation but it's a roller coaster though. I have to be honest with you because my dude is a very strong dude in the streets and for him to have went from being the person he was to now having to sit down for a little while, it's really hard to deal with emotionally but he's fighting man and he's getting his therapy. We definitely hopeful and we know that he's gonna stand again.
HipHopWired: That's what's up man, my prayers go out to him. So If Tomorrow Comes man, with the album, what can we expect?
Maino: I'll tell you what you not gone get, you not gone get a whole bunch of features.
HipHopWired: That's the greatest thing in the world…
Maino: You not gone get every other song full of features. That's first and foremost. You gonna be surprised though, I'll tell you that because I feel like people been sleeping on me. They're being surprised by me and my ability to create this good music. I'm not gonna let you down. I guarantee , I'm not gonna let you down. My album is based on the portion of my life after I got out of prison and I wanted to do music. So I was going through some trials and tribulations, just had a baby, I was on parole, still in the streets, I was going through all this stuff in the streets and I was trying to be an artist at the same time so that's what my album is based on, all the stuff I was going through. So I tell you what man, you won't be let down man, I guarantee you.
HipHopWired: I also understand you're releasing a DVD, The Best of the Block/ Hustle Hard. What's that DVD about?
Maino: It's unstoppable man, it's unstoppable. It's about me, it's about Maino. It's about my ride so far. You know what I've been through and how I was able to turn that around and get to this point that I am right now. Even if it all ends today I feel like I've done something. I feel like I beat expectations, I already won. If it all ends today I wasn't expecting to get this far in life let alone in a career. People in my hood they're proud of me. It's real joy, it's real hope because they never thought that I would be here. For me to be at this point right here, it's a blessing.
HipHopWired: What do you think about the Performance Rights Bill that's going on right now? You know artists might start getting paid for their songs being played on the radio. The radio stations are claiming that it's actually going to cripple radio.
Maino: Man, it's always something man. I'm just mad that by the time I got to the game, it wasn't like it was ten years ago...budgets, everything. Everything is different. This is why I'm using music to open up doors for other things. Definitely look for Maino in movies and other things. Pretty soon there probably won't be too much money in this thing, if not at all.
HipHopWired: I know we talked before and I want to talk to you more about the “prison industrial” complex. Do you feel that truly exists? Do you think prison really rehabilitates people?
Maino: No, it doesn't. Prison does not rehabilitate you. I'mma tell you something man, I'mma be straight up honest with you. Prison didn't rehabilitate me, before I did music I had every intention of coming back home and doing what I'd been doing. It didn't matter if they locked me up for one year or ten or twenty, I was gonna come home and do exactly what I'd been doing. It didn't matter, they were just holding me up. I found music on my own, it was because I had the opportunity and the time to find it. I had to rehabilitate myself. Prison doesn't rehabilitate you because first of all, they put you in there and they give you inadequate training. Like you're studying to be a carpenter or a welder but you're using old school equipment from the 80s. Come on man. The design is for failure man. It's designed for failure. Like why do you think the resentment of them is so high? People go to jail, do this amount of time and go right back. It's designed that way. The only thing I can say about prison is if you are in prison, you need to take that time…if you have any smarts about yourself, you would take some time on your own and try to figure out what you need to do for yourself. That's what I did. It wasn't about them giving me anything. I took the time that I had while I was there and started to figure something out for myself. They didn't rehabilitate me, cause I'mma be honest. If I didn't find rap man, if I didn't find music, if I didn't fall in love with the game, my future would've been ugly.
HipHopWired: Y'all still affiliated with Kim from a label perspective?
Maino: Naw we never had a label situation with her. She always been my peoples but it's never been business. That was a misconception early on in my career. She's always been family but it was never like I was signed to her or we had any kind of business. It was never like that. I was signed to Universal and she was actually on Atlantic back then. I had my own separate situation but she was helping me.
HipHopWired: Production wise, what type of vibe are people gonna get when they listen to If Tomorrow Comes?
Maino: I try to make universal music when it comes to the beats I choose. The beats I choose, they can work in New York or the South. When you listen to my singles, it don't matter. I make music for whoever, I didn't make music just for New York. I didn't try and make music for the South, I just made good music. As far as production, its just great beats that work.
HipHopWired: With that said, you were one of the first artist from NY to say that you weren't trying to bring New York back but bring Hip-Hop back in general but do you think the game is coming back?
Maino: Yeah man, we bringing New York forward. My whole thing was when you say bring New York back, bring it back where? Back in the days when Wu-Tang was on top, when bad Boy and Roc-A-Fella was on top. We never gone get those days back. The only thing we can do is do something new and create new stars and new music and enter into a whole new era. That's what I'm about.
HipHopWired: What type of mark do you plan on leaving like the names you just mentioned like Jay and Wu who made history?
Maino: I feel like they gone respect me as a man and say that Maino was one of the realest. He rode for New York and Brooklyn and he helped bring a lot of stuff to light. I ride for the streets and I wear it on my chest. It's no acting with me, I'm the real thing. And when you go in the streets, that's what they say about me. That's the realest dude. I don't put on… I don't wear shades.