Your single “Hi Hater” is doing pretty well right now. Did you expect that success when you recorded the song?
Yeah. I knew I recorded a bomb. That’s why I held it. I waited until I was in a good position before I put it out. I had made the record when I had gotten out of my Universal deal and I was negotiating with Atlantic. I had the option of putting the record out on my own but I didn’t think I was going to get the same response as I would have gotten without a team behind it. So I waited until my business was straight. I knew that I was holding onto something.
Did the ups and downs of your career inspire that song?
Nah. The ups and downs I’ve been through in life did. My life has had more ups and downs than my career has. My career has always been on the upswing. That’s the way I look at it. I spent half of my life in prison. Nothing like that could compare to what I been through.
Does that knowledge keep you focused on a day-to-day basis?
Yeah. I’ve been on my grind for about four or five years. Other rappers have been on their grind for much longer.
In looking at the hate you get, do you think you got more when you were coming up and weren’t as polished as you are now or do you get more hate now that you’re a better rapper and in a better position than you were when you were coming up?
Hate is love. It’s going to come in all different fashions and in all different shapes and sizes. I can’t say there’s more hate or less hate. It’s all natural. I didn’t make the record just based on my experiences. When I make music I try to make it for everybody so it wasn’t just solely based on Maino. It was for everybody.
Does the hate you receive ever bother you?
I need the hate, man. The hate inspires me. I love the energy. Why? Because it keeps it fun, especially when somebody doubts me or underestimates me. When somebody doubts me they put themselves at a disadvantage. I take that hate and I use it to my advantage. I love when somebody underestimates me. I actually welcome the hate.
Do you pay attention to what fans say about you online?
Not really. You got those internet gangsters, you know what I mean? They’re on the blog sites. I mean, some people keep it real. Not all people. But then you got people who make stories up and they live in their own world. I can’t pay attention to that shit. It don’t bother me. You’re looking at a nigga with thick skin. I was in a penitentiary half of my life. There’s nothing nobody can do to me besides kill me or put me in a physical position fucked up-wise that’s going to hurt me. You feel me?
Every man deals with everything differently. Some people deal with hate one way and I’m going to deal with hate in another way. One thing I don’t tolerate is disrespect. Hate is cool. A nigga can hate on me from the sidelines but disrespect is another thing. Any kind of disrespect I get from a nigga is going to be dealt with outside of music.
Nobody ever disrespected me. And in the rap game, anytime I ever felt like I was being disrespected, look at the examples I made already. I’m a man before I’m a rapper. Nobody’s going to disrespect me and I’m going to live with that. That’s just me on my man shit. It ain’t got nothing to do with music. But nobody’s disrespected me. The hating is good. I need the hate. I don’t want the haters to stop. Shit, I’m trying to get some more.
“Hi Hater” has the same Jimmy Spicer sample as AZ’s “Doing That” and Mary J. Blige’s “Be Happy (Remix)”. Was that ever an issue for you when you were recording “Hi Hater”?
I never heard it. I don’t listen to AZ. I never heard his record.
It’s on his album The Format.
The last time I heard AZ was when he was with The Firm. I haven’t heard an AZ record with the same sample I used. As far as I’m concerned the only person that used that record is Mary J. Blige.
What vision did you have for the “Hi Hater” video?
I just wanted it to be honest. I could have had the Ferrari and the mansion. I could have had all the regular rap shit but I wanted to keep it simple and I wanted to keep it truthful. I want the fans to grow with me. If I’m trying to show an image that I’m rich already how are the people going to grow with me? I want the people to ride with me. We’re going to come up together.
What inspired your beat-jacking freestyle “Brooklyn Salute”?
I’m a Brooklyn nigga. I’m the only Brooklyn nigga out here on the front lines. That’s a fact. I’m the only Brooklyn nigga on the front lines right now around the country. So it was only right for me to show them that I am Brooklyn’s future. I am the future. I am where the game is going. It’s only right for me to salute where I’m coming from and that’s what I did.
Have you been happy with how things have been moving for you at Atlantic?
Yeah. I’m happy with it. Everything is so far, so good. I’m up and running. I’m the only New York artist in this position so it’s definitely a good feeling to see that my record is moving around the country like a disease. It’s spreading. It feels good to see the record company pushing it. They’re going hard and I’m going hard. Everything is good.
Why do you think you have Atlantic’s support where Saigon, another New York artist, couldn’t make things happen there?
Every situation is different. I came here and I did what I needed to do. Every label you’re up against different elements. Like, I was at Universal first and it didn’t work out for me and it might have worked out for somebody else but it didn’t work out for me. I don’t know.
Is the experience you gained at Universal helping you navigate Atlantic’s system better?
I learned a lot and creatively I’m in a better space.
Is the rest of your debut album If Tomorrow Comes done at this point?
Yeah. It’s done.
How would you describe the album?
My album is a movie. It is a movie. It is a movie based on my life. It’s based on the portion of my life after I came home from prison and I wanted to get into the industry. It deals with everything that I went through prior to becoming signed all the way to being noticed. It has everything I was going through as far as still being in the streets and being on parole and problems existing out here in the streets and at the same time I wanted to be an artist. It is a movie. What I’ve done with the album nobody has ever done. You’re about to see something you’ve never seen coming from over here.
What does the title If Tomorrow Comes mean to you?
It means everything to me. We all know that tomorrow is not promised but if it does come I want to make my tomorrow brighter than my yesterday. So I’m always striving to get to a whole ‘nother level. So if the sun comes up I’m trying to be on the upswing. I’m trying to come up. I’m trying to get from one level to the next if tomorrow comes.
You worked with GQ Beats a lot when you were coming up. How much did he help you on
He’s definitely on the album. GQ is my man. We started out together and he’s right there with me.
Will the fans be ready for If Tomorrow Comes by September?
We have enough time. We’re still moving. We’re growing every day. My record is growing. I’m gaining 600 spins a week. It’s at 2,000 spins a week. The remix is coming and I have records coming behind it. There comes a time when we have to do what we have to do and I’m ready to go. We have more than enough time. We have the rest of July and the whole August and the whole September.
What’s the next move for Maino?
Grinding. I’m on the road. I’m going to be around the whole country for the next few months. I’m going to be doing everything I gotta do. I’m doing a lot of promo and I’m getting ready to drop the next single and the next video. I’m here. This is my time.