TNJ sat down with the always confident yet never arrogant Queens rapper (born D’aquan Brown) to discuss his industry journey thus far, why he’s grateful for Bank Camp Entertainment and why he almost decided not to take his art seriously.
He’s battled on stage with Meek Mill. He’s introduced his music to DJ’s of WQHT Hot 97 FM radio. Now, he’s enjoying the mayhem surrounding the release of his latest single. Indeed, it’s without question that Bank Camp Entertainment artist Nino just might be the man.
TNJ: You’ve just released “I’m the man”. Tell me a little about this record.
N: I recorded it in February and dropped it about two weeks ago after we built up some momentum. I just wanted to give something for the women to get loose to and for the fellas to get their flex on. So, if you’re in the club and a girl is styling on you, just let her know you’re the man! [laughs]
TNJ: Do you go into the studio with an idea of the type of record you want to record?
N: We go with material made just so we’re not wasting time. We don’t have a home studio, so we can’t play no games in there. Get the music done and right!
TNJ: Tell me about the “struggle” of being on an independent label because I know it’s a totally different world from being on a mainstream label.
N: I can’t say that I’m an independent artist because I have a financial backing behind me. But before this label came about, yeah being an independent artist is tough. You have to book your own shows; you have to pay for your own studio time. Basically be your own manager.
TNJ: What’s keeping you driven to chasing the dream? You say how hard it is at times regardless, so why keep going?
N: I wasn’t taking rap seriously until this label came about. The CEO of the label is actually my barber and the first time he heard me and my label mate, Black Way do music together, he instantly became a fan. He wanted to sign both of us.
Back in 2009, I was signed to another independent label and that ended up falling through; so I shied away from music for a bit. This new label put the drive back in me. You know to have people that actually believe in your music, you might as well go hard!
TNJ: Take me back to the moment when we discovered Nino knew how to rap.
N: I was about 13 years old, free-styling in the cafeteria. One of my homies, who passed away in 2012, Anthony, he came up to me and said “Yo, you nice!” We ended up clicking and started a little clique called The Playboys. I started getting better as I got older and when I was 15, I started battling kids from my school and other high schools.
TNJ: When was your first performance?
N: My first performance wasn’t too long ago actually. It was in late January at Katra Lounge in the city. They had a showcase and it was cool. It wasn’t my own set, another artist brought me out on his.
My first performance by myself was in March, at the single release party. I felt comfortable, no nerves at all. The music came on and I did my thing. Once I got off the stage, everybody was saying how they liked it and wanted to hear more. Now that it’s out, the single is getting way more love than I expected it to.
TNJ: Tell me about Bank Camp Entertainment. You and Black Way are the only two artists signed?
N: Yes, it’s just myself and Black Way. The CEO Q, the co-CEO, Gino and the Vice President, Zach.
TNJ: What made you take this opportunity seriously with Bank Camp?
N: [Q’s] belief in me, definitely.
TNJ: Between this label and the previous label you belonged to, what was the biggest lesson learned?
N: To keep the negativity out of your circle and stick together. If the head is not strong, the whole body is weak!
TNJ: You turn on the radio and you hear the same stuff. What makes Nino’s sound different?
N: I’m not trying to come with that same New York sound! A lot of people say that my voice is different. I don’t sing but I do play around with autotune. [laughs] My label mate though, he’s on a different level with it! Lyrically, that’s who I see is my competition. I have to keep up with him.
TNJ: You were just at HOT 97 not too long ago. What was the purpose of that?
N: This artist name Fresh, has a good buzz going right now. His manager is Global Vito, who works out of Hot 97. We had a sit down with him and he requested for us to give him a few of our songs. We left it in his hands and we’re just waiting to hear it played on air. We met with DJ Enuff as well and he knows of the records.
TNJ: Who’s Nino? Where did we get that name from?
N: That’s another story from way back when. [laughs] If you saw the movie New Jack City, there’s a character named Nino and when I was younger, people would say I had his attitude. So it stuck with me.
TNJ: Now that we know who Nino is, who’s D’aquan?
N: You know to be honest with you, I never tried to use Nino as a persona. Or tried to separate that from D’aquan. You get the 2-for-1. It’s a part of me, it’s the same person.
TNJ: Who are you inspired by?
N: My father, definitely. He taught me doing the right things and how you’re supposed to do it. That’s my biggest inspiration. As far as hip hop, my favorite rapper is Lloyd Banks. I was a fan of the G-Unit era and he had the illest punch lines! Nobody can argue with me about it! [laughs]
TNJ: Who do you want to work with?
N: Number one is Lloyd. I definitely want to work with Meek Mill. I definitely want to work with Troy Ave and Jadakiss, definitely. Kendrick and Fabolous.
TNJ: On this journey thus far, have you had a moment that shook you and made you not want to do this anymore?
N: Losing my friend was definitely one. Anthony is the reason why I started rapping and he’s the reason why I can’t stop. When I get to the studio, he’s the first person I think of. That first album is definitely dedicated to him!
TNJ: I need to know how we got to get on stage and battle Meek Mill!
N: My homie had an extra ticket and so I actually got called last minute to go. We got there early and ended up being in front of the stage. Meek called up two dudes prior to me, and they botched the dance. He cut them off. He said he needed someone from the hood to come do this dance! So I had my flag in my hand and I waved it in the air. So he called me up and I hopped on stage. He said “Yo where you from?” I said “I’m from Queens”. He said “Ok, I know a lot of people from Queens.” DJ ended up dropping the beat, I bodied it and we rocked out together. I was rocking the label of course, had my shirt on. He ended up letting me chill on the side of the stage for the rest of his set. His security was trying to pull me to the side, and he told me no I was good. It was a good experience. Next time, I’ll ask for the mic though! [laughs]
TNJ: What’s next?
N: Right now, we’re pushing the single. We’re going to shoot the video for it in two weeks. Then my tape will follow. I’ll drop a few more singles before I drop the tape.
TNJ: What do you want to leave behind?
N: Honestly, I just want to be known for making good music and continue to do that. I would do this for free! We get into it with the label because at times we’ll give away music for free and not think about the business side of it. We just want to be heard and I’ve had to learn patience.
TNJ: One word that describes you. You’re a rapper so this should be easy!
N: Confident. Confidence is something you have to have in order to do anything in life and follow what you believe. I’m confident in all aspects of my life and I take pride in that.