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Ed Nino and the Creative Process

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This story contains mature language.

Underwriting support from:
Ed Nino at CD release @ the Breakroom

Ed Nino at CD release @ the Breakroom /Tori Jo Photos

Nixon and Nino

Nixon and Nino /Tori Jo Photos

Ed Nino

Ed Nino /Tori Jo Photos

I was listening to Ed Nino's "Welcome 2 Jericho," which he dropped off in my mailbox a few weeks back, and couldn't really think of how to do it justice. This is a guy, who I initially thought was a little too intense before I knew his music. Then I absorbed it and it really resonated with me. I have seen him around town, at a couple shows and didn't know what to expect from his sophomore effort, having not even heard the original project that he did some two years back.  But I was blown-away by the focus of someone who rhymes with a lot of passion, and even though I know his main producer, Nixon, I wasn't sure what would come out of this release. So, it is a welcome surprise to me that there is yet another local hip hopster who is making waves in the community through quality music and deft collaborations.


Having done a couple of interviews, some which worked and a couple which I was not completely satisfied in, I approached Nino about doing something a little different with the article. I wanted to give him the voice on the article, and allow all of the non-musicians in the reading public to get a sense of what goes on behind the scenes in making an album. I e-mailed him some questions I thought up one Sunday afternoon, and it didn't take long for the content to come back, as I think this is the type of material he wanted his fans and would-be-fans to know. I could have asked for more, but below is the contents of our exchange, and I believe will give you a better introduction to Ed Nino and his music, then what I could have done with any article:


What is different about "Welcome 2 Jericho" from "Sins of a Prophet?"  What changed about your music between the two albums?

When I started "Sins of a Prophet," I was in an entirely different place mentally.  I was still delivering pizza, which i did off and on for years.  I hated that s**t.  The money was okay but I felt like I didn't get the respect I deserved from anybody.  The pitfall of pursuing creative endeavors, especially in a place like Grand Rapids, is that it is a slow grind. I knew I had a gift for words and storytelling but the trick was figuring out how to put them to music and not sound like an idiot. If there is one thing I hate it's sh***y music. Don't waste my time with your f***in trendy dance tracks and soulless lyrics. At that time, I had just moved to Eastown and was really just absorbing the local hip hop scene. I marveled at the talent and potential within this city. Once I started meeting other producers and rappers I started to plant seeds. I was fortunate enough to gain attention through my performances at open mic at Billy's. That led to business relationships that helped me craft the album. I had come up with the title ahead of the songs. I thought it was clever to condense "Sins of a Prophet" into an acronym (S.O.A.P.). It was perfect because I decided ahead of time that the album would mostly be about me growing up and all the f****d up situations I have gotten myself into. I am eternally grateful to everyone involved with that first project because then...I just wanted to be heard. Looking back, I really had no real plan to make it a job. When it finally came time to make a follow up, I had been through a lot. Doing shows, working a new day job, crazy medical situations, crazy women and so much more. "Welcome 2 Jericho" is me truly becoming an artist, whether these motherf*****s like it or not.  

When did you first start working on your latest album, what was going in your life to set the creative process in motion?

I started working on this album in february of 2009.  I had obtained a couple tracks from my colleague and now close friend nixon. he then approached me about being the main producer behind the project. I was going through the end of a relationship with a girl that I loved very much, but it had turned sour long before. I was also bartending, which  brought a lot of extra chaos to my life. For those of you that know, being a bartender downtown is a lot like being a popular music artist. There is an endless trail of girls, booze and money. It's actually funny to me how the two world(s) have coincided so perfect. Top that all off with the fact that I am a pretty disgruntled person in general and you have the fire that fueled this.

Talk to me about the flow of the album, how did you select the order of the tracks, and how did it all come together in an end product?

This project was different as far as the flow because I didn't really know ahead of time where I was headed. The inception was the same because I had to hunt down the tracks in order to get inspired to make the music. I decided that I wouldn't even try to produce any of the beats this time and just focus on the lyrics. I had met what I believe to be some of the most talented beat makers on the planet so I decided to roll with them. After a lot of sweat and scrutiny, the album was done. The order of the tracks was an on the spot decision. The tracks felt right in the order selected. 


Tell me about the producers on the album, how did you work with them, and what are some of the different responsibilities between you and the producers?

The album is comprised of four producers: Nixon, Manwolf, Tim Russell and Newstalgia. Tim Russell is one of my oldest friends, he makes beats without actually fully pursuing music full time. He has an amazing ear though and we have always been into the same music. Newstalgia is someone I still don't really even know. He came to my attention through other artists and I hit him up asking for a beat. His beats are amazing. He is still an untapped gem as far as I am concerned. Manwolf is also someone I met through other artists but we have became friends. He is an incredible producer but also one of the dopest lyricists I have ever heard. This f****n dude makes people shake in their boots, he has a crazy background story as well and is just a genuinely interesting guy. Then there is Nixon. He is the only producer that I actually sit in the studio with  He has a style all his own and he is pretty brilliant. The songs have already been crafted in my head by the time we actually go into record but he is like the Stockton to my Malone. He is very smart on the fly and has become an amazing engineer and producer.  He is also one of my closest friends. 

Explain to me one of your tracks: how it comes together, how you write it, do you edit it, how you get the music to match, and what it feels like to get a song completed.

This can get pretty intricate. First and foremost, I have to be able to see myself on the beat before I start writing. I know so many good producers at this point that every beat I hear is good, but some of them aren't fit for me. Once I have the beat I get to writing in my studio at home. The hardest part of making any song for me is coming up with the very first line of the first verse. I know that line will dictate the direction that the song will go. Sometimes I already have a line in my head or an idea for a song, those are the easiest to get finished. Most of the time though, it comes from whatever inspires me at that moment. Songs never come together quickly for me because I refuse to move line to line without it being perfect. I write the word patterns to the beat so matching it is never a problem.  Finishing a song for me is unlike anything else. I scrutinize everything so much that once the song is actually complete, I have what i believe to be classic material. This s**t is like good sex or bourbon to me.

What was some of the motivation of some of your more emotional tracks, what compels you to write it down, how do you bounce ideas off of others, and when you finally get it on paper, is it a relief, or is it stressful that something you are thinking will go public?

I decided along time ago that if I was gonna do this I would have to put my personal life on blast. The best thing I have to offer musically is the madness that goes on in my head as well as my life. Anybody who knows me will tell you I am a very passionate and opinionated individual, so when it comes to things that have been emotional for me, I find that putting my thoughts to music is the best outlet. I never bounce ideas off other people unless I am doing a song that someone else raps on with me. I would say I am neither relieved or stressed when I think about my ideas going public. the drawback of offering up your inner most emotions is that people could potentially prey on that. I don't give a s**t though. I am too strong for that to affect me, and I appreciate artists who keep it raw, so that's what I do.

What does your fiancée think about the album? Are any of the songs written with her in mind, and how has the release of the album impacted your relationship?

Every now and again she will remind me how amazing she thinks I am.  She is a very sharp lady, she would never praise something she didn't believe in  She thinks the album is incredible and expects nothing less from me. She sees what the artistic process does to my psyche and how involved I get. That being said, she knows I would never halfa** this music. It means too much to me. She is a power player in her own right, so now when I am trying to make moves, she is always on my mind. I have a dominate personality and with her by my side the future is bright. I asked her to marry me at the release party for my album, so I think the album will always represent a special time in our lives.  It also represents a new phase for me as an artist.

What would you like the general listener of the album to take-away, what messages were you hoping to convey that will leave a lasting impact on the local hiphop community?

At the end of the day, I would like the listener to feel like they have seen a window into my life and appreciate that everything I said was from the heart. With all this disposable music nowadays it is up to us as artists to keep real music alive. I just keep it genuine, because I don't know anything else.

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