Elohim Marino [Interview]
Queens, NY – In a hip-hop market saturated with one hit wonders and artists who are self-absorbed with materialism and over boasting self-worth, it is refreshing to hear a younger MC like Elohim Marino come in with a very genuine, self-spoken sound that discloses his most inner thoughts. He really lets you feel where he’s coming from while consistently highlighting his lyrical strength day in, day out. [More]
He is a Son of Hip-Hop and his style, while largely unique, gives you a real feel for the “golden age” of the music despite being a young emcee himself. Elohim embodies bits and pieces of hip-hop legends with his own unique spin that ultimately produces a very smooth and next level vibe — not to forget the stellar production provided by Toronto-based Tony2Tone, who is Elohim’s friend and business partner.
Elohim Marino, who was born in Mandeville, Jamaica, moved to Toronto in 1999 and subsequently traveled back and forth between Toronto and New York before permanently taking up residence in New York after graduating from Victoria Park Secondary in North York, Ontario. Before moving, Elohim Marino connected with Tony2Tone and together they established their own means (along with J Robb) to push their music independently — Blaq Ink. Blaq Ink recently released Elohim Marino’s Son of Hip-Hop CD and will be the launch pad for future releases from Elohim.
HipHopCanada.com viewers were first introduced to Elohim with the Tony2Tone produced “Troubles With God”. This was followed with “Timeless Thoughts” and “Uncontrolled Emotions” and just recently, “Black Livin'”, produced by Young Tony’s Deadly Melody Productions. In the transcript below, we ask Elohim about these songs as well as the Son of Hip-Hop CD they were featured on. Check Elohim’s thoughts on the industry, the Canadian scene and his quest to be heard internationally as a self-standing artist who didn’t conform to record label demands or shady contracts. I called Elohim on a Saturday evening…
HipHopCanada: Elohim, big up. It’s about time we had you on HipHopCanada.com Let’s get right into things. Your biography states that you are aiming to “bring hip-hop back to its true essence”. In your opinion, what has been lost from hip-hop and how can the negative elements be eliminated to bring it back to its true essence? Basically, how would you bring back what has been lost effectively?
Elohim Marino: Personality has been lost man. Now it’s all about a record label telling you what to be or grooming you to what they see hip-hop as. So individuality is lost.
HipHopCanada: Most people on our site were introduced to you with the song “Troubles With God” – a very deep track depicting your emotional and spiritual struggles in life. While the song shows you are a spiritual person, it also conveys a message of anger for being “abandoned”. How big of a roll would you say religion and spirituality play in your life?
Elohim Marino: Everything is a vibe man. So, if I go in the studio and I’m recording something… it’s always how I feel. And religion… I mean my mom is very religious so I was around that 24/7 growing up, so it’s definitely a part of me. I can always switch over to that side and really have people see and feel where I’m coming from. I feel like that’s where I get it from.
HipHopCanada: What were going through when you wrote it?
Elohim Marino: That song… Just the hook on that track was crazy… Troubles With God. It’s kind of like a shock. Nobody wants to hear someone say they have Troubles With God. Like “Damn… This kid’s going against religion, he’s going against creation, he’s going against the Bible, you know what I mean? So after feeling that vibe, I just went crazy on it and just really explained that some people would feel… or why I feel I have Troubles With God. It’s that type of song.
HipHopCanada: Tell me about your youth. When did you start writing and what influenced you to really get into music?
Elohim Marino: Oh man… I didn’t start writing until I was 16. I was at Tony2Tone’s crib and we were just parlaying and shit and I was like “Yo, I should write man cause niggas is mad wack”, you know what I mean [Laughing]. So I started to say shit like that… and after I started getting instrumentals and writing to them… around 16, going on 17… It wasn’t that serious until I got expelled out of high school and I had a lot of free time on my hands. That’s when I was writing every single day, making 4 or 5 songs a day. So that’s where it started. My first rap album was DMX’s Flesh Of My Flesh, Blood Of My Blood. So I’m kind of late on the hip-hop scene. What I had to do was go back in time and start listening to old heads… Rakim, KRS One, Naughty By Nature… I had to go back and really capture that type of vibe before I was able to say, “Yeah, I’m bringing back that real essence.” When I say that I ain’t talking shit. I went back and listened.
HipHopCanada: What do you remember about your first studio session… or the first joints you recorded? What would you say is the biggest misconception you had about the music industry before trying to break through?
Elohim Marino: I thought it would be a lot easier. I thought it was like… you go in, you jump in the studio and do a couple of songs and then hit the streets with it to blow up. I mean it’s every kid’s fantasy thinking… and then you find out that it’s hard work and you have to bring something new to the table. Back then, I was just rhyming… I was listening to people and you try to emulate that. There’s wasn’t no “you being you” back then… You kind of have to grow into being an artist like that… where you come up with your own concepts and all that. So in the beginning it was more fun to me… Cause I’m learning and trying to bring that artist out of me.
HipHopCanada: When did you know for sure that you wanted to make the move to New York? How much different is things in New York for you compared to Toronto?
Elohim Marino: Oh man… When I came to New York the vibe was just completely different. It was like everybody was hustling, everything was fast and while I was in Toronto… I mean, Toronto is a pretty developed city but it’s nothing like how New York is. And because I was going back and forth ever since I was 14… I got to see both sides. So I was like, “Yo, as soon as I’m done high school I’m out of here [Toronto]”. It wasn’t really a music move. It was more like I wanted to be over here and really try to achieve something and really try and get somewhere. Music was just there…
HipHopCanada: How did you link with Tony2Tone? Tell us about the Blaq Ink movement you have building with him and J Robb.
Elohim Marino: Tony2Tone is the brother of this dude I went to school with so we use to play ball and all that. I met him like that. I went to dude’s crib and I met him, we played ball and from there we were just cool. And back then, he never did beats and I never wrote lyrics… So we were friends before all this music shit. With Blaq Ink, we were trying to come up with something that would smack people in the face. So we thought of Blaq Ink… or more, it’s God’s Blaq Ink, and we just took the God out. I really take a lot from the Five Percenters because they talk like the Black Man is God. I mean that’s where we kind of got it from. And Blaq Ink is more about Black empowerment. I’m all about educating the youth about our past. It’s not like I’m against any race but I just feel that we don’t know where the hell we’re coming from. And Blaq Ink is just that story that will teach…
HipHopCanada: You are very vocal about your views on society and very in tune with the social injustices and suffering felt by people in urban cities. Do you plan on taking it past music and using any influence you might get as an artist to help the community? If you became Governor of New York State, would be the first change you would make to better living conditions and opportunity?
Elohim Marino: I think what they need to do is put more money in the after school and weekend programs for kids. We got mad parks out here and they don’t really do anything. I mean, niggas play ball and shit but I feel like if people were organized and really had real programs where kids could learn some shit or had something to do instead of being out on the streets all day not doing shit, you know what I mean? That’s what I would invest in if I were Governor.
HipHopCanada: You’ve also recently worked with Deadly Melody Productions from Toronto and came up with recent Canadian Choice Cut banger “Black Livin'”. Tell us about that and anyone else you’re working with from up north.
Elohim Marino: Young Tony… man, Young Tony lives about 10 minutes from me… or where I use to live at in Toronto. To tell you the truth I can’t remember the first time I met Young Tony. He kind of just gave me a beat… he said he was making beats now so I was like “throw me something”. I got Black Livin’ and decided to rock it… that’s how that joint came about. I’m also working with Big Pops. I got an instrumental from him and I’m going to do a song to it. I don’t know if you know who that is but I’m definitely rocking it for the next album.
HipHopCanada: Yeah, we’re definitely familiar with Big Pops… his production has been featured on the Canadian Choice Cuts several times. He’s going to be a problem!
Elohim Marino: See, I like the Toronto sound when it comes to hip-hop because it’s still pure right now… it’s still innocent. While over here people are just trying to give you that commercial sound, over there people are still hungry so I’m definitely going to keep that up north connection for my next projects and all that, definitely.
HipHopCanada: On that note, lets talk about the Son of Hip-Hop CD, 19 solid tracks with a mixtape style release. Let the people that aren’t familiar with you know why they should check for this project.
Elohim Marino: Because hip-hop ain’t got nothing like what I just put out man. It’s like, what Son of Hip-Hop was, was me trying to get rid of all my old songs. A lot of people don’t know that but a lot of those songs I wrote really young like 18-19… that’s like 2 or 3 years ago. So, we just wanted to get rid of all that old material. And… They’re political and have a lot of messages. I just wanted to get that out. I felt like that shit was missing. Everybody was trying to get on some dance shit and club shit… Let’s take it back to some vibing shit son… you roll up and listen to it and learn something. That’s all Son of Hip-Hop was.
HipHopCanada: What’s your favourite track on the CD?
Elohim Marino: I don’t have a favourite. I’ve never had a favourite song, ever recording songs. I feel like, if you have a favourite song then you’re saying that nothing on the album is as good as that… and that’s your best work. For me, I just do songs and always feel like I can do better. So I don’t feel like I’ve done anything yet where I can be like “that’s my favourite song”.
HipHopCanada: No doubt, are you shopping for a deal or are you going to sweat it out with the independent route?
Elohim Marino: Right now I’m trying to get a buzz first because these labels are real stupid. I’m going to tell ya’ll a story… I went to this label audition. They call you in and ask you a bunch of bullshit questions… First off they keep saying, “Can you make a club song” etc. I’m there like… I’m on a different vibe, a different plain when it comes to this hip-hop shit. So, if you can’t like that and you can’t just let me be me… then fuck a label, you know what I mean? So, they asked me to do a verse… I did a verse for this new song called “Black” that’s not out yet. Then, they asked me to rap like someone else that’s out right now. Can you believe that my dude? [Laughing] They asked me to rap like someone else and when they said that I was like… “What is this?” I’m a hip-hop artist, I write my own shit. I don’t know how the industry is but I’m writing everything I put out. So after hearing that, they know I ain’t no bitch, I ain’t gonna suck no dick to get into this industry. So they were on some funny shit. They still came to see your boy perform though; they couldn’t let it off that easily. [Laughing some more] It just shows you that the industry is real fucked up and they aren’t really out to get anyone unique anymore. They’re just on that quick money bullshit.
HipHopCanada: Tell us about your next project… Have you started working on your official album?
Elohim Marino: Not an official debut… but I have a next album coming and I want to title it Truth. I’m not sure if that’s going to stand but that’s what’s on my mind right now. I already wrote 11 songs and I’m not doing more then 13 so it’s almost completed.
HipHopCanada: Should we expect to see as much Canadian production this time around?
Elohim Marino: Oh, definitely! Tony2Tone is my producer for life and he is born and raised Canadian. I’m definitely supporting that all the way. We’re going to do this together. 80% of all my albums for the rest of my life will have Tony2Tone production.
HipHopCanada: For someone who’s experienced both the Canadian and American sides of the music industry first hand — as an artist, what you say are the advantages and disadvantages of each location/industry.
Elohim Marino: Toronto doesn’t have a market for hip-hop yet. I listen to a lot of dudes, I read their interviews and they always say they’re hood platinum… selling 1000 tapes. If that’s your goal, come on man… that ain’t shit. I just put out 1500 in the city and that ain’t generating no buzz at all… and this is New York. So, 1000 couldn’t be nothing. So I feel like the disadvantage of Toronto is you don’t really have a market for hip-hop, much. It’s a lot slower… the mixtape scene… They’ve got a lot of talent. I can’t shit on that. A lot of talent coming out of Toronto but they ain’t really got nothing for the mixtape scene. In New York, the problem is everybody does mixtapes. So you have to stand out and promote in a different way. What I do… I walk up to every nigga I see and give them a CD. Out here you really gotta get out and hit all the boroughs and get out those CDs. If you try and sell CDs, niggas is going to shit on you because everyone is doing it. So the disadvantage of New York is that everybody is doing it and it’s a lot harder to get your shit out… a lot harder to get your name out. I feel like in Toronto you could probably get your name out with 1000 CDs but you won’t be anywhere and you won’t be making any progress.
HipHopCanada: Any final thoughts?
Elohim Marino: I feel like in Toronto and anywhere, as a matter of fact… dudes need to start helping each other and stop shitting on each other. And stop trying to knock another dude out… there’s room for everybody. I hear a lot of dudes say they want to be King of Toronto, or King of New York, Atlanta and all that dumb shit. This music is worldwide man… you want to just to sit in your home city and be King? That ain’t nothing man. So I feel like everybody should start helping… especially in Toronto where it’s a closer family. I feel like people need to come together and make a movement to really get things out there because there is a lot of talent. I just felt like that needed to be said. Niggas need to start working together and get off that funny shit… that no homo shit. There ain’t nothin’ homo about a nigga helping another nigga… or another person helping another person. Ain’t nothing homo about that shit. Niggas need to stop sweating that DipSet shit. Be real man… be real. A lot of people use that word but when I use it I mean just be yourself. Everybody’s trying to be 50 Cent man… just be yourself.
HipHopCanada: No doubt, plug your sites and drop any shout-outs!
Elohim Marino: Well you know everybody got their MySpace… MySpace.com/ElohimMarino. Shout-out to Tony2Tone. Shout-out to J Robb, Shout-out to Pace. Shout-out to HipHopCanada.com, definitely holdin’ it down for real. Shout-out to the whole eastside of Toronto… Cause that’s my block. No matter where I’m at in the world… I lived there, slept there, laid my fitted there, played ball there, I know niggas there… you know what I mean? So shout-out to the whole east end of Toronto man and that’s about it.
Written by Jesse “Dutchy” Plunkett for HipHopCanada