Being an elder emo, it always makes my heart feel all warm and fuzzy to hear those elements strung into new pieces of music, especially when artists like TINO take them and marry them with the likes of hip hop and neo-soul. We talked about those musical nuptials, NFL comparisons, and more like TINO’s 2022 release, ‘Midwest Sorrow,’ which you can get digitally exclusively on Bandcamp on November 4th.
Kendra: Over a decade’s worth of solo projects out there, and another out this October, what do you think ‘Midwest Sorrow’ says about your growth as a songwriter when comparing and contrasting your previous releases?
TINO: I think artists find “their” sound after a decade. You know what you do well, you know what works for your audience. The line between consistency and complacency can blur. ‘Midwest Sorrow,’ when compared to the rest of my catalog, says I’m not afraid to take risks and even fail. I’ve dabbled in some heavier subject matter and sprinkled in singing sparingly but I’ve never totally leaned into them like I have on this project.
Kendra: Now it’s easy to see that you take in an NFL game here and there during football season. Plus, you’re in a state with not only two teams in the league but a big college team as well. With that, what NFL player do you think would best represent ‘Midwest Sorrow’ and all that it’s about; past or present?
TINO: Since it’s called ‘Midwest Sorrow’ I should stay in the Midwest, so this project is most like retired Chicago Bear Devin Hester. Devin, who was drafted as a cornerback, ended up becoming a legend as a return man. He also played WR to a lesser degree. I feel like ‘Midwest Sorrow’ isn’t going to be what people think it should be. Special Teams is often an underappreciated facet of the game of football and I think this project may suffer from some of that, but for a few people this will hit home like a Hester return to the house.
Kendra: On this record, you keep hip-hop at the forefront while marrying it with not only neo-soul elements but also tender emo-inspired moments. The latter has always been filled with angst, pain, and emotional turmoil, which to me speaks heavily to the Black experience in America. Back in the day, I was usually one of three Black people at those emo/pop punk shows but over the years it has become a bit more diverse. Do you think that’s because more Black folks are taking note of the deeper meaning of emo music?
TINO: I think we as Black people are forced to grow up so fast we miss those impressionable years when emo music caters to things like young love, growing apart from friends, and teenage angst. We are taught themes in the popular forms of our music like trust no one, and be heartless so no one can hurt you which is all survival stuff. Newer artists like Kenny Mason and Steve Lacy are dabbling in that space Emo music comes from, and I think Black people are finding gateways into the genre as music homogenizes.
Kendra: Let’s talk more about what’s on ‘Midwest Sorrow’ like “Abandon.” This one feels centered around a romantic relationship but it did feel like it could mirror a friendship as well. It hit me because over the past couple of years I’ve felt this sort of abandon myself in regards to a social life and that FOMO feeling. With that, do you think it’s harder to lose a partner or a best friend?
TINO: It’s always going to be harder in my opinion to lose a true partner as they are your best friend, so you lose out twice. The person you want to talk to most about what you’re going through is also the person you can’t, making it even more brutal. I had one of my best friends ghost me out of nowhere and stop replying to all forms of communication and while it hurt it doesn’t compare to a breakup I’ve had when love was involved.
Kendra: In another, “Smoke & Mirrors,” you mention the Annexation of Puerto Rico. Is that a reference to ‘The Little Giants,’ and if so – do you think that is the supreme kids’ sports movie?
TINO: I was worried no one would get that reference, so kudos to you. Now, while I do love “Little Giants,’ I think the quintessential kids’ sports movie is the OG ‘Might Ducks.’ It wins on so many levels for me. I love how “inner city” kids come together and find a way to be suburban kids. Coach Bombay can overcome the trauma inflicted upon him by his coach that he didn’t know he was suffering from to show his players there’s a way to have fun and be great on and off the ice. It also introduced me to the band Queen in the closing credits.
Kendra: Time for a side note: With Thanksgiving being right around the corner I’d love to know what artist’s discography are you most thankful for?
TINO: Despite his recent antics I have to be most thankful for Kanye’s discography. I don’t think there is a TINO if I didn’t become obsessed with ‘College Dropout’ and ‘Graduation.’ I consider ‘Midwest Sorrow’ to be my ‘808s & Heartbreak.’ This experimental project varies from what I’ve done before. I’m hoping to learn lessons from this record that I can apply in the future like he did with ‘MBDTF.’
Kendra: Lastly, with ‘Midwest Sorrow’ out on October 15th, what’s on the horizon as we head closer to 2023?
TINO: I’ve been fortunate to have my music reach places I’ve never been. One of those places is Rennes, France. I’ve got a vinyl collaboration project through label StereoPhonk with its owner DJ Marrrtin on the way in November. DJ Marrrtin found me through Bandcamp and reached out for a song or two collabs during the pandemic and that blossomed into a 7 track EP. His production takes me back to my boom-bap roots and we created an updated version of the music I was making when I first picked up the mic so it’s a full 180 from ‘Midwest Sorrow.’ Next year I plan on getting back in the studio with my Safe Money partner K.Carter for a follow-up to our 2021 one self titled project