RD: Talk to us about your musical history. What did you listen to growing up? How has this shaped your production?
CT: I currently live in Boston, but grew up in the Worcester and central Massachusetts area, and was exposed to a lot of music from my family, many of whom are musicians and artists, several pianists. My parents played all sorts of 70’s and 80’s music, but my grandparents played more classical based music, opera, jazz, solo piano. As a kid I always loved to perform for my family at holidays, singing while my gramps played piano etc. One grandfather played trombone in a jazz band, the other a self-taught pianist who can play almost anything by ear. My grandmother was a fire cook as well, and I find myself doing what she did at the stove, and at the boards. My approach to cooking and painting translates perfectly to how I produce music.
RD: Like ourselves here at Respect Due you’re of Italian heritage. Does that come into play with your music? Whether it be samples or just a certain spirit.
CT: The specific aura my music encapsulates is significantly influenced by my family and environment during developmental years as a youth. My grandmother, who is of Sicilian descent, plays a major role in the influence of my stylistic palette and approach in more than just music (cooking, fashion, interior design, gardening/landscaping, work ethic, character, principle). However, my foundation of particular taste in music has always been based on the ominous, dark, dramatic sound you hear in a lot of Italian music. I love all sorts of music/samples, but have always been attracted to classical based samples to make beats, which is a unique facet of my production, differentiating me from masses in the hip-hop culture. Call it a predisposition.
RD: You’re clearly a jazz head, what do you look for when listening to jazz? what separates the greats from the average in your ears?
CT: My Grandfather was in a jazz band, he played the trombone. I was exposed to upbeat jazz from him when I was younger, but didn’t learn about the cool, slow (dramatic) style of jazz until I got to college. At Northeastern I attended a class “John Coltrane & Black America’s Quest for Freedom”, which totally inspired me. I learned the history/ roots of the music, and also delved into the catalogues of artists such as Coltrane himself, Miles Davis, Bill Evans, and many others related to the “cool jazz” movement. When listening to jazz I am looking for that same feeling as when I dig other genres, that special phrase of emotion that sounds hard yet beautiful at the same time, that part that makes you have that face like Robert Deniro just stepped in dog shit. The Silvio Dante stank face haha. In my opinion, what separates the greats from the mediocre is the artists’ ability to speak through their instrument and convey a message or dialogue with no use of verbal language. If you listen to “Blue in Green” (which I consider the greatest jazz tune of all time), you can hear a story of pain and perseverance through the instrumentation of Miles, John, and Bill. Raw emotion that is received and understood without the directive limitation of words.
RD: You rhyme as well as produce, what came first? Does the track get laid down first, or do you write then try to build around that?
CT: I was an artist first around age 7 then a beginning producer at around 13. I was always talented in art classes with painting, and in English class with writing and poetry, so those skills converged into becoming a lyricist. What separates me from “rappers” is that I paint a literal picture. I have very strong synesthesia (the connection of senses) and naturally understand sounds as scenes, colors and flavors etc. This plays a major role in my art. As far as recording, for me, the instrumental always sets the foundation because it dictates the sonic environment and emotion from which the lyrics grow. The beat is the pot, and the lyrics are the plant. Much of my formal training in college helps sharpen the refinement/mastering process, but my natural ear and gut-instinct are the strongest deciding factors in creating ART. Quality over quantity.
RD: The Green In Blue album dips even deeply into slow, melodic jazz vibes. Talk to me about crafting this album. It strikes me as quite personal.
CT: Green in Blue was inspired by points mentioned in my previous paragraph about jazz, the title is a play off of Blue in Green, the classic album from the Miles Davis quintet. I literally flipped it in a couple ways. It is definitely personal, as you can see the sole feature was DJ Bobby Bangers, fully written, produced, recorded and mastered by myself at my studio “The Deli”. I’m going to have to let the music speak for itself on this one, the project is riddled with gems from the depths. The lead video was shot at ‘Diamond Beach’ in Iceland, while on a vacation with my wife.
RD: Mafiusu is here. Take us behind the meaning behind the name and what went into this.
CT: The highly anticipated project I am releasing 1/17/21 is titled MAFIUSU Part 1, it is something I have been slow cooking for a long time and I would consider my “magnum opus”. The translation of MAFIUSU is from the Sicilian word, which in its origin means boldness or bravado, and signifies “fearless, enterprising, and proud”. It also relates to the style of one who carries themselves with resilient confidence and sharp demeanor. A “Mafiusu” as a noun is not just a “gangster” as most would assume, but a man who proudly takes care of his family and his village, and will go to any extent necessary to do so; someone who is passionate, considerate and loyal, but never to be crossed or disrespected. Based on this principle definition, along with my heritage and bloodline, I embody the term “MAFIUSU”. There is a certain set of moral ethics and code of honor that my family raised me with, and is a permanent part of my persona. The project is a testament to that. When immigration from Europe took place in the early 1900’s (when my ancestors came here by boat and Sicilians / Italians immigrants amongst others were considered non-white) the word “mafiusu” transformed to “mafioso”, which is a stereotypical derogatory term that described someone of Italian heritage who was assumed to be a member of organized crime.
In the album content, I portray my “Mafiusu” mentality and principalities while simultaneously juxtaposing and citing sources of the Americanized Mafia culture with quotes from classic films like ‘The Godfather’, ‘Casino’ and series ‘The Sopranos’ etc.
This project is very personal to me, and my goal was to create a timeless piece of art that is meaningful, unique and authentic. I put a great amount of care into to every aspect of the project, from sample selections, to lyrical message, to features, and transitions between tracks. It was carved and cured over a time period of about 3 years, and I consider it as a fine marble sculpture of the new Renaissance era. A sonic equivalent to an ornate oil painting on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican, hence why I call it my “magnum opus” to date. Also, a disclosure to sharks and copy cats out there, cease and desist letters will not be issued, sit-downs will be.
Guest appearance features include my Tragic Allies family Estee Nack, Codenine, Paranom and Al Divino (all from Mass), as well as Sonnyjim from the UK & Eto from Rochester NY. The project is entirely self produced. There will be a MAFIUSU part 2 following…
RD: One of the singles is the bone-chilling hip-hopera song Take A Breath feat. Estee and June. What’s the story behind that record?
CT: Take A Breath was just some fly shit that resulted in an oceanic burial. Started with this fire jazz fusion record sample, and I ended up using an ill verse I had written for a different much less fitting beat. I originally had two verses recorded, but kept hearing Estee Nack and Junelyfe in my head on the song, so I cut my second verse and added them. That’s family, so I sent it to get laced up and bada bing “I’ll tie your wrists and ankles up and we can go for a swim, so take a breath”. Ended up being relative to the “Mafiusu” message, and became a promo for it. I created the cover art for the single as well. Maybe if someone tries to jock ride my wave, they can be the sinking star in the music video.
RD: You have teased some opera samples on your IG live vids, is that something we can expect soon? Sounding heavy.
CT: As far as opera, blasting Luciano Pavarotti full volume is mandatory when I’m at the stove cheffing the family recipe sauce, extra garlic. Complimenti di mia nonna. You can catch me doing my thing on the final track of the MAFIUSU part 1 record “Hold the Strings” where I sing an operatic aria for the outro. I might start a new genre where I sing opera over dramatic beats, we’ll see.
Support Mafiusu Pt. 1 here
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