The rap game these days is almost a joke, If you follow eastcoast hip-hop then by now you're probably used to the feeling of "disappointment", whether it's because your favorite rappers album keeps getting pushed back in to oblivion or they deliver a water-down final product which completely contradicts the reason why you liked them in the first place. These days it seems like the best material comes from artists you're almost not even paying attention to, and a perfect example of that is Maino.
I've always felt that when artist makes an album it should be personal and bring you insight into the artists' life, explicitly detailing both the up and downs of their tribulations. However most rappers clearly don't agree with me because for the most part their retail effort contains the exact same lyrical content as their mixtape material, just with maybe higher production values and more R&B hooks. Thankfully Maino manages to buck this trend with his debut album If Tomorrow Comes, a biographical album which chronologically depicts his life starting from the day he was released from jail after serving a 10 year stretch up until the very present, where he feels good enough to give away a Million Bucks as he declares on the the Swizz Beatz assisted introductory track. If Tomorrow Comes actually plays out similar to a real-life movie, complete with director commentary from Maino himself. Back To Life is the first song on the album chronologically, it sees Maino leaving jail and revealing his plan to leave the street life behind him and take a shot at becoming a rapper. Unfortunately things don't go immediately as planned as Main is forced to fall back in to a life of crime, the result is songs like Soldier, Remember My Name and Gangsta featuring B.G., all of which boasts menacing beats alongside equally hard-hitting lyrics.
Things take a humbler tone with the beautifully composed All Of The Above, produced and co-written by legendary producer Just Blaze. T-Pain lends his vocals for hook and Maino does a particularly exceptional job living up to the quality of the beat. The final product is a phenomenal track, one that perfectly portrays Maino's strength and determination to make something out of his life, the hunger in his voice alone is enough to draw listeners into his shoes and get behind him as an underdog. Tracks like Floating and Runaway Slave (which shares the same instrumental as Joe Budden's 'Pray For Me') shows Maino's sublime lyrical prowess and proves that he deserves to known as much more than just a hard-talking-gangster-rapper which I'm sure you'll agree we have enough of. Hood Love featuring Trey Songs is a smooth track which has major radio potential as does the J.U.S.T.I.C.E League produced Here Comes Trouble which is guaranteed to get the clubs jumping. Kill You is by far the most disturbing track on the album as Maino graphically describes his fantasy about killing his baby mother in a manner that makes me feel like he might one day actually do it. The final cut on the album is the victorious Celebrate, a happy ending to a tragic story. Celebrate perfect caps of a fantastic album as Maino sounds genuinely grateful to be in the position he's in now, even going as far to spend 6 minutes at the end of the track expressing gratitude to all the people who made his current life possible.
If Tomorrow Never Comes is one the best albums I've heard in a while and is one of the few albums I can listen to back to back without skipping a track, sure it could have done without the 2 year old Hi Hater and the slightly corny sex-tape inspired Let's Make A Movie but the quality of the the rest of the album more than compensates for these minor mis-steps. Maino was completely off my radar before but he was successfully won me (and hopefully many others) over with his fantastic autobiographical debut, Maino is definitely a star in the making, I just hope enough people realize it in order for him to truly shine.
5 mics (out of 5)