Before Cash Money Records, there were the Cash Money Brothers, a group of fictional New York City drug dealers whose criminal ascension during the '80s crack epidemic was masterminded by their leader, Nino Brown.
The New Jack City character, played by Wesley Snipes, has become an iconic rags-to-riches story in hip-hop culture, much like that of Al Pacino's Tony Montana.
More than 20 years later and over 1,000 miles from New York, DJ Khaled's We the Best have found their own Nino Brown.
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Formerly know as Rich Kidd, Nino's notoriety has continued to climb with his We Don't See Em mixtape series and his most recent, New Jack City 2.
Last week, Nino took some time out after a Miami Heat game to talk to Crossfade about being signed to We the Best, knowledge and wisdom, the character Nino Brown, and gym sessions.
Crossfade: What's the greatest benefit to being signed to DJ Khaled's We The Best?
Nino Brown: The greatest benefit to being signed to We The Best and Khaled is all the hard work and dedication you put into what you're doing and let you know you're being recognized by one of the greatest DJs that ever lived in our time. Not just that, look at his track record, you know what I mean? That just speaks for itself. It's a great feeling. It's an acknowledgment, saying that you doing what you're supposed to be doing out here, and it's time that you join a team that's winning.
What separates you from Ace Hood, Vado, and Mavado?
I think my versatility separates me from them. They got they own lane, I got mine. But I'm the type of artist can do a lot of things. I could sing, I could rap, I could do a lot of things. They do they own thing. Ace has his style. Vado has his style, which is more New York-ish. Mavado is more reggae-ish. But me, I wouldn't say I'm bigger, I would say that I represent the streets and the hood, and I could talk to them commercially, I could talk to the ladies. I could give them what they want, and give them that passion that the game missin'.
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I just have a certain type of passion and delivery that these guys don't carry or possess, and it's hard to come by because it takes years of dedication and grind to get that. And not just grind, seeing things, knowledge, wisdom.
How have you been able to acquire knowledge and wisdom?
I mean, from bumping my head. A crash dummy ain't got no brain, but you learn from being a crash dummy. I was the biggest crash dummy. I was the dude who liked to flop because even when I fell I still win, and that's learning from a situation. And I could just overcome anything, because you're only good as your last challenge, and I always challenged myself. Like LeBron say, "Strive for greatness." I came from the Rolexx. I came from selling CDs and DVDs, in 30-below weather to rainy nights to hot to when no money. I had to borrow $25, $700 some nights. And that gave me wisdom from seeing dudes get killed and seeing people shooting people and getting shot and able to live and see another day. And for me to make it from that to where I'm at is just a blessing. That's what gave me wisdom.
What was your greatest lesson?
The situation I overcame with an associate of mine that I was helping out. I care not to list the name or nothing like that, we ain't going to give them no free promo. But when I went through that, it kind of enlightened me that it's just so much of all my friends turning on me. Well, they weren't friends if they turned. And everybody turned they back on me, they counted me out. They thought, "Oh, OK. This situation happened. It's going to bother you. It's going to hinder you." And it actually helped me see, because, like they say: once you blind, now you see.
I was blind to the fact that I had a lot of fake friends, and they were what you call wolves in sheep's clothing around me. And when that situation occurred that happened to me, they unraveled. They got revealed. I was naked. I felt naked, like when Adam ate the apple. I always refer to my life story in Biblical terms because I'm one of the greatest hustlers that ever did it in Miami, Florida. So I feel like I live a Biblical life, so I could speak on every term of the Bible and incorporate it in my life.
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What's your favorite story in the Bible?
I like the David/Goliath and I like the one when the guy was tempted. I forget his name. I don't know if it's Samson, but one of them was tempted by the Devil and shown many great things, and he never forsake God. He stayed loyal. I don't know what story that was. I don't know what character that was in that Bible. That was my favorite story because it showed me that it is loyalty in the world, but it's hard to find. Loyalty is very extinct. You got to collect it.
I like when Jesus turned water into wine too, by the way. Yeah, all that.
I think that's a top five for everybody.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, that's gangsta. That let you know he got a little gangsta in him. Keep the party going.
That's like the D.L. Hughley joke from Kings of Comedy.
Why the name change from Rich Kidd to Nino Brown?
It's the growth. I was Rich Kidd when I was young, growing up a little puppy, a little baby lion in the game, couldn't even roar yet. And I just think the transition from Rich Kidd, from the Rolexx days, from the street hustle days to Nino Brown, I grew into a lion with all the knowledge and all the challenges I faced. It gave me stronger purpose.
I think Nino Brown represents one of the biggest hustlers, not just in the black community, but in our community movie history. Though he did what he did at the end of the movie, and I don't stand for that, which he told. I don't respect that, I respect the character he portrayed, being the biggest boss and the biggest hustler. They took him a gram of something and showed him, "Yo, this is what you could make money from it." He took that from somebody and turn it into a million dollar, hundred million dollar business. Me being a black entrepreneur, I looked at that as the black Scarface. He was someone I looked up to because he was coldhearted and he didn't play no games about his money. And I represent the same thing he represents.
You brought up the end of the movie. Nino Brown is one of the most popular characters in hip-hop and rap culture. It seems like they forget at the end, even though he rose to the top, people don't talk about the fact that he snitched.
Yeah, snitched. You know out of all the snitches I seen, I think it was one movie I'd seen, American Gangster, where Frank Lucas actually told on the police. Now, I respect that more because he didn't tell on the dudes. I don't respect snitching totally because, ay, man, the police got a job to do, the criminals got a job to do. And let them people do they job. But I do respect if a dude making money, and the police was supposed to stop the crime, taking money from somebody, and you make that known that these police is dirty out here, they just as dirty as the criminals, then you can't hate on the dude for doing what he did. Now, I respect Frank Lucas's situation, not saying that I respect telling, but I respect what he did.
You're not too shy from showing your physique on Instagram. Your gym sessions.
I've been working out so hard. I've been going hard everyday. My family like to call me the Incredible Hulk, because I beat my chest all day. Let the Miami New Times know that I beat my chest all day. The women love it. All I got to do is tell you this, I work out extra hard. This is all natural. This ain't no testosterone. This ain't no, what do they call that? I think steroids. I don't do none of that. I am a steroid. I don't lift heavy. I lift light. I ain't trying to lift the world, I'm trying to see the world. I'm just trying to cut-up and tone-up where when these women rub me like a speed bump down your chest.
Now, we working on the stomach. We trying to get this stomach down and let them know we trying to get a six-pack on. I'm trying to be the second one in We The Best with a six-pack, because I seen Ace Hood got like a 13,000-pack. I'm trying to get a six-pack and I ain't talking about no Heinekens.
Does Ace give you advice for the gym? Does he give you little tips on lifting and nutrition?
Well, you know, I always keep it real in my interviews, that's why everybody like me. Ace Hood my dawg. We never really get down like that as far as on the workout tip, but he made a solid bet one time, which he ain't keep up, because I told him lift that $10,000 and I'll lift 315 pounds. This was back before I started lifting weights. This was just when I was lifting all type of other things.
But I told him let's bet $10,000 that I could bench-press 315. We never made it to the gym. I don't know what happened. All I could tell you is this, he don't give me no advice. I see him on Instagram doing his thing. I respect Ace Hood. He works hard in the studio and in the gym. He goes hard. But Nino Brown's workout is on a whole different level. I'm like the Superman of this rap shit. And I'm going to lift all them motherfuckers up and move them up out my way.
Alright, Nino. Thank you for your time.
You know you have to let me give you my little speech before I go.
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I just want to let you know I work hard all my life. Nobody ain't ever gave me shit. Everybody always doubted me. People ain't try to help me. Even when people tried to help me, they turned around and stuck a knife in my back. Always was a bleeding soldier. Always was the one going into the storm, going through a storm, or just getting out of a storm. But that's the three stages of life. We all gotta do it. I expect nothing from nobody. I actually like when people don't help me, because I like to encounter my own sacrifices and my own situations to learn from them. So I basically want to tell people, if you want to be successful, don't expect nothing from nobody. Don't be emotional. Don't think you know it all. Learn to listen. Stop talking and learn to listen. If you want to learn some game, feel free to hit me up on Instagram, @NinoBrown305.
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